My Name is Akunna Uka
I’m a volunteer leader
I’m working with the Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union to Challenge Anti-Blackness
And Build a Machine to Take on the System
I Urgently Need Your Help.
Since 2019, I have been a volunteer with The Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC), a civil rights organization in Los Angeles, and I ask that you become a sustainer of the organization so that it may expand on its good work. The LCSC was established thirty years ago and:
- Through organizing the community and litigation, compelled the Los Angeles Metro to retire 2,000 diesel buses and purchase 2,500 compressed natural gas buses, reducing carbon monoxide produced by the bus fleet by 80%
- Organized community public demonstrations and worked with Los Angeles School Board Member,Monica Garcia and Black Lives Matter to create the motion which successfully defunded the local school police department by $25 million dollars. That funding and an additional $11 million dollars was allocated to the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP)
- Offers vital political education to the local community through the Strategy and Soul Movement Center, our Revolutionary film club, reading groups, and the radio show Voices From the Frontlines which airs on KPFK
Below is a list of several asks. I am happy to speak with anyone who would like to know more about the organization and its impact. I can also arrange meetings between the organization staff and those seeking to give substantially, offer connections to grants, or deepen their involvement.
- Donate $250 and become a sustainer at $50/month
- Listen to the radio show Voices From the Frontlines on Tuesdays from 3-4PM at KPFK.org. Listen to archived episodes here.
- Subscribe to the mailing list for updates
- Forward this letter to 10 people you know
I am wildly enthusiastic about the work of The Labor Community Strategy Center and my involvement and offer a more detailed letter below. Thank you for reading and for donating as generously as you can.
In April 2019, I moved to South Central LA and walked to a “Meet the Candidates” event at the South LA Café, in an effort to get to know my community. Channing Martinez was running for city council, and I was struck by his radical platform which included free transportation, cutting the police department budget by 50% and providing a substantial number of low income housing units. After Channing shared his platform and answered questions, a man named Eric Mann challenged the room. Who among us was going to help canvas for signatures so that Channing, a progressive Black candidate would be on the ballot? I was recruited to volunteer for Channing’s campaign and the very next week found myself in front of Vons on Crenshaw collecting signatures. Channing Martinez is the Director of Political Organizing at The Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC) and Eric Mann is its Executive Director. Learning and then quickly getting to work in the community was how I got to know Channing, Eric, associate director Barbara Lott-Holland, and later the organization.
In the Spring, I began working on Channing’s campaign, but it was not until the winter that I decided to become fully committed to volunteering with The Labor Community Strategy Center. My mother and I attended the 30th anniversary fundraiser to learn more. The LCSC is a multi-racial organization committed to building a class conscious movement against the racialization and feminization of poverty. The party was fantastic! The LCSC is a political home for me because its advocacy is grounded in the love of working Black people, strong political theory, and ongoing education for its members and the community. The LCSC is committed to long term campaigns that when won transform the lives of working Angelenos and act as a model for communities around the nation.
The LCSC is a leading organization in the campaign for A Police Free Los Angeles Unified School District. Last year, I participated in public demonstrations, marches, and phone banking and writing campaigns to lend my support. I also collaborated with another LCSC volunteer to organize an opportunity for the high school students and staff at New Roads School, where I am the middle school dean, to call school board members to vocalize their support. The $36 million we helped to win for the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) includes additional school climate coaches, restorative justice advisors, and other resources. In the second year of the campaign, an additional $56.7 million was awarded to the BSAP. I was excited to join Barbara and Channing in the “A Police Free LAUSD” retreat in September because it was an opportunity to reflect on previous wins and plan to win even more for Black students. Channing led the retreat attendees in a session on the strategy and objectives for the upcoming school year.
The LCSC also has a campaign for a fare free transit system through its Bus Riders Union (BRU). Barbara and Eric co-chair the BRU which has advocated for free public transportation for twenty years and is influencing the current metro board to make progress towards its goal. The BRU submitted a motion to the board for permanent free public transportation, and Councilman Bonin made an official amendment to have Metro staff analyze the implementation of the motion and report back to the board in 30 to 90 days.
As a member of the BRU, I have been trained to organize on the buses, raise public awareness, and document riders’ experiences. Los Angeles tends to be very warm in October and on a recent Saturday when I was organizing in front of Vons on Crenshaw it was no different. My goal was to sound the increasingly familiar alarm that the Metro has an anti-Black problem, convince people to call on the Metro Board members to take action, and sign up to learn more and become a member of the BRU. The LCSC has met with Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins and her staff shared data that shows that even though Black people make up only 19% of all passengers, they make up 53% of all fare evasion citations. This is even after the metro reduced the total tickets by almost 50% over two years. I would call out to people as they entered. “Excuse me! I’m a teacher and I’m out here sweating because the Metro is being racist. Can you take a moment to learn more?”
Organizing on the buses is a world unto itself. I found myself sharing data and listening to Black and Latin@ bus riders’ personal stories of being harassed on the bus or concerns of what will happen when the fare free policy enacted due to Covid-19 expires. This is all while navigating crowded aisles with my clipboard and trying not to fall and end up on a seated bus rider’s lap.
The work that I have been doing with the LCSC is grounded in political education that guides the organization’s priorities and strategies. Through the Strategy and Soul Film Club and a reading group, I have studied the work of Frantz Fanon, Robin Kelley, and other thinkers and activists. I have also been exploring how third world activists are organizing around environmental issues and the role of the US on the global stage. I even shared what I am exploring on an episode of the LCSC radio show Voices From the Frontlines, which has recently featured climate activists directly from the Cop 26 Climate Conference. The LCSC has amazing accomplishments and invests significant resources in educating its volunteers and the community. With additional funding, the LCSC will be able to train and hire additional organizers to do this vital work.