The Urban Sustainability MA held its residency from Tuesday, April 25th to Sunday, April 30th 2017. The theme of the residency was Collaborating for Community Health and Environmental Justice. The residency contained a mixture of classes, workshops, events, site visits, and an intensive problem-solving engagement regarding the real-world urban sustainability issues posed by cutting edge Los Angeles organizations. Each day of each residency was packed with engaging and crucial information and events.
The students worked on serious ground pollution issues in public housing in Watts that is affecting the lives of all who live there. Their in-depth study revealed how deep the magnitude of struggle the Watts community has gone thought to bring itself to health.
Ted Watkins, founder of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), admonished his fellow residents, “Don’t move. Improve!” Guided by the Better Watts Initiative (BWI)–a coalition of the WLCAC, Physicians for Social Responsibility, LA Human Rights to Housing Collective, The Black Health Task Force, and CSU Dominguez Hills–students explored the ground on which the spirit of “Don’t move. Improve!” is alive and well. They deepen their understanding of the goals of the Better Watts Initiative and its plans for achieving those goals.
On Thursday, April 27th as part of the residency, the AULA community was invited to join the USMA students at a Sustainable Supper which included a conversation about people, principles, and possibilities around environmental justice in Los Angeles. Panelists included Dr. Rasheeda Hawk Biophysicist at Epigenetics Research, Monika Shankar Director of Health and Environment Programs at PSR-LA, and Robert García, Founding Director and Counsel at The City Project.
The residency concluded with Capstone Presentations by four USMA graduates. Angela Vincent presented Sustainable Summer Camp: An arts-based approach to increase environmental literacy and build empathy but they one child at a time, Susan Mollasalehi presented Building Together Micro Houses in Micro Community “Developing Tiny house village is to migrate homelessness”, Darrell Patterson presented Waterboy: Enhancing Civic Engagement and Sustainability in the City of Long Beach, and Avital Aboody Presented We Need Each Other: How community centers build resilience and why this matters for historical Van Nuys.