This story is part of Image issue 7, “Survival,” a collective vision for the L.A. of our dreams. See the full package here.
Radical change happens in big and small acts. No one knows this better than activists and organizers in Los Angeles, who in the face of issues like climate change, environmental racism, homelessness and police brutality manage to show up for their city first and foremost by showing up for themselves. At the root of any change is commitment, so we asked activists from Communities for a Better Environment, an organization fighting climate injustice in communities of color, and some of the organizers behind West Adams’ new radical bookstore and self-described help nexus, All Power Books, to tell us about the commitments they’re making to themselves.
Ashley Hernandez, Wendy Miranda and Luis Martinez have lived in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles for most of their lives. They thought the health problems so common in their homes — bloody noses, asthma, cancer, migraines — were normal. It wasn’t until they joined Communities for a Better Environment and learned that their neighborhood had the highest concentration of refineries and oil extraction in L.A. — resulting in an environment that residents have described for decades as toxic — that they started to understand. “We are at ground zero,” Hernandez says. “Once I was able to look at all the dots and connect them, I saw the big picture. That’s what Wilmington is all about: connecting the dots.”
The organization’s Wilmington chapter is fighting to end neighborhood drilling with its Stand-L.A. coalition. They’ve been campaigning for a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer between homes and oil drilling sites in Wilmington, highlighted in the Patagonia documentary “District 15,” and are pushing to pass a full phase-out of oil drilling in L.A., which Hernandez points out would be monumental.
“People in Wilmington are more than the industry,” says Miranda. “We’re more than our health problems. We’re resilient people. If you talk to our friends who grew up here, they’re like, ‘I’m from Wilmas.’ They’re proud.”
On paper, All Power Books is a radical co-operative bookstore, co-working space and events venue. But walk into the West Adams Boulevard location, which opened this year, and you’ll quickly realize that in practice, it’s much more. As Gage, an organizer with All Power, describes it: “It’s a help nexus.”
Its offerings include — but are not limited to — free space for local organizers; a free store with food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, books and more. The shop also offers free Wi-Fi, printers and restrooms for people in the West Adams community, along with resources on workers’ and tenant rights. Not to mention it has very good merch.
“Whatever people need, we will do,” says Cat, another organizer with the bookstore.