The Community Coalition recently received $2 million for the organization’s Center for Community Organizing. (Brian W. Carter/LA Sentinel)

The organization plans to continue creating leaders, organizers and activists who will fight for the community. 

On Monday, August 7, the Community Coalition (CoCo) received $2 million from the state of California to provide acquisition, design, and capital funding for the organization’s Center for Community Organizing (CCO).  

For over 30 years, the organization has been a beacon of community organizing in South Los Angeles and with the CCO, they will have a headquarters to continue building community organizers and leaders. 

“We plan to build on our success by building the people center that can dedicate resources and build the needed infrastructure to train organizers to support local power-building for decades to come,” said Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, executive vice president of CoCo. 

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer speaks about the importance of the Community Coalition and Center for Community Organizing. (Brian W. Carter/LA Sentinel)

The CCO is a program of the social justice non-profit, which was founded in 1990 and has since become a leading voice in community organizing and advocacy. COCO members Eleanor Collins and Guillermo Alvarez credit the organization with setting them on their way to building a better community, which the CCO will continue with future generations. 

“I applied what I learned by going into my community, sharing with my neighbors and family, inviting people and letting them know that we can sit here and complain to one another but, nothing would ever get done that way,” said Collins. 

“We must continue our journey to build a national center for organizing — the more people that are trained, the more people that can go out into the communities and draw people in and give them hope. 

The money will go towards the acquisition, design, and capital funding for the Center for Community Organizing. (Brian W. Carter/LA Sentinel)

“That will let them know we don’t have to settle for what is given to us, we have to continue the fight because when we fight?” and audience exclaimed collectively, “We win!” 

“Absolutely,” said Collins. 

“When I applied, someone had shared the application, I applied, someone read my application,” said Alvarez. “I learned so much through the fellowship, got to meet so many important people that are organizing and I even got assigned a life coach.” 

He continued, “It took me from one place in my life to a higher place and I’m seeing myself growing and if it’s one thing that I value, it’s just like the amount skills, love, confidence that I’ve been connecting with people on a deeper level.”  

Standing in front of the recently rewarded Center for Community Organizing are, from left, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Community Coalition members Mary Lee, Ryan J. Smith, Aurea Montes-Rodriguez and Alberto Retana. (Brian W. Carter/LA Sentinel)

The CCO paves the way for CoCo to create activists, organizers, and movement leaders, who will have a physical home to foster relationships, solidarity, and interconnection through dialogue and community problem-solving becoming a benchmark for BIPOC leaders locally and nationally. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Budget Act of 2023, approving the $2M to CoCo which addresses a wide range of social issues, including poverty, systemic racism, and educational inequality. The legislation, Assembly Bill 102, was authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-57th District). He shared the importance of the CCO. 

“A lot of times, in disadvantaged communities, we have very few people that know how to shake up City Hall,” said Jones-Sawyer. “We need to create those leaders that know how to get resources back to the community. 

He continued, “The community knows what it actually needs, not us elected officials, as a matter of fact, we don’t talk to the community enough to find out what they need. 

“This says let the community come to us with good trouble.” 

“As a nerve center of activism, justice, freedom, this is where we hope that the feelings and minds of everyday people can continue to blossom, that can come straight from the epicenter of South Central, less than a mile away from the epicenter of the unrest in a community that has been long ignored,” said Alberto Retana, president and CEO of Community Coalition. 

Community members will receive civic leadership training in order to strengthen local participatory democracy via community organizing groups, serving and leading local neighborhood councils, and guiding city, county, and state commissions. The CCO will unite and advance progressive policies by bridging art and activism for communities across the country. 

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