by Amy J. Wong and Diane Velez
(photo credit: Ernest Lee)
Taking a look at what is happening in the United States right now, our hearts are heavy. The United States has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. Over 106,000 people, disproportionately Black and brown people, have died in this country from COVID-19 as of today. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos are profiting by $434 billion during this pandemic while more than 40 million people are unemployed. The Navajo nation has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the country, but is severely underfunded, lacking the money, infrastructure and resources needed to fight the coronavirus. White people are out having brunch whereas Black people are being murdered by police across the US. We mourn for all Black lives unjustly taken away in this country.
Over the weekend, the protests against police brutality in Los Angeles were met with a hostile response from LAPD, with tear gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. On Saturday, Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, closed all COVID-19 testing sites in the City of LA, and requested National Guard deployment to both the City and County of Los Angeles, which Governor Newsom granted Saturday evening. It’s telling how quick our leaders are in deploying armed forces against its own people, rather than solving a public health pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black and brown communities. Additionally, Metro, the leading public transportation agency in the County, abruptly stopped service to abide by the curfew, abandoning the people they serve with no alternative or proper communication. Furthermore, Metro utilized buses to transport people that had been arrested throughout the protests, bringing into question who Metro is actually servicing and prioritizing.
This weekend, San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County elected leaders and agencies have failed and disappointed us again. To date, San Gabriel Valley City Councilmembers and SGV representatives (ie: Congress, Assembly) largely have not stood up in support of Black lives or addressed police brutality in their own cities.
Black, Indigenous people of color are being killed by systems of oppression. Enough is enough. Our communities have been facing racism, capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and anti-blackness. These issues did not emerge overnight but are the foundations in which this country was built. Our capitalist system has led us to this point.
We’ve heard people say, “we can’t wait ‘til things go back to normal”. Do we want to return to “normal”? No, returning to it would be a disservice to ourselves and our community.
The San Gabriel Valley is our home. From Pasadena to Pomona, from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Puente Hills, the SGV holds special meaning for us. We acknowledge this land belongs to the Tongva people- it is an indigenous space that has endured and continues to endure discriminatory policies and practices. Almost all of us at ActiveSGV grew up and still reside in the San Gabriel Valley, living and breathing the issues we are fighting for. And we, like many of our friends, families, and neighbors, are struggling right now, anxious and reflective about the future.
The San Gabriel Valley has a population of roughly 2 million people across 47 neighborhoods, and is the largest majority Latinx and Asian American region in the U.S., approximately 45% Latinx, and 28% Asian, as of 2010. We care most about low-income communities of color in the SGV. The violence people of color experience everyday is not just from police but from inequities in the built environment, housing, education, and more. Our communities have been suffering from high rates of pollution, rising temperatures, and lack of park space, and it’s no coincidence we’re also suffering from high rates of diabetes, asthma, obesity, and other chronic illnesses. Additionally, disabled and chronically ill people, LGBTQIA+ people, people experiencing homelessness, elderly people, undocumented people, and others experiencing multiple oppressions are made even more vulnerable by system failures.
So what do we do to move forward?
In our ideal SGV, we would transition away from an extractive economy based on profit, pollution, and exploitation of Black, Indigenous people of color. We envision a regenerative economy that is rooted in sustainability and equity, while remaining grounded to our cultural heritage and roots. We want to see a San Gabriel Valley that serves and invests in our highest-need communities first, where people and the planet are prioritized over profits; an SGV where all of us can thrive, not just survive, in.
In reality, we are not seeing a radical change in the SGV. At least, not yet. COVID-19 cases and deaths keep increasing. Upon realizing the people most impacted by COVID-19 are Black and Latinx, counties and governments shifted the tone to “save the economy” and reopen businesses. Many people of color are putting themselves at risk to provide essential services, yet aren’t getting paid enough and don’t have access to basic necessities. People are seen as expendable. How many more lives will be lost? How much of our humanity do we need to prove to deem ourselves worthy of not being sacrificed for the economy?
Achieving our vision will require a radical transformation from people at all levels- not just elected officials but all of us as community members. It is difficult to fight for a complete dismantling of current systems when we’re in a cycle of grief and anger. We’re tired. We want to be hopeful. We try our best to remain rooted, grounded in empathy, and firm in standing for values of justice and equity.
We encourage you to take a few moments and honor the 106,000+ lives lost due to COVID-19, and the Black, Indigenous people of color killed by police and systemic violence in the United States. Beyond your thoughts and prayers, we ask that you also:
Want to learn more? Check out ActiveSGV's new podcast, ActiveLab