University of Southern California

USC Event Calendar

Visions and Voices

  • Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice

    Visions and Voices


    South L.A. community leaders will share their diverse and dynamic visions for food justice, urban agriculture, community arts and recreation. Panelists include Ben Caldwell (Kaos Network); Karen Mack (LA Commons); Javier “JP” Partida (Los Ryderz); and Neelam Sharma (Community Services Unlimited).

    In light of USC’s recent expansion and potential impact on our neighbors, it is crucial that we take stock of the university’s role in the civic and community life beyond our walls, and understand the significant work, service and fellowship already being cultivated by community members and institutions. A three-part series will examine community building in and around USC and South Los Angeles, with a focus on movements and organizations that are responding to the disparities and injustices that structure life in South L.A. Their daily leadership, sacrifice and creativity helps bind South L.A., catalyzing progressive and sustained neighborhood change.

    A diverse panel of cultural workers will offer community visions relating to food justice, urban agriculture, community arts and recreation. Panelists include Ben Caldwell of Kaos Network, a Leimert Park–based media and arts organization; Karen Mack of the community arts organization LA Commons; Javier “JP” Partida of the youth cycling/gang intervention movement Los Ryderz Bike Club; and Neelam Sharma of Community Services Unlimited, which has created an exemplary food-justice program in South Los Angeles.

    About the Panelists:

    Ben Caldwell is the founder and director of Kaos Network, a community-based multimedia training, production, screening space and arts center in the Leimert Park district of South L.A. Kaos Network offers community members an intimate space for discussions about the role of media and the arts in communal expression and transformation. Furthermore, by training generations of African American youth to creatively seize the means of image production, Caldwell has empowered the community to resist the onslaught of overwhelmingly negative images in the mass media. (Wikipedia, Filmography)
    Karen Mack is the founder and executive director of LA Commons, an organization dedicated to promoting Los Angeles’s diverse neighborhoods through locally based, interactive artistic and cultural programming. LA Commons’s programming has included numerous cultural tours and interventions in the neighborhoods of South L.A. Mack is president of the board of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) and an appointed member of the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.
    Javier “JP” Partida is the founder of the Los Ryderz Bike Club, a cycling movement and gang-intervention program that works with youth in South L.A. Along with their partner bike club, East Side Riders, they form the United Riders of South L.A. Los Ryderz works with other bike clubs to educate youth about bicycles and to organize bicycle rides that allow youth to safely explore their South L.A. neighborhood.
    Neelam Sharma is the executive director of Community Services Unlimited, Inc. (CSU), an incubator for grassroots work and high-impact community programs in Los Angeles. Sharma has been responsible for the creation and development of CSU’s food-justice education and training project, The Community Food Village, and its social enterprise, The Village Market Place. Sharma also oversees CSU’s involvement in local and state policy issues and has represented CSU as a founding member of the Healthy School Food Coalition, the Los Angeles Food Justice Network and the California Food and Justice Coalition.

    Related Events:
    Civic Action and Community Voice

    Thursday, October 9, 6 p.m.
    Annenberg Auditorium
    For more info, click here.

    South Los Angeles Walking Tour
    Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m.
    South Los Angeles
    For more info, click here.

    Organized by Alison Trope, Robeson Taj Frazier and George Villanueva (Communication). Co-sponsored by the Environmental Student Assembly and the Black Social Work Caucus.

    Annenberg Auditorium
    University Park Campus
    Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (ASC), Room G26

    Reception to follow.

    Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP at the links below beginning Tuesday, February 3, at 9 a.m.

    USC Students, Staff and Faculty: To RSVP, click here.
    USC Alumni: To RSVP, click here.
    General Public: To RSVP, click here.