A Successful Community Action

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Victor Aguilar addresses the Oxnard Planning Commission after a long day of mural painting.

Today, a group of thirteen Arts for Action members joined forces with CAUSE and MICOP to urge the Oxnard Planning Commission to change the land use designation of Ormond Beach from industrial to “open space/ resource preservation.”  This policy change would advance the campaign to clean the toxic Halaco site, increase chances of preserving the Ormond Beach wetlands and ensure that future industrial projects would be banned from the area.

Three young artists took the potium to draw attention to the fact that our South Oxnard residents, who are primarily low income people of color, already endure an unequal environmental burden because we are surrounded by factories.  This is an environmental injustice that effects the lives of many families, local wild life and ecosystems.

The Planning Commission seemed very receptive to our demands.

Join us on July 2nd for the next Planning Commission meeting, where a decision will be made on this issue.

Also, check out the mural we are painting at the Rodeo Community Center (451 West Hueneme Road), which draws attention to the Halaco issue and the need to preserve our wetlands.

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Painting our Walls with Community Wisdom

IMG_2006On Sunday, May 17th, The Ventura County Star published an article by Dr. Roberto Vargas, who attended Arts for Action community mural forum on May 3rd.  This article highlights the work of Arts for Action members to create a mural that is truely inspired by community participation.  Here is the complete article together with some photographs, live from the mural wall itself.

And remember, in these challenging financial times, we need your support more than ever.  You can donate to Arts for Action and the Paint Not Prison mural project by with paypal.

The power of art to make positive change in youths
‘Happiness, pride, energy, love’
By Roberto Vargas
Sunday, May 17, 2009

IMG_1930I attended the best youth-led community gathering I have ever experienced in Oxnard last Sunday. More than 100 people of all ages and cultures responded to the opportunity to contribute their ideas for a new mural to be painted in South Oxnard. This event was organized by Arts for Action, an organization seeking to involve youths and their families in using art to improve personal and community life.

I dropped by to deliver material requested by my daughter who was volunteering. On this beautiful afternoon, I was surprised to see within the Rodeo Community Center youths, parents, grandparents and more than a dozen members of a motorcycle club called the Rough Riders. I decided to stay, participate and find out why these people were attending.

IMG_1928The meeting used the learning-circle approach in which they divided the audience into groups of 10 to 12 to encourage connecting and meaningful conversations. The groups used the talking-stick tradition in which each person who holds the talking stick takes a turn to speak from their heart without interruptions.

Participants were asked to introduce themselves by sharing what they ideally would like to be doing with their lives if money was not an issue. Following this thought-provoking icebreaker, residents discussed some of the most prevalent problems in their community as well as the most positive aspects of their neighborhood. All ideas expressed were recorded on an easel board to be used later to identify themes for the mural.

IMG_1979Magic occurred in these groups as people expressed personal hardships and their love for Oxnard. Despite being of different cultures, participants grew to feel connected to each other as they shared individual and common experiences that encompassed a wide spectrum of human emotion. Whether their difficulties were due to racism in the schools, gang influences in the neighborhood or being a single parent, they often expressed similar hopes for their communities.

They shared their appreciation for the vibrant community life in Oxnard, that people care about each other, and that we have programs that really serve the community.

IMG_1966Within my group, a father disclosed how he had survived the gang life, how much he wants a better life for his children, and how the Arts for Action program was making a difference for his son who now understands what it means to “give back to the community.” The group also envisioned hundreds of community gardens organized in Oxnard where neighbors could come to know each other better and promote health consciousness.

The afternoon ended with a unity circle in which everyone joined hands and each person shared their final feeling word. We inspired each other as we heard many young and old say they felt “happiness, pride, energy, love and power!”

IMG_1971I know this gathering will not alone transform all of Oxnard’s challenges, yet for many who participated, it demonstrated what we can become. Youths convicted for doing graffiti said they are now developing new goals to be better people. Adults were inspired to get more involved with the young people in our neighborhoods.

IMG_1974We all experienced the power of feeling connected to others and sharing the goal of making our community better. My thanks go out to all the young people who organized to make this event happen, as well as the city and county agencies that have supported the development of such an innovative approach to community development. They are modeling the porvida activism we need to create positive change. We do it to serve life and we do it one person and one event at a time.

— Roberto Vargas of Ventura is the author of the book “Family Activism,” which is used by some local organizations to support organizing and community-building work. He is also on the advisory board of the Central Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, a nonprofit community-planning and policy-research center.

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