On Saturday, May 30, Mid City West resident Taylor Holland, who’s also a Mid City West Community Council board member, attended the Black Lives Matter demonstration at Pan Pacific Park, spending several hours listening to speakers and joining with community members from all walks of life protesting the horrific killing of unarmed George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. But despite the rally’s serious purpose, said Holland, the event itself very positive. “Everything I saw with my own eyes was very peaceful,” she told the Buzz on Monday…reporting that the time she spent there contained “so many really beautiful moments”: protestors and workers at a local health care facility taking turns cheering for each other, nearby home and business owners also clapping them on, and event organizers taking care to provide water, hand sanitizer and masks for participants who needed them. It was “like it was something everyone needed to have a part in,” she said. A really “positive environment.”
Holland said things were still going well when she finally started to walk home. But by the time she got there, only about 10 minutes later, the news was suddenly showing violence and tear gas…a turn she had no idea was coming.
Holland, who is African American, has lived in Los Angeles for three years (she came to attend graduate school in urban planning at UCLA). But she’s originally from Minneapolis, so the past week has been doubly difficult for her. First there was Floyd’s death (just the latest in a long string of undeserved killings of black Americans in the last few years), then days of rage and intense violence in her home town, and then the spread of that violence to her adopted city and others across the nation.
By Sunday afternoon, when the Mid City West Community Council called a special meeting to give its board members and stakeholders a chance to share their feelings, experiences and ideas for healing the community and moving forward, Holland was still feeling a rush of emotions. And when she was invited near the end of the meeting to weigh in on various actions that had been suggested for the Council – such as facilitating new dialogues in which black community members could speak their truths and white community members could learn to listen better, creating new dialogues between black community members and the LAPD, and creating new community spaces where community neighbors from all backgrounds could more easily mingle and get to know each other – Holland very honestly and tearfully let people know that black community members probably still won’t feel safe in those situations, that they often feel just as vulnerable – every day – as white residents felt during Saturday night’s rioting, and that, among other things, “People don’t need right now to sit in a room talking to LAPD about why we need to be seen as people.”
Her words, carrying a despair even more intense than those expressed by many other still emotional people at the meeting, seemed to have a major impact on her fellow board members, who thanked her many times for the very genuine expression.
Holland’s words stuck with us, too, so we asked if she could pick up where she left off on Sunday, with thoughts on what she would like to see happen in the community, and how she thinks her (or perhaps any) neighborhood council can help.
First of all, Holland said that from her perspective, coming from an urban planning background and as someone who has been enjoying Mid City’s recently instituted “slow streets,” the suggestions made at Sunday’s meeting about dialogue, listening and new kinds of community spaces are not bad…and would actually be “fine solutions” in “any regular moment.” At this particular time of heightened intensity and focus, however, she said such efforts feel mostly like lip service. And while she’s not sure what the right answers are yet, she said we need to get even more creative to fully meet the moment we’re in.
On the other hand, however, Holland also said she does think that “people are ready to have these conversations and move forward.”
As for what the Mid City West Community Council might be able to do, Holland had several suggestions:
First, she said, people should be aware of how race plays out in all kinds of issues the Council deals with (even those not specifically about race or inclusion). And people should always keep in mind how anti-racist policies can be built into the council’s activities. For example, this could mean not inviting LAPD officers, who are intimidating to some community members, to all events. “Not everything is race blind that seems race blind,” she said.
Holland also recommended that the Council be more vocal on larger issues that other elected officials deal with. She said Community Impact Statements (through which Neighborhood Councils officially make their positions known to the larger city government) can’t make huge changes, but they can let our elected officials know what neighborhood council members think and stand for on the issues – both what’s happening, and what’s not happening (but maybe should).
Holland also acknowledged that the issues neighborhood councils deal with can often seem mundane (such as lengthy debates about the hours for trash removal at a single restaurant), but there are many opportunities to make a difference – such as keeping justice for past incarcerations in mind when approving a new canabis dispensary.
In other words, said Holland, “It’s clear we’re going to erase the physical stains of Saturday”…but the future depends on “being anti-racist in every way possible.” She said she’d like to continue pushing for the things we think can make a difference, while always promoting justice.
“We always have to keep these values we hold dear at the forefront…and I don’t think that’s been happening.”
(All photos by Taylor Holland)