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Day 16 – Los Angeles – By Rachel Goodman

After relatively early wake up,  we headed South Central Los Angeles to learn about  the area and it’s reputation. Once we arrived, we gathered on a street corner and quietly observed the neighborhood. As a group, we were asked what we thought South Central was all about, and began to discuss its culture and history. The area is famous for its gangs “The Bloods” and “The Crips.” We then mentioned the case of Rodney King (1992) a black man who was beaten by white police officers in the South Central Los Angeles area. This event was caught on video tape and when the policemen were acquitted of the beating, this neighborhood erupted in riots.  We were told that the government had funded efforts to reconstruct the neighborhood, and had even attempted to change the area’s name to give the spot a new reputation. We discussed the thought that these efforts just made things ok on the surface and didn’t address the real problems. After we completed the discussion, I realized something: no matter how many layers of paint were added to cover up these homes, and the times the number of times the government tried to change the name, no difference would be made because as soon as the area would obtain a new identity, a new problem could arise, causing South Central Los Angeles to once again have a negative reputation.

Next, we journeyed into the fancy area of Beverly Hills. As soon as we arrived, I  could tell that this place was different than South Central Los Angeles. The houses were bigger, fancier, and had expensive cars parked out in front of them. The streets were  lined with designer stores and elegant restaurants. As we explored the area, we took pictures of famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Finally, we completed our walk around Beverly Hills. As a group, we compared and contrasted South Central Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Clearly, Beverly Hills was the wealthier area, and the people living there are able to afford a luxurious lifestyle. This made me question my hometown and my way of living. I began to realize that there are neighborhoods similar to South Central Los Angeles near where I live.

After, we ate sandwiches at a local park. The group then headed off to Participant Media to talk with their staff about the company’s role in the media. We were split into two groups. Each group met with a representative from the company. We learned that the company launches social activism campaigns with movies. Some of the most successful campaigns were linked  to the movies “The Help,” “Lincoln,” and “The Snitch.” My group met with a woman named Alden Stoner. She explained Participant’s Media mission statement: “a story well told can change the world.” After evaluating several different campaigns I became very excited. Alden’s job was unlike any other occupation I have ever seen. Many of my peers were also interested in her line of work. I think a lot of us left with a greater understanding of Participant Media’s role in the entertainment business and how art can be a force of change.

Our next stop was at a local farmers market. We purchased fresh fruits, vegetables, and other goods such as nuts and honey. I talked to several farmers, and they all told me that they had harvested crops themselves. This interested me because I rarely think about where my food comes from and who produces it. After, we headed down the street to Venice Beach for free time. We explored the area which was filled with people selling handmade crafts, souvenirs, and other memorabilia. Some of us tried beach favorite foods such as fried Oreos, steak fries, and other interesting treats. The visit marked our coast-to-coast journey from the Atlantic Ocean (Georgia)  to the Pacific Ocean (Los Angeles).

Lastly, we headed to Beit T’Shuva  a synagogue for recovering addicts. First, a man named Doug told us about Judaism, and what it means to him. He currently works at  the temple and mentioned the story of his battle with a heroin addiction. After, three speakers named Michael, Jessica, and Zach  told us their personal stories about their struggles with addictions to drugs, alcohol, and other self-destructive habits. This whole seminar displayed the resiliency of these individuals and how they overcame their addictions. After the stories, we had dinner and proceeded to our daily wrap up. Many of my brave peers on the trip spoke about their personal struggles they have endured. This conversation opened my eyes, and allowed me to get to know my fellow journeyers better. All in all, this day  has been one of my personal favorites on the trip so far, and I know that I will remember it forever.