After some bus problems gave us a rocky start to our morning, we headed to Participant Media to speak with Evan Shapiro, a representative of the organization. Participant Media is a film company with a different vision than, for example, Warner Brothers. They produce educational and inspiring work on all different topics. They have produced films like Lincoln and Food Inc. that present information about social issues in captivating and exiting ways. Mr. Shapiro is the president of Participant Media’s television division, Pivot TV. He explained that Participant Media finances films and then creates a social campaign around the film or show to raise awareness and create change for the issue. They make films in a way that does not force the issue in a viewer’s face, but promotes action. The company continues to grow and is making a huge impact by producing these films and making an effort to get them into schools to teach kids.
Next, we went to Beverly Hills to explore and eat lunch. The area was just as I expected. People dressed in all the latest fashion while stores with big brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Prada lined the streets of Rodeo Drive. Beverly Hills was certainly the classy part of Los Angeles that we saw.
After lunch in a park, we went to South Central. This part of Los Angeles is known for being impoverished and having one of the highest crime rates in America. However, South Central’s façade did not give this impression at all. The streets were clean and the houses were well kept except for some bars on the windows. Standing there, you never would have guessed how poor the area really was. Standing there, we talked about how the city of L.A. wanted to hide that the area was poor in order to give it a better reputation. We also spoke about the power of opportunity and how people are born into certain luxuries and resources. For example, the people in South Central do not have supermarkets or access to fresh fruit and vegetables like most of us do.
After going to South Central, we visited a farmer’s market, which tied into this idea of access to fresh food. At the market, real farmers brought their own produce fresh from their homes to sell at much lower costs to people in Los Angeles. It was really cool to see the people who worked hard to produce the food we eat, rather than buying at a supermarket.
Our next stop was Venice Beach. It was really great because we were able to see the Pacific Ocean and the fact that we had made it from coast to coast in only eighteen days, which is amazing. In addition, the culture and atmosphere of Venice was really vibrant, energetic, and free. The people were interesting and from all walks of life, so to see the mix was definitely intriguing.
Finally we headed to a synagogue and home for recovering addicts, where we had dinner and heard the stories of some people living there. Each person who spoke had very different experiences. Some came from abusive and broken homes, and their childhood definitely contributed to their addictions. However, some came from families similar to all of ours, upper-middle class suburbs with stable families.
These stories really put everything in perspective for us because it made many of us realize that with a few mistakes, our family, friends, or even we ourselves can fall into an addiction. Overall, all of the people at Beit T’shuvah were truly inspiring, and I hope they will be successful in recovering as well as be able to share their stories with more kids like us, as to prevent more unfortunate stories like theirs.
Overall, today was the perfect balance of education and fun. It was one of the best days yet.