Outreach at UC Berkeley: Mariachi Luz de Oro Hosts Youth Mariachi at Casa

Outreach at UC Berkeley: Mariachi Luz de Oro Hosts Youth Mariachi at Casa

Born in El Paso, Texas, a tri-border city between New Mexico, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I grew up surrounded by Mexican culture my whole life. Finally leaving the desert to study chemical engineering at UC Berkeley felt exciting and refreshing. In the sea of faces in my engineering classes and the residence hall, it soon became obvious that I was one of the very few Latinas. This new, unfamiliar feeling of being a minority forced me to analyze my identity as a Chicana with a new lens. In search of a music ensemble as well as this exploration of my identity, I joined Mariachi Luz de Oro despite the…
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How to Save a Life: My Story of Health Policy & Empowerment

How to Save a Life: My Story of Health Policy & Empowerment

Nine years ago, I received devastating news: My aunt Michelle had passed away from cardiovascular disease. Michelle was at times a caretaker, other times a third parent, and always a friend. At the time, I was an insecure teen who had no idea what his impact on the world would be, and certainly no clue that I’d be involved in health policy. Michelle’s passing left me wracked with both grief and guilt. The shock of losing such a dear friend worsened my emotional state and forced me to acknowledge my inability to do anything to about it. Michelle’s death initially left me traumatized and disoriented, but it ultimately set me…
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Threat to Energy Efficiency and Weatherization Program Could Hurt California’s Resilient Future

Threat to Energy Efficiency and Weatherization Program Could Hurt California’s Resilient Future

Legislators this week started discussions to decide the fate of the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), a program that brings energy efficiency and utility bill savings to low-income California families. The program, whose funding Gov. Brown proposed eliminating in his proposed budget, is financed through the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which directs money collected from polluters through cap-and-trade and invest it in cleaning the environment and encouraging economic growth within the most vulnerable communities. Eliminating funding for LIWP — a program that brings low-income families #energyefficiency and utliity bill savings — would be a step backwards for California. LIWP provides free or deeply discounted energy efficiency upgrades and solar power…
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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Are Racial Justice Tools

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Are Racial Justice Tools

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are buzzwords we see often. With big companies launching brand campaigns to communicate their commitment to diversity (did you see the Superbowl ads this year?) and job boards seeing an increase in DEI roles, it’s clear that more people and organizations know that DEI work should be a priority. However, the case for DEI has become highly centered around business instead of the communities the concepts were designed to empower. It’s time to reframe diversity, equity, and inclusion as tools that focus on people and racial justice. Enter our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework, which explains how diversity, equity and inclusion can close the racial wealth…
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Warning of the 2008 Financial Crisis – and Stopping a New Wave of Predatory Lending

Warning of the 2008 Financial Crisis – and Stopping a New Wave of Predatory Lending

It’s considered rude to say, “I told you so,” but as far as the 2008 financial crisis goes, we did. Now a new wave of financial deregulation could set up a rerun of the predatory lending boom that devastated communities of color and tanked our entire economy. We’d had a fairly cordial relationship with Federal Reserve Board Chair Alan Greenspan going back to Greenlining’s early days in 1993-94, so we hoped that he’d listen when we told him we were worried about what was going on with adjustable-rate mortgages and subprime lending. As the housing boom started to take off in the late 1990s and early 2000s, something of a…
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Brownfields, UC Merced and Fighting for Environmental Equity

Brownfields, UC Merced and Fighting for Environmental Equity

The environment is a key civil rights issue, but when I started to get involved in environmental issues, we didn’t often see other people of color in the room and at times it seemed like mainstream environmentalists were more concerned with saving trout than with getting clean water to low-income children. In the aftermath of the L.A. uprisings in 1992, several Greenlining Coalition members, led by our coalition partners at West Angeles Community Development Corporation and F.A.M.E. Renaissance, started an effort to revitalize their communities that had been torn apart by redlining. They particularly wanted to address the numerous vacant and abandoned sites found in California’s inner cities, called “brownfields.”…
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Young People Changing Policy: The Birth of Greenlining’s Leadership Academy

Young People Changing Policy: The Birth of Greenlining’s Leadership Academy

I found out about the Greenlining Leadership Academy during the spring semester of my first year in graduate school at the University of Michigan, where I was working on my master’s degree in public policy. Everyone was finding summer internships, and I really wanted to get back to the Bay Area. A friend of mine saw a brochure for the Leadership Academy and said, “You need to apply for this.” The Academy brought together different elements that I didn’t think anybody else had: policy and advocacy on issues that were important to low-income communities and communities of color, and the brochure made it very clear that this was a, multiethnic…
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Taking a Federal Reserve Official on a Tour of South Central L.A.

Taking a Federal Reserve Official on a Tour of South Central L.A.

The Greenlining Institute was still a new organization in 1995. We’d just had our first Economic Development Summit the year before, featuring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and in 1995 we did something that apparently no one had thought of before: We took Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder on a tour of South Central L.A. – the sort of neighborhood where federal financial regulators never set foot, a community totally outside their experience. My day job back then was working for the Urban League in Arizona, where I’d moved two years earlier. I’d been on the board of Public Advocates where Bob Gnaizda was working, and…
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CRA “Reform” Is an Attack on Communities of Color

CRA “Reform” Is an Attack on Communities of Color

By this point, it’s no secret that the Trump administration is in open warfare with communities of color, the working class, and regulations that safeguard our interests. Now, it seems, they’re coming after the Community Reinvestment Act – CRA for short. Heads up: Trump’s administration is going after the Community Reinvestment Act, a bill that helps close the racial wealth gap. CRA, a civil rights law passed by Congress in 1977 to address redlining, is reportedly next on the administration’s hit list. The effects of redlining — the refusal of banks to lend and invest in communities of color and low-income areas for decades – linger today. By enacting the CRA,…
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Why I Don’t Speak Spanish: The Collateral Damage of Prejudice

Why I Don’t Speak Spanish: The Collateral Damage of Prejudice

I wish I knew how to speak Spanish. Not only would it be incredibly useful in my current job here at Greenlining, I can think of hundreds of occasions in the past when it would have helped. But I don’t speak Spanish for precisely one reason: prejudice. In 6th grade – the last year of grade school in my district – we’d learned a smattering of Spanish via a teacher who came into our class once a week, Señora Rosa. Starting middle school the next year (1968, for anyone who’s counting – but please don’t) offered me my first chance to take a foreign language class every day. With a…
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