Los Angeles: After the American Dream

It's time to re-write our dreams: to revisit our personal and collective narratives. The hope for upward mobility is dead, at least amongst our youth. In this country, eighteen to twenty-four year olds are the fastest growing group filing for personal bankruptcy. More than half are living at home with their parents. The unemployment rate for this generation is higher than it has been for the past three. This generation has been faced with unprecedented struggles, less opportunities than ever before.

Despite the odds for secure employment and financial stability, We have not lost hope. We are crafting a new dream: It does not look like a nicely trimmed lawn, or a white picket fence. It has nothing to do with owning houses or cars. Even as we struggle to pay the bills, and living in our parents' basements, we refuse to settle with what is. Determined to make a difference, we are imagining what could be, we are redefining the possible. All across the US, millennials are redefining the meaning of work, driven by values not wealth. We are transforming blighted urban landscapes, food deserts, foreclosed lots, and the prospect of a bleak economic future, into spaces for possibility and opportunity.

Millennials are transforming cities all across the country, re-imagining the urban spaces and communities of Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and more. A group of fifty young community leaders gathered this month in Los Angeles for Ignite Good, a transformative leadership training in public narrative. (Public narrative is a leadership skill which moves people to action.) Our group came from all parts of the city and left the workshop empowered with a shared purpose: to connect and collaborate across socio-economic differences, past freeway intersections, and neighborhood divides, to re-imagine the possibility of a shared city. At the heart of this community work lie deeply personal stories which motivate our individual and collective dreams.

Chris Temblador remembers the scenes of fire and unrest in his own backyard. The memory of the Rodney King Riots has inspired him to create 110 South today. He envisions a vibrant community and creative renaissance taking place at the heart of South Central: alleys turned production studios, art galleries and markets in abandoned urban spaces. 'What if Angelenos got off the 110 freeway, and explored everything that South Central has to offer?' East of the 110, the LA River runs north to south across the city. There, Jason Foster is rebuilding a lost home, revitalizing the river that connects us all. Through his work with the LA River Corp, he envisions a Los Angeles that is not many cities, but one. In one of these broken cities, 'G' Glenda Proby has seen, up and close, the grappling effects of gang violence. Today, she is fighting for peace, through her organization The Chosen Few and Meet 4 Peace. A few blocks down the street, Jen Wong has created the No Box Society, after she identified in some of her most gifted high school students the emotional intensity she found in herself. She envisions an education system that empowers, not fixes, its students.

These are only a handful of the many stories that make up this city. All stories are personal and unique, but the vision is a collective one. Throughout the city of LA, young leaders work every day to improve their individual worlds and the city at large. It's time to re-write our personal and collective narratives. Join us as we re-imagine all that is possible for our city.

I ask you: What inspires you to do the work that you do? and what is your vision for Los Angeles?

The Ignite Good team is looking to partner and collaborate with local non-profits, groups, and individuals, who share our vision of a more connected, more collaborative Los Angeles.