Los Angeles Builds Alliance to Improve Race Relations

Article excerpt

This article is part of a continuing series on racial justice and race relations in cities. Articles will appear weekly leading up to NLC's sixth-annual Race Equality Week, Sept. 26-30, 2005. The goal of the weeklong series of events is to raise the consciousness and awareness of the importance of the role of city officials in improving race relations, achieving racial justice and creating inclusive communities.

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The recent mayoral election in the City of Los Angeles drew international attention to the city's racial politics, long characterized by a rivalry over jobs, housing and schools. In a historic step, Antonio Villaraigosa became the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in 125 years, and moreover, won the overwhelming support of the black community.

Villaraigosa's election is a milestone for the two communities that have a lengthy history of racial and ethnic tensions and fighting social injustice. Los Angeles' old political coalitions among white, Jewish, and black residents have broadened in a need to share power with a growing Latino population. Villaraigosa's victory was punctuated by majority support from Latinos, blacks, whites, the Jewish community, moderates, liberals and union members.

A microscope will be held to the new mayor's ability to keep the Latino and black communities working together.

On one hand Los Angeles has reason to celebrate the support built across party and cultural lines ushered in by the recent election. Blacks as well as Latinos were part of Villaraigosa's coalition, showing a cultural shift in ethnic symbolism and relationships.

On the other hand, persistent fights between black and Latino students in schools are just one indicator of continuing ethnic unrest.

Easing racial tensions was precisely the motivation behind unveiling a new coalition between African American and Latino Leaders, the "Latin And African American Leadership Alliance." The co-chairs of the alliance are the Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the New York-based National Action Network; Christine Chavez, granddaughter of labor hero Cesar Chavez and political director of United Farm Workers; and Najee Ali, a Los Angeles- and Chicago-based cleric and community activist. …