We, the women of Pico Gardens and Aliso Village, want to communicate to you that together with other mothers from our Boyle Heights community we have fought for decades to eliminate violence and bring peace to our neighborhood. We erased the graffiti that promoted violence among our youth, we took away their weapons, and we worked together so that drugs were not sold in our streets. Meanwhile, the police treated us and our children as enemies. To improve our community, we fought to open more schools and bring more programs to educate our young people. It was many years with fear throwing ourselves to the floor because of the bullets, asking the police to respect us and looking for programs and improvements for our community.
What comes now are not the improvements we asked for. What has come are forced improvements imposed on us by people who do not know us or understand our history. Now that our community has improved, artists arrive with their galleries and their coffee shops, close our businesses, raise our rents, and offer us everything they never gave us when we were alone fighting. That’s why we ask the galleries to leave. Because they are part of a change that instead of benefiting us is hurting us.
Our community of Pico Aliso is a couple of blocks from the Laura Owens gallery, 356 Mission. The people who live in that community have been fighting against the eviction for 20 years. First, they removed more than 900 families from our neighborhood. Later, they wanted to privatize our homes, now they raise the rents to immigrant families. When we spoke with Laura Owens and asked her to close her gallery, she told us that her employees were going to lose their jobs but she did not say anything about the hundreds of families whose housing is in danger. She said she was going to come back to talk to us, but never came back and we’re still waiting for her to come talk to us.
Many people tell us that we don’t want art in our community, but we tell these people that they don’t want us in our neighborhood and that is why they support the galleries. Today we want to tell Laura Owens that her paintings do not help us, that her gallery does not improve our lives and that if she wants to sell her paintings she should move to Beverly Hills.
November 8, 2017