By Taylor Goodson
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The 29th annual Empowerment Congress Summit conducted virtually Jan. 15, was centered around reimagining civic commitment and moving Los Angeles towards a better tomorrow.
The Empowerment Congress is a community-based organization founded in 1992 by City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas to affect political change in South Los Angeles. Over the past 30 years, the Empowerment Congress has encouraged civic engagement that unites residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups, religious institutions and community advisers in policymaking and advocacy.
Even though this year’s summit was held virtually, those participating were able to hear prominent figures across California speak. Speakers included Gov. Gavin Newson, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, county Supervisor Holly Mitchell, District Attorney George Gascón, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and City Council President Nury Martinez.
“This summit provided an opportunity for a timely conversation on how communities and their leaders can engage and use that engagement as fuel to build and implement the laws, policies and programs that are needed for a more resilient and better tomorrow,” Ridley-Thomas said.
He pointed out how the past year has been unprecedented with the COVID-19 outbreak, racial injustices and the riot at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
“The spirit of this summit and of this year’s theme as it relates to civic engagement is a spirit that I think unites each and every one of us,” Newsom said. “A spirit to see the world with a different set of eyes — not just your own perspective, but to have the empathy and the understanding — the compassion, and the respect, for people regardless of their background.”
After the general session, participants separated into breakout sessions that focused on five crucial issues that Los Angeles is facing right now: homelessness, COVID-19 and educational loss, guaranteeing reasonable access to the COVID-19 vaccine, participating in a civil economic change in an anti-racist context and reconsidering civic engagement in a post-COVID-19 era.
City Council President Martinez thanked Ridley-Thomas for allowing her to be a part of the summit.
Martinez concluded by saying that when the community comes together and puts each other first, long-lasting change is bound to happen.
“While we might not yet see the whole staircase, we can emerge from the unprecedented challenges of the past year and become stronger, and more focused, and build a brighter, better tomorrow,” Ridley-Thomas said.