2012 marked Latrece Jackson’s 10th year as one of SCOPE’s community leaders. “We were working hard talking to folks about Proposition 30,” she remembers. “There was no time to get sick—too much action going on. There’s a real verve here at SCOPE that comes from the pace and the people. But, in that moment, when you’re working so hard to make a difference, you don’t get a chance to slow down and think. That hasn’t changed since my first day.”
Yet, Jackson is continually surprised, year after year, by the impact of her efforts.
Proposition 30, California’s landmark legislation that will increase the state and city budgets by small tax hikes for those earning more than $250,000, was passed six months ago. Already, she can see how the funding has been put to use: teachers who were facing unemployment will no longer be laid off, and students have received reimbursements for recent tuition increases. And in Jackson’s own neighborhood, construction crews are fixing sidewalks that have been broken for years. “I care for my granddaughter during the day,” she says. “But when I take her for a walk, I have to push her stroller in the busy street because the concrete is cracked too badly for me to walk on it. So that’s an improvement that means a lot to me personally.”
“The SCOPE folks talk to [South LA’s residents] about things no one else tells us about. They let us know that we could do more.”
Jackson pours over the city budget to make sure those dollars are put toward community empowerment projects—and that those projects are actually visible to residents as well as potential business owners, artists, and visitors. She moved to South LA when she was 13 years old, “and it’s still drab. The neighborhood needs some beauty, and I think the city can help with that” by subsidizing graffiti removal contractors, for example, she says.
Her involvement in local politics still amazes her every time she knocks on a door or picks up a telephone. “The first time I went to a poll was during Clinton’s second election. That wasn’t too long ago,” she laughs. “My mother-in-law made me go. But I didn’t know why I was going. The SCOPE folks talk to [South LA’s residents] about things no one else tells us about. They let us know that we could do more.” Ten years ago, her desires for a better South LA would have been nothing more than passing thoughts during her daily walks. “But now I think, who do I know that can help make changes? What can I do to make things happen?” she says. “And those are good questions.”