The Galen Center hosted the Eighth Council District Peoples’ Convention on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the upcoming City of Los Angeles Municipal elections on March 8.The convention, which was organized by a grassroots community organization called Eighth District Grassroots Rising, brought together community activists, residents and leaders from various community interest groups in order to prepare a “people’s agenda” for action to be taken in the district.Attendees of the convention listened to several speakers and engaged in direct discussion surrounding shared concerns and possible solutions for community issues. One of the central ideas of the convention regarded the community’s overall disappointment with city leadership and how to improve the current situation through active involvement.“We can no longer sit by and expect other folks to take care of our business,” said Rev. William Smart of the EDGR. “We have to be the instigators of action.”For many at the convention, the key to increasing the condition of their neighborhoods is to involve themselves directly in the city and take an active role in governmental affairs to bring about changes at a community level.“Proper representation is not about city council telling us what we need or what we want, it is about us telling them,” said Shawn Simons, president of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council.Several speakers stressed the need for holding their government and representatives accountable for their actions. Attendees voiced their frustration as well, many of them declaring that after all the problems that have plagued neighborhoods in the Eighth Council District, they have had enough.“Our community struggles have been going on for a very long time,” said Lichelle Williams, a local resident. “We have seen city councilmen come and go in our community, but they have not brought any lasting change.”Many of the concerns voiced at the convention included residents’ wishes to preserve their quality of life. Economic struggles were a common factor in the discussions, with several people expressing the community’s need for a more revitalized commercial presence.“We have great residential areas, but the struggle tends to be the commercial corridor,” said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, the convention’s main speaker and an activist with the EDGR. “There’s a lack of business; for every five people who need a job in the Eighth Council District, there’s only one job available locally.”Other issues that were brought up included prostitution in residential areas, home foreclosures, community redevelopment and the area’s educational system.Despite the list of problems that are commonly associated with the neighborhoods that make up the Eighth Council District, those at the convention maintained that the area is home to vibrant communities that have the ability to progress upwards.“We get all of this negative feedback, but at the end of the day, all of those statistics mean nothing if the people say we are not going to take this anymore and we deserve better,” Kwa Jitahidi said.The speakers urged those in attendance to take action in order to bring their communities out of their struggles. Many explained that change starts with the people.“We have become numb,” said Greg Akili of the EDGR. “We have become so accustomed to not having, that we think it’s the norm. We think that’s just how it is. It’s not that way and that is unacceptable.”The convention encouraged community involvement through breakout sessions after the speakers in which groups of attendees voiced specific concerns and collaborated on possible solutions. Those concerns will be evaluated and complied into the people’s agenda by the EDGR, which will then host another meeting discussing the next steps leading up to the election.“The work that is happening here goes beyond March 8, because if it stops then it is worth nothing,” Kwa Jitahidi said. “This is not just about one election; this is about a community getting its voice back.”
USC’s No. 2 men’s tennis team will put its five-game winning streak on the line this weekend as the Trojans head north to face the No. 49 Stanford Cardinal and the No. 15 California Golden Bears to open up Pac-12 play.The Trojans (17-2) have been firing on all cylinders since their last loss to UCLA at Marks Stadium on Feb. 22, most recently defeating the then-No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies 6-1 on Monday. The Trojans did so without the help of freshman Max de Vroome, ranked No. 104 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, whose recent wrist injury has given a few of his teammates some extra playing time. Junior co-captain Michael Grant, who has risen to a career-high No. 87 in the country, has stepped up to fill in for de Vroome in doubles play, while No. 86 sophomore Jonny Wang has been playing well at the No. 6 singles slot in de Vroome’s absence.“We work very hard with all of our players and we’re very fortunate that we’re eight-deep,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “Michael Grant has really come in and given us a boost in doubles. The energy he’s bringing is phenomenal.”The rest of the team will need to bring high energy to Palo Alto, as the No. 49 Cardinal (7-5) are currently streaking as well, winning four-straight to bounce back from a losing streak of equal length. Stanford is led by No. 54 sophomore John Morrissey and No. 88 freshman Nolan Paige, who secured the Cardinal’s only point when USC hosted Stanford earlier this season in a non-conference matchup. Although the Trojans already defeated the Cardinal 6-1 this season, the players refuse to let up.“Every single match is important for us to get better. … Our main goal is in May and that’s what really matters for us,” junior co-captain Emilio Gomez said, ranked No. 6 nationally.Today’s match is not only special because it represents the opening of Pac-12 play — it also serves as Smith’s chance to acquire his 500th win as a head coach. Smith has coached for 26 years, the past 11 of which he has spent with the Trojans. In 2012, he was named the ITA National Coach of the Year after guiding the team to its fourth consecutive national championship.“He’s a great coach,” junior co-captain Ray Sarmiento said. “He’s done so much for me, so it’ll be pretty special to win 500 for him.”Smith remains humble about his impressive coaching record, which currently stands at 499 wins and only 199 losses.“When you’re a coach, it’s never about you, ever,” Smith said. “It’s about the kids.”Should USC falter against Stanford, Smith will get another chance to reach the milestone against the No. 15 California Golden Bears (8-7) on Sunday. The Golden Bears, who the Trojans defeated 7-0 earlier this season at Marks Stadium, are led by No. 44 junior Ben McLachlan, No. 46 junior Campbell Johnson and No. 66 senior Christoffer Konigsfeldt. Additionally, Johnson and Konigsfeldt make up the the No. 26 doubles team in the country, while USC’s highest-ranked doubles team, comprising Sarmiento and sophomore Yannick Hanfmann, sits at No. 37.Smith praised Sarmiento and Hanfmann for their recent success, and added that many players, especially Gomez and Pac-12 player of the week sophomore Roberto Quiroz, have found their rhythm at this point in the season.“Emilio has really dedicated himself to work as hard, or harder, than anybody in the country,” Smith said. “His success is really due to the hard work that he has put in. Yannick has been amazing because he’s been hurt the whole season. … He’s been maturing as a player and a person.”Friday’s match against Stanford kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Sunday’s match against California will begin at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.