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Kids with Cameras:

Youth from the Mid-City neighborhood of Santa Monica had the opportunity this past summer to photograph their neighborhood by participating in a new Santa Monica Bay Humans Relations Council (SMBHRC) program called “Kids with Cameras.”

The program’s goal, according to the SMBHRC, was to help rekindle the Mid-City Neighborhood group which has been inactive since 2004. The photo essay project was designed to help the youth to get to know their neighborhood better and to help identify and seek solutions to issues in their area.

Fifteen youths who were recruited from local non-profits met once a week for eight weeks to shoot pictures and discuss their impressions of their neighborhood. Their work was coordinated by City of Santa Monica staff members, Police Activity League (PAL) officers, and by Fabian Lewkowicz, a professional photojournalist.

Community members had the opportunity to view the exhibition of the photographs and hear from the youth photojournalists at the McKinley Elementary School on October 3. One of the photographers stated that she learned from the project that “there can be beauty in the simple things.” Another photojournalist found out that “everything can be art through the lens of a camera.” Others spoke of the camaraderie they formed with each other while participating in the project.

After the youth discussed their experiences, those in attendance broke into discussion groups by topic. The topics were organizing Mid-City Neighbors, Building Community in Neighborhoods, Creating Community from Economic Crisis, Organizing a Safer City, Organizing for Better Schools, and Organizing for a More Livable City. The Mirror attended the group on organizing Mid-City Neighbors.

The boundaries of the Mid-City neighborhood consist of the area West of Centinela, East of 5th Street, South of Wilshire Boulevard, and North of Colorado Avenue. Its residents are concerned that they do not have a voice in important City decisions so they want to support organizing a new Mid-City Neighbors group. They also discussed some of the issues they feel should be addressed by a new Mid-City Neighbors’ organization.

Residents mentioned the need to meet face to face with those wishing to develop projects in the area. They also discussed their concerns about having St John’s Hospital as a neighbor do to problems with hospital sewage and worries about siren noise from ambulance trips to the new emergency room. Also mentioned were problems with parking and traffic and ways to increase gardening in the area.

Neighborhood organizer Gregg Heacock hopes by the end of October to have gathered the necessary signatures of 50 active members, to develop by-laws, and elect a Board so that the Santa Monica City Council can approve Mid-City Neighbors for non-profit status.

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