Wednesday, Day Three
After the first two days and three nights of teaching and learning and connecting, the SLP student leaders were ready for the most pivotal day of the experience – an immersion into both ends of the LA socioeconomic spectrum. We first gathered together on Fuller’s campus for directed quiet times and prayer triads. Then they were introduced to what can happen when faithful and committed people decide to act in the face of injustice and poverty. In this case, its Joe Colletti and Sandi “Mama” Romero, who a decade ago embarked on an “impossible” task to “take back” a neighborhood and park for the residents of downtown Los Angeles. In the mid-1980s MacArthur Park, for decades one of LA’s prime historical landmarks, had been invaded by violence, fear, hopeless and darkness. As followers of Christ called to bring hope and healing to the inner city, Joe and Sandi dove into the center of the park and built a community development infrastructure that has been so overwhelmingly successful that “Mamas Hot Tamales” has been featured on NBC News with Brian Williams. Our student leaders spent a few hours with Sandi, and heard her amazing story of vision, struggle, faithfulness and pride.
Following our time with Sandi, the students walked the primarily Latino community with $5 to spend as a group. They went from shop to shop, among street venders and the homeless, into flea markets and diners. Then we drove them the 5+ miles down Wilshire Blvd to the infamous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Same street, two vastly different worlds. There they walked the shops and streets, and also had $5 to spend.
Our debrief is tonight, but from what we’ve heard so far they got the chance to see and experience close up poverty and exorbitant wealth, and in the process came face to face with power and injustice and race and prejudice. Tonight we get to share together how it felt as Christ’s followers to see what Sandi and Joe have done in the name of Christ, how the undocumented and poverty-riddled people of Los Angeles live, and what its like to try and be a kid, especially a kid of color, to walk into a high-end boutique and spend $5. If past years are any indication, today will be an important day in the life of each student leader.