Boyle Heights anti-gentrification activists take aim at Self-Help Graphics


BOYLE HEIGHTS — The L.A. Weekly takes a look at the anti-gentrification activists who want to force the new galleries that have recently opened in the neighborhood to shut down and move out of Boyle Heights. But one of the targets of the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement, or BHAAAD, is not a new or  private gallery; it’s Self Help Graphics & Art, a nonprofit that has championed and nurtured Chicano and Eastside artists for decades.

In 2011, Self Help moved from its long-time home in East Los Angeles to a new space on East First Street in Boyle Heights. Members of BHAAAD have taken Self Help to task for being cozy with developers seeking to rebuild the mammoth Wyvernwood Apartments complex, home to many working class Latino residents, into a new residential development. The activists were also angry over Self Help’s involvement with a mobile opera that held a performance in  Boyle Heights.

Maga Miranda with BHAAD told the Weekly:

“[Self Help Graphics has] been playing this role of gatekeeper for artists,” Miranda says. “We’re saying that they need to make a bigger effort to amplify the voices of the people that are gonna be most affected by this, and that doesn’t happen to be artists in this situation. It happens to be people who can’t afford to live here anymore.”

But Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, commenting on Facebook, came to Self Help’s defense:

“I‘m all against gentrification. (See my work if you don’t believe it.) I’m with you too. Mostly. I have to say, attacking Self Help Graphics, or ANY artists that have contributed to making Boyle Heights or East Los a GLOBAL arts mecca is just plain WRONG.”

Self Help has been trying to address the issue itself. Earlier this month, the organization hosted a meeting,  Artist Dialogue About Arts& Gentrification, “to put together a set of guidelines and agreements to mitigate any and all potential threats of displacement.” But at one point, according to L.A. Times journalist Steve Saldiar on Twitter, anti-gentrification activists took over the stage of the event as they asked for the galleries to leave.

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  1. Maybe they should make colorful embroidered caps that say “Make Boyle Heights BHAAD Again” on them! Good lord, we are going back in time.

  2. Wow, these silly BHAAAD kids should really take a moment to learn about the history of their neighborhood. Self Help Graphics has been an important part of the community for over 45 years.

  3. Hmmmmm I’m confused. So BHAAAD is saying that they want to enforce that caucasion-looking people are not welcome in Boyle Heights? Not to eat there? Not to shop there? Or just not to buy homes there? BHAAAD should go to the sellers of the homes and tell them to not sell to any white-looking people (which is illegal but could be done secretly, I suppose). They need to go to the businesses and tell them to refuse service to caucasion-looking people. Aren’t the sellers are the ones “betraying” the so-called Latino Community if you go by BHAAAD standards?

  4. How are these anti gentrification folks any different from Trump or Brexit? Xenophobic, racist, classist. Shameful.

    • Not different than trumps wall or any other xenophobia. The sad part is gentrification isn’t the issue causing displacement, unless you truly think it’s legal to deny entry to a certain class. The issue driving high rent and home prices resulting in displacement and homelessness in some cases is not building enough new homes. You can’t affect demand by keeping supply constant.

      • Agreed. I’m curious as to how many households are being displaced HLP, Boyle Heights etc. due to homes being sold or rents being raised. Property owners cannot be expected to subsidize below market rents for people forever. Renters need to remember and prepare for the fact that they do not own the place they live in and thus cannot expect to stay there in perpetuity. Tenants rights and RSO need to be respected and enforced. New construction is not going to be geared for median wage earners. That’s unrealistic.

      • The only “racist” element of this story is that no other ethnic group ever wanted to live in Boyle Heights to begin with, which is how it became 90% hispanic in the first place. Otherwise, anybody that didn’t mind having a Mexican neighbor was always welcome. So don’t try and flip the script on those who stayed and never wanted t to leave.

    • They’re different and worse because they want to keep fellow Americans out of an American neighborhood. But they welcome non-citizens with open arms.

    • From the LA Weekly link:
      “”We have one pretty simple demand,”says Maga Miranda, an activist with the group Defend Boyle Heights, “which is for all art galleries in Boyle Heights to leave immediately and for the community to decide what takes their place.”

      Sounds a lot like, “… for all Jews in Germany to leave immediately and for the Nazis to decide what takes their place.

      • Clearly you have no sense on the balance of power that exists int he community. To compare the residents of boyle heights with Nazis only shows ignorance

  5. Sorry Boyle Heights jerks, change is coming.

    As recently as the “1950s, Boyle Heights was racially and ethnically diverse, with Jews, Latinos (mainly Chicanos), various sectarian Spiritual Christians from Russia, Yugoslav (Serbian and Croatian) immigrants, Portuguese people, and Japanese Americans living in the neighborhood, ”

    So don’t pretend to think you own the neighborhood. you;’re just part of the changes that have occurred over time.. and now “gentrification” is the next wave of change.. Just like Latinos have changed areas that were historically african american or other ethnic enclaves,; change in the demographic makeup of the neighborhood is inevitable,and change is coming to Boyle Heights.

    You cant Donald Trump your way and build a wall and keep what you perceive as the baddies out.. not gonna work, never gonna work..

    • Shame on the activists!Self Help Graphics has done more for the Chicano Arts Movement than any other organization in LA. I’m so saddened by this. Such a shame an off target.

    • Shame on the activists!Self Help Graphics has done more for the Chicano Arts Movement than any other organization in LA. I’m so saddened by this. Such a shame an off target.

  6. Sure, if I can stop the art galleries, that will hold titanic economic and geographic factors at bay as well.

    What a distracting, low-stakes, intra-left squabble.

    What’s next? Stopping coffee shops? Cafes? Bakeries? The Gold Line? Bikes? Barber shops? Yoga joints? Pilates? Sidewalk repairs? Crosswalks?

  7. worst community activism approach ever. congrats.

  8. The weird thing about gentrification is that the “first” people to de-segregate a neighborhood are artists- they go there because it is affordable and not being racist fear-based conservatives they just see a cool vibrant community that happens to be majority brown.

    The “first” wave are actually people who are by definition not racist- that is why they aren’t scared of different cultured neighborhoods.

    It kind of sucks to attack them.

    • Exactly. The artists get pushed out by developers too. Instead of asking galleries to leave, they should partner up with them to defeat the coming developers. And the developers won’t even bother coming to the community meetings to get yelled at. They’ll just show up with bulldozers.

  9. The bigger picture is housing supply in LA hasn’t kept pace with demand, so the entire city is becoming more expensive (especially around large employment centers like Downtown.)

    Trying to stop people from moving to one neighborhood or another is like pissing in the wind. Neighborhoods change, it’s inevitable. What you want is to try and shape that transition (“gentlefication” if you will) so those struggling have more opportunities to stay in the neighborhood and prosper during times of growth and investment.

    Rather than attacking artists or hipsters who came to your neighborhood (because they like it; and it’s what they can afford), how about attacking the city’s outdated zoning and land use policies that make it nearly impossible for those in the community to invest in new housing and opportunities on their own terms.

    All thing being equal, it’d be so much cheaper for local homeowners to build backyard cottages, and local entrepreneurs to add a few floors of housing to their storefronts, if NIMBY’s and City Hall would simply get out of the way.

    Instead we have exclusionary housing policies that favor $$$ developers and chains from outside the community (and overly complicated government housing programs that require taxpayer subsidies.)

    • Nobody’s ever attacked the “hipsters” or artists who have been moving into and co-existing in our neighborhoods for as long as I can remember but anyone who supports or indulges the business of gentrification isn’t immune to being called-out. So what’s all the fuss about? That they’re being called-out? They can always shift gears and re-align their interests with those that share their preference for what they can afford.

      • What do you mean by “our neighborhoods”? What neighborhood are you from?

      • I was using the word “attacked” figuratively, as in trying to intimidate or shame art galleries out of the neighborhood like the LA Weekly article suggests. I guess I just think these kids are missing the forest for the trees.

  10. Keep these anti-gentrification protests coming! It’s self advertisement for developers to invest in an area they know is going through change. Rents are going up everywhere in LA, I don’t understand why these people think they deserve a free pass… and now they blame art.

  11. Thoughts from a latino/white male in “non gentrified” East Los Angeles, home of the thriving working class:

    If gentrification brings a nice craft beer pub close to home and some cool white people (not some ethnocentric snobs…some of you are close)…..GREAT!!
    But if you plan on charging me 8 or 9 dollars for a burrito, I’m going to get on a horse and ride around yelling “the white people are coming! the white people are coming!!”

  12. Lots of places for the displaced to. Bakersfield. Moreno Valley. Palmdale. All come to mind

  13. Bruce Brook Pfeiffer

    I have to assume these activists are children or juveniles and if that assumption is correct I also assume they will eventually grow up and grow out of their childish views. I certainly hope these aren’t adults we are dealing with…….

  14. This is an incredibly misguided effort being done by a group who appears to have a 12 year old’s world view. If their true issue is with displacement, then they’re wasting their time going after groups who have displaced no one. Self Help should just ignore them.

  15. Gentrification is a business NOT natural change and its success (i.e., profits) hinge on a blatant disregard for a community’s history, culture, or people. Natural change has happened in Boyle Heights several times already so that’s no big but “change” fueled by greed and intentional disregard is just asking to be defied. “Change” like that should never be allowed to occur with impunity and the community has an obligation to exercise its voice. So what is everybody getting all threatened by? The emergence of a historically submerged community? Well guess what? It’s ALWAYS been there and the “giant” that everyone’s been challenging for decades is stirring. Deal with it.

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