2020 Grants Challenge

A New LA Story

In a divided country and a diverse and fragmented city, how can young adults deepen connections among marginalized and silo’d communities to create a new LA Story? In this project, young leaders facilitate story circles in collaboration with the Museum of Social Justice. Story circles connect the lived experience of artists, elders, and museum visitors to upcoming exhibits that explore human trafficking in Los Angeles; comfort women in the Korean War, and Salvadoran needlework that chronicles the war in Central America.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g, using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Kid City Hope Place

Museum of Social Justice (both organizations are fiscal sponsees of the Los Angeles United Methodist Urban Foundation)

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

As the fiscal sponsor of both Kid City and the Museum of Social Justice, the Urban Foundation handles most administrative duties. Kid City will recruit, train, and supervise communications personnel, story circle facilitators, and other event coordination. Christy Illescas (F&M 2019) serves as Kid City program coordinator. The Museum's Assistant Curator, Domenica Castillo (UCLA 2015) will serve as the liaison with artists, curators, and the museum's exhibitions, as well as provide some administrative support for exhibits, janitorial for before and after story circle events. Both Christy and Domenica are also first-generation college graduates, and representative of similar communities as facilitators and program participants.

What is the need you’re responding to?

LA needs a new story! Especially during, and after, Covid-19, LA needs stories that bring people together to heal. The young people who will facilitate story circles at the museum are part of that new LA story. They are first generation college students from very low-income families. They are from mixed status families with roots in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Korea, China, and Ghana. They are curious, caring, dedicated to lifting up their neighborhoods and communities, and interested in weaving a new LA story. They are experts at inclusion, invitation, and welcome.

Among Kid City members, there is a longing for a greater sense of connection to a larger community, and in particular, to social justice movements of the past, present, and future. The Museum’s emphasis on social justice addresses the desire of a younger generation to know its history. The story circles are a beautiful vessel to connect resident artists and curators to a new audience, and to deepen visitor experience.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Kid City and the Museum of Social Justice are long-time partners and fiscal sponsees of the Urban Foundation. We seek to amplify our impact by combining our greatest resources -- Kid City’s young adults, and the Museum’s artists and exhibits. This year, a group of approximately 20 Kid City alumni received training from the Center for Council in facilitating small groups (often called councils, listening circles, or story circles). They are interested in using the process to share stories and build a deeper sense of community among young people and others from marginalized communities. The Museum of Social Justice provides context and history for particular movements and times in social justice history upon which to center the story circles. Story circles facilitated by Kid City alumni would bring another real-life dimension to the Museum’s exhibits by hearing related stories from artists and people of diverse ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, and experience.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 450

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Program staff and facilitators also have stories of challenge. Like the story circle participants, they are from humble roots, low-income, and mixed status families from a wide diversity of immigrant backgrounds. Now they are leaders in education, social work, and public policy, with the knowledge and heart to bring to the process. This experience will inform their leadership for decades. As a result, it is hard to measure the project’s full impact, but the goal is to create a new LA story, and a new LA city -- one that is kind and soulful, with these young people at the helm.

The Museum of Social Justice is located on the plaza Olvera, and has 40-50K visitors annually. Most visitors are Latinx families and school groups.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Our goal is to connect people from marginalized communities and diverse backgrounds to create a new LA Story. In the short term, story circles will bring a new audience to the museum. There, they may hear a story different, but parallel or similar to their own. Story circles are an intimate form of public art, which rests with the participants themselves. The point is not for us to broadcast anyone else’s story, but to encourage people to own their stories, their voices, and to see themselves in a larger LA Story.

We hope to facilitate 30 story circles -- at least ten at each of three exhibits, with an average of 15 participants. All three exhibits connect to Los Angeles’ immigrant community. And not just in an obvious way. For example, human trafficking in El Monte involved Thai workers, but immigrants from many places have also been trafficked. When people see their commonality, and have an opportunity to share their stories with others, they feel they are a part of a community, become more engaged with their neighbors, and more integrated into the life of the city. At the close of each exhibit, participants will have an opportunity to share their story to a larger audience, if they wish.

When closing a story circle, we have a “witness” round, where participants say a word or two that they heard. It is a simple sentence, that starts with “I heard someone say ….” These will be collected by facilitators, and analyzed to look for themes of integration and a sense of belonging.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​

Public arts and cultural events

Immigrant integration

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to LEARN

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support

Capacity, including staff

Strategy assistance and implementation