Westside Activists have continued showing advocacy for causes amid the pandemic

By Holly Jenvey

Beach clean-up at Playa del Rey beach. Credit: Deniz Cakir

From Martin Luther King Jr. Day to supporting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, the Westside Activists are showing their support while staying safe.

Westside Activists are organizers of peaceful demonstrations and protests for justice and equality in Los Angeles. Through socially distanced activities, Westside Activists have supported communities of color with issues regarding the verdict on the Derek Chauvin trial, taking a stance for the Asian community following incidents of hate, promoting climate justice, along with celebrations for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Westside Activist Carey Begbie Westerfield released a statement on behalf of the activists regarding the verdict on Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd. Even as the activists agree with the verdict of the murder that caused nationwide outrage on racial injustice, there is still more to be done.

“While we were relieved to hear that George Floyd’s murderer was convicted on all three counts, we realize that this verdict has been an exception to the rule,” Westerfield said.

“Unfortunately, guilty verdicts are few and far between for police officers on trial for murdering Black and brown people. But this ruling is the beginning of accountability of a system that was built to subjugate them. The fact that 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by another police officer around the same time as Chauvin’s verdict was being read proves how much further we have to go to dismantle white supremacy within the criminal justice system.”

This verdict followed the shootings that took place on March 16 at Atlanta spas. The acts of violence were predominantly targeted against Asians, so the Westside Activists held marches condemning these actions and to show support for the AAPI community.

The marches have taken place on most Sundays since the shootings and brought out people of all ages. Local politicians including U.S. Representative Maxine Waters and Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Bonin also participated in the events.

Messages were written across sidewalks and held up by signs that read, “Racism is the real virus,” “Stop anti-Asian hate”, and “Reject hate, embrace humanity”, among others. Others showed signs of minority races representing power.

On their Instagram post from their first march on March 21, Westside Activists said, “We will continue to stand up for justice, equality, equity, and the dismantling of white supremacy! We will never accept excuses made for white violence, and the continued atrocious crimes against marginalized communities. We are humbled and grateful for all those who take part in this uphill battle.”

Westside Activists are also looking to help with climate justice. Recently, they joined more than 60 organizations in signing a letter to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the LA City Council to move toward a future of renewable energy. They are also pushing for recovery from the pandemic and ensuring equitable energy for all.

“We know that our planet is precious with limited resources, and climate change is a threat to all of us, particularly our most vulnerable,” said Ahmanise Sanati, cofounder of Westside Activists. “We want to see LA take the lead, not only by switching from fossil fuels to clean energy, but to ensure our communities are equipped with the resources, protections and agency to move forward into a real, clean energy future.”

In January, the Westside Activists hosted their “2021 Safer at Home Kids March for Equality.” This was the third year of the event, where students, educators and other activists marched on the streets for equality, fighting for causes they care about. However, this year’s march was entirely virtual, with a series
of activities.

“We had to get creative because we still wanted to engage the kids, we still wanted to engage our community, and it was something that we really look forward to. So that’s why we did [it] the way we did it,” Sanati said.

The Kids March for Equality was started in 2019 by Haan-Fawn Chau. Chau wanted to incorporate children into the activism of the Westside Activists. The march, which was primarily based in LA, grew traction with the virtual events this year.

Sanati explained that around 300 people were affected or engaged in the activities from the virtual march. Children learned the meaning behind Martin Luther King Jr. Day through arts and crafts, writing signs, reading and writing about King.

The killing of Floyd and other actions of racial injustice were also factored into the march. When Floyd was murdered, Sanati’s daughter asked her why a sign said, “I can’t breathe.” Sanati said this was upsetting because children shouldn’t have to ask these types of questions.

“When I see little children of color putting posts [of] ‘Does my life matter too?’ ‘Does my life matter as much?’ that hurts,” Sanati said.
Yet, what was empowering was the fact that children were compelled to create their own messages in response to racial injustice.

Many of the messages they are sending are about spreading love. Sanati said that they will also learn how to amplify their voices for advocacy for the future by discussing topics that are often not talked about, as well as taking action.