Eastside Sol Rocks Mariachi Plaza, Engages Boyle Heights on Cleaner Transpo and Energy Alternatives

Kids create a mural of a healthy Boyle Heights landscape. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Kids collaborate on a mural of a healthy Boyle Heights landscape at this weekend’s Eastside Sol event. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

In lower-income communities – particularly those where rentership is very high – people often have very little access to clean energy or clean technology alternatives.

The organizers behind the second annual Eastside Sol event held at Mariachi Plaza this past Saturday know how important it is for that to change. Such communities are often most at-risk for health problems caused by air and water pollution.

And because these communities are generally marginalized politically, they have to work that much harder to be heard. One need look no further for an example than the years of door-knocking, organizing and education of residents, lobbying of official agencies, and data gathering put in by East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, one of the event’s organizers, just to see environmental authorities finally shut down the Exide facility that had been poisoning the East and Southeast communities for decades.

Eastside Sol at Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Eastside Sol at Mariachi Plaza. The solar set-up at right helped power the festival. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

This one-stop community festival where residents can get educated about environmental issues in the community, try out transportation alternatives, get water-saving swag from LADWP, take home plants or trees and tips about how to avoid lead contamination, learn about the potential of a community solar program with RePowerLA and LAANE, and connect with a number of local organizations doing great work in the neighborhood helps make that process a little more enjoyable for all. Especially when it involves great music and good eats.

Kids practice putting on a helmet with tips they learned from Multicultural Communities for Mobility. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Kids practice putting on a helmet with tips they learned from Multicultural Communities for Mobility. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last year’s celebration was fun, to be sure, but this year’s festival doubled in size and fun family options. Kids clamored to paint a mural of a healthy landscape for Boyle Heights with Self Help Graphics (at top).

A youth tries out the obstacle course set up by Multicultural Communities for Mobility. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A youth tries out the obstacle course set up by Multicultural Communities for Mobility. Behind him, participants check out hybrid vehicles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

They also lined up to get a free helmet and learn about bike safety with Multicultural Communities for Mobility, get a free solar backpack so their phones wouldn’t run out of juice while playing Pokemon Go, get their faces painted, and play video games on the console powered by CALO YouthBuild‘s solar-powered generator (below).

A youth enjoys the benefits of a solar-powered video game console. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A youth enjoys the benefits of a solar-powered video game console. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Families quickly snatched up every free fruit and leafy tree City Plants had brought with them well before the festival wound down, enjoyed vegan snacks from local vendors, registered to vote and talked with SCOPE volunteers about the upcoming election, connected with Communities for a Better Environment and Charge Ahead to hear about opportunities to qualify for a no/low-cost “vehicle swap” program, and learned about how they could get solar installed on their homes or get a job in green technology with GRID Alternatives and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18.

And everyone got nostalgic with throwback tunes from Selenamos and El Conjunto Nueva Ola.

El Conjunto Nueva Ola rocks Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
El Conjunto Nueva Ola rocks Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

If you aren’t familiar with El Conjunto Nueva Ola, you’ve been missing out. Not only are they really good and a fun show, they are responsible for what might the best Metro promotional video EVER. Behold:

Speaking of Metro, they were there, too, showing off the new bike-share bikes, doing minor bike repairs for free, and talking to residents about future bike-share stations planned at sites like Mariachi Plaza.

Metro bike-share might be showing up at Mariachi Plaza in the not-so-distant future. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Metro bike-share might be showing up at Mariachi Plaza in the not-so-distant future. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Too often, the perception from outside lower-income communities is that they don’t care about environmental issues – that they have more pressing things to worry about. The phenomenal growth of Eastside Sol suggests that couldn’t be farther from the truth and that what folks were missing was a way to connect with advocates who understand their issues, connect with job opportunities that would allow them to build a solid career helping their own neighbors, and have access to solutions that were relevant to the way they live their lives.

For more information on Eastside Sol and the participating organizations, please check out their website, here.

The event organizers are recognized for their contribution to the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The event organizers and participants, including LURN, MCM, EYCEJ, CBE, GRID Alternatives, CALO YouthBuild, City Plants, IBEW Local 18, RePowerLA, Self Help Graphics, and more, are recognized for their contribution to the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.