There's much to celebrate in Buena Park tonight: the two-year-old collaboration between UC Irvine, the UCLA Labor Center and the Orange County Federation of Labor; the launch of the UCI Community and Labor Project (UCICLP); and the evening's honorees AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, UCI School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Santa Ana Boys & Men of Color.
The event, like the "Orange County on the Cusp of Change" report the collaboration commissioned (and that my colleague Gabriel San Roman wrote about above), is aimed at nudging Orange County, socially and economically, into reality as opposed to the stodgy, wealthy and conservative reputation of yesterday.
As "Orange County on the Cusp of Change" explains it:
Once a rural, agricultural region, Orange County has become a vibrant, diverse metropolitan area. Though Orange County has been changing demographically and politically for the past four decades, its common reputation continues to be one of conservatism, right wing activism, homogeneity and affluence. Although it was once the land of Richard Nixon, the John Birch Society, and per Ronald Reagan, "the place where all good Republicans go to die," the reality is that Orange County is increasingly more heterogeneous and politically diverse. Yet a dominant narrative of wealth and affluence in the county obscures the existing inequality, which varies from city to city and leads to economic and social disparities among residents.
Or, as Jose Moreno, a Cal State Long Beach associate professor of Chicano & Latino Studies and former Weekly Scariest People inductee, puts it:
"The UCI Community Labor Project is raising consciousness of what Orange County really looks like, how it lives, and that it's not a monolithic county. It really is a diverse, vibrant community, but one where many of us are struggling. It's important to get people fully aware, to create that consciousness and work together to lift everybody up."
To recognize this push they'll be lifting cocktail glasses and dinner forks from 6-8 tonight at UFCW Local 324 Hall, 8530 Stanton Ave., Buena Park. Click here if you want to join them.