A Grandson Returns to East L.A. to Fight For Clean Air

A Grandson Returns to East L.A. to Fight For Clean Air

Share mark!’s conversation with his grandparents and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.

mark! Lopez was born into a family of organizers and is driven by an early memory of a community march when he was just a toddler in a stroller. He majored in Environmental Studies and earned a masters degree in Chicano studies and returned to the community where he grew up, to work for Communities for A Better Environment and then East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, where he is now the executive director.

mark! was interviewed by his grandparents, Juana and Ricardo Gutierrez. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.

JUANA GUTIERREZ: Cual fue el primer paso que tomaste para convertirte en un agente de cambio en nuestra comunidad y que te motivo para dar ese paso?

JUANA GUTIERREZ: What was the first step you took to become a change agent in your community and what motivated you to take that step?

MARK! LOPEZ: Pues no fue un paso creo que uno de los recuerdos que tengo ni de un ano o dos anos creo fue una marcha. Anduvimos en una marcha en 6th street u otro bridge pero estábamos cruzando y yo andaba en un stroller. Y recuerdo la danza Azteca, el tambor y pues ahí con toda la familia y la comunidad marchando. Y me imagino que fue por el prison, pero ese es uno de mis primer recuerdos de mi vida. Ese recuerdo me motivo y es como un guía para ensenarme que es funcionar en comunidad y creci haciendo este trabajo de la comunidad entonces siempre pense que este era algo normal que tenia que hacer.

MARK! LOPEZ: It was not a step. One of my first memories when I was one or two years old was when we were in a march. This march on 6th street, or another bridge, but we were crossing it and I was in my stroller. I remember the danza Azteca, the drums and being there with family and the community marching. This memory is my motivation and my guide as to how to be part of a community. Since I grew up doing this community work, I thought this was the norm and something I had to do.

RICARDO GUTIERREZ: Puedes compartir un tema importante que estás trabajando y tu visión para un futuro mejor?

RICHARD GUTIERREZ: Can you share one important thing you are working on right now and what your visión for a better future looks like?

MARK! LOPEZ: Pues creo que algo que hemos aprendido mucho en el movimiento el que nosotros tenemos que ser los que luchan, nadien va a venir a nuestro rescate. Entonces por ese nosotros tenemos que tener una visión para lo que queremos. Porque si solo les decimos que no queremos solo van a traer mas ideas que nos afectan y no va ha ser algo de beneficio para la comunidad. Entonces en todo el trabajo que hacemos tenemos que empezar con entender el problema, como nos impacta y averiguar que es lo que podemos hacer, que hay de opciones, que es lo que están haciendo otras comunidades y si no hay ejemplos ver lo que podemos crear o pensar. Entonces eso creo que estamos haciendo con el freeway 710, con la alternativa comunitaria 7, es lo que estamos haciendo al nivel nacional.

En anos pasados quien creía que podíamos tener trocas sin contaminación y ahorita estamos en esa lucha que empieza con nosotros. Las comunidades cerca de los puertos ya tienen muchos anos con mucha contaminación entonces esas platicas, ese movimiento que los puertos para asegurar que los puertos no tengan contaminación en el futuro empieza con nosotros. Como ustedes empezaron a luchar aquí en Boyle Heights y en el este de Los Angeles y yo la siguiente generación de la familia y ahora la generación tercera viendo a Xole y a Luna que vienen después de mi y los demás creo que nos aseguramos que la comunidad va estar en buenas manos.

MARK! LOPEZ: I think one thing we have learned from the movement is that we have to be the ones that fight for ourselves, no one is coming to our rescue. This is why we need to have a vision of what we want. Because if we only tell them what we don’t want they will only bring more projects/ideas that will negatively impact us instead of being a benefit to the community. So in the all the work that we do we must first understand the problem, how it will impact us, and figure out what we can do about it. What are the options, what are other communities doing to fight back and if there are no examples we need to figure it out ourselves. This is what I think we have done with the 710 freeway, with Community Alternative 7. This is also what we are doing at the national level.

Before no one could image we could have trucks without pollution and right now we are in that struggle, but it starts with us. Communities living close to ports have a long history with pollution and its impacts so those conversation around making sure the Ports no longer pollute starts with us. Just like you started the fight here in Boyle Heights and East LA, I am the next generation in my family and now the third generation seeing my daughters Xole and Luna that come after me we are making sure that our community is in good hands.

PLEASE JOIN mark! Lopez and his family in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.

LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in East L.A. by following East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.