Vamos a la Playa
In the summer of 2021, Mujeres de laTierra (MDLT) launched a program called "Vamos a la Playa" to address historically underrepresented communities' barriers to accessing open spaces. Although some beachfront homeowners would like to tell you otherwise, beaches along the California coast are public access open spaces managed by agencies such as the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). Vamos a la Playa is designed to teach community members about public access to our beautiful Southern California coastline and provide an opportunity to learn about marine life and environmental responsibility. MDLT worked alongside the MRCA and nonprofit organizations like Pacoima Beautiful and local neighborhood councils to organize three Malibu Coast trips (Lechuza Beach (2x) and Escondido Beach).
These trips brought inner-city families and children from Northeast LA to spend the day at beaches they had never been to. Each trip consisted of 30 to 50 passengers transported via charter bus and included provisions and amenities, including lunch and portable restrooms.
The goals of Vamos a la Playa are for participants to gain knowledge about the rights they have as community members to go to different beaches and create awareness about other methods that are traditionally and intentionally used to exclude communities of color from California beaches.These include installing fences, painting existing access gates the same color as one's home, and other intimidation tactics.This program dismantles these perceived barriers and raises awareness for those who feel they do not have access while offering a fun, relaxing, and inclusive communal experience for all ages.
The first year of Vamos a la Playa enabled us to test the waters with the question of whether or not people know about issues of coastal access, cleaner beaches, and aquatic health. The community made it clear that they wanted to enjoy the beach and advocate for and invest in opportunities to fight for and protect it. We learned that community members want to know more about the legislative framework and means of political action they can take to safeguard their access and the health of coastal beaches. Unfortunately, many of these campaigns, regarding environmental platforms and particularly coastal issues, have not fostered a strong or impactful voice from communities of color. There has been a significant void, but that has to change because these voices need to be heard.
With the continuation of this program, Mujeres de la Tierra strives to establish an informal network of community folks who want to and will participate in policy and legislation that will productively and positively impact coastal access issues. When these environmental bills arise, this network can utilize its pathways of communication and support to notify one another to educate and become involved. We plan to continue to inspire and instill advocacy through policy-making participation, letter-writing, and legislative support.