I am grateful to have been offered the opportunity to be interviewed as the Featured Teen in The Neighborhood News! A local magazine serving the communities such as Mid- City, West Adams and Arlington Heights. The article was edited by Phil America and Dianne Lawrence. Take a Look!
Born and raised in Mid-City LA, 17-year-old Lily Larsen is not your average young person.Unlike most people you know, she spends more time in community meetings than on social media. Growing up in a socially engaged family she saw the issues her neighborhood faced, big and small, and decided to do something about it. From a young age she has worked tirelessly to bring a youthful voice to the landscape of her neighborhood and Los Angeles. With five generations of Los Angelinos behind her, she has no plan to leave. We sat down to talk with her about everything from ageism to her favorite place to eat. In a time when the nation is as divisive as it’s ever been, Larsen is pulling the community together and getting other people her age to do the same.
I want to talk to you first about the neighborhood. You are born and raised in Mid-City?
Lily: Yes my ancestors, five generations, are from West Adams.
How would you describe the neighborhood to someone who’s not from here?
Lily: That’s a good question. When I tell my friends from outside, they don’t really know where it is. Or they associate it only with LACMA. It’s more than that. Whenever I ride my bike I smell different foods and hear different music. To me it’s like fireworks. There’s always something going on. There is a mix of everything and it’s a representation of Los Angeles as a whole.
Right. Other areas are not as multicultural.
Lily: I love it here. I’m really grateful to have been raised here. Growing up we didn’t have any resources,so we just played in the street. There was no community center. So my mom [Blair Baron Larsen featured in our Dec 2012 issue]started the LA Drama Club. It’s a free Shakespeare club where kids learn Shakespeare and the social justice aspects of it. It’s in West Adams and it’s a summer program. We built this theater troop just from the kids on the block.
So would you say your mom is the one who got you into being active in the community?
Lily: Yes. I attended my first protest when I was five. I was actually wearing this shirt that says “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Since then I’ve been doing activist-related stuff. My mom is an actress, so we mixed the activism and theater.
Art and culture is a great way to open the door to social justice-related issues for people.
Exactly. Art saves lives. Kids I knew were getting sent to jail at 10 years old and we got a lot of them into the Shakespeare program and it changed their lives.
It’s incredible how powerful art and culture can be. Tell me about your work in this community.
I currently serve on Mayor Garcetti’s Youth Council. I served on it for East LA and currently serve on it for South LA. I’m working on being the Central Area Youth Representative for the city of LA. I’m involved with the Mid-City Neighborhood Council. I noticed that there was no youth position and no youth voices being heard. I just got elected in. Most teens in my neighborhood don’t even know that they have the power to make changes in their own neighborhood.
Tell us about the other great work you are involved in around the city.
I’m working on a community cleanup in Watts. I’m working on a festival called the Express Your Roots To Future Generations. There is so much. There needs to be a way to get the teens and youth in communities more connected. I don’t even know kids who live five blocks from me. I want to figure out how to get some murals down Washington Blvd. and a community garden.
What do you think adults need to do to help the youth be more involved in the community and what does the youth need to do to get the adults to help them more?
I think adults need to have trust in the youth and know that the youth wants to have a foot in their community to make change. There is a lot of ageism that goes on and the youth aren’t taken seriously. The youth needs to know that they can get involved and to not be scared. They are the future of the community. The youth is the community.
What could people moving here do to better the community?
Get to know everyone in the neighborhood. Support the
community. Support small businesses.
I recently moved here so that’s great advice.
Understanding your neighbors and not excluding anyone is
Do you have a favorite restaurant around here?