Youth as the Catalyst for Change
In 1999, InnerCity Struggle organized to ignite a state-wide youth movement in response to Proposition 21, an initiative on the California ballot in March of 2000 set to increase the penalties of non-violent crimes and under certain circumstances a fourteen-year-old could be sent to adult prison. ICS concluded that if the initiative were to pass, the implications would be harsher on low-income youth of color and that needed to be exposed.
InnerCity Struggle brought together high school and college students from East Los Angeles, and other parts of the city to strategize ways to challenge Proposition 21. They named their efforts Youth Organizing Communities (YOC) and organized youth throughout Los Angeles and the state to challenge the criminalization of youth of color and the lack of equitable educational opportunities in poor communities of color. As lead organizer for YOC, Luis Sánchez, provided opportunities, trainings and workshops to develop the political consciousness and organizing skills of hundreds of young people.
Building an Inter-generational Movement
Ultimately, Proposition 21 was approved by voters, however, the efforts to defeat this proposition created a formalized youth organizing network in California and deepened InnerCity Struggle's commitment to developing a community institution committed to building a mass-based movement for change in the Eastside. Luis Sánchez and youth leaders from YOC developed a strategic plan of action to move the organization to the next level. In 2001, ICS launched United Students (US), a campus-based club that works to build student power and expose the inequities in local high schools and middle schools. ICS understood that youth alone could not build a movement; they needed to join forces with adults and parents in order to push for fundamental change. In 2004, Familias Unidas (FaU) was formed to build a base of parent leaders that organized to support United Students' efforts to fight for new schools in East LA. Through US and FaU, ICS has focused on building a grassroots, community led movement for educational justice.
ICS expanded its work beyond Boyle Heights and into the other Eastside communities of unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno and Lincoln Heights.