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Youth Reclaim Public Space From Gangs With Mural


By The AjA Project

In partnership with the Karen Organization, The AjA Project ran a nine-month program with young Southeast Asian refugee women called Photographers for Change (P4C). During the program, 15 Karen participants, ages 13 to 18 years old,in City Heights and Los Angeles’ historic Filipinotown used photography to reflect on their experiences of migration and resettlement, explore their personal and cultural identities, and observe and document issues in their communities.


Participants of the City Heights-based P4C program chose to explore how gangs impact their community. They researched and discussed systemic causes of the influence gangs have over youth and factors contributing to gang recruitment.

They then photographed literal and symbolic images to document the issue in their community. Compiling the information gathered, along with their original images, participants developed a presentation for the executive director of the Commission on Gang Prevention, Reverend Ricky Laster, and the Commissioner for Gang Prevention Vinh Tran.


P4C participants also created an educational resource guide and brochure to provide information and community-based resources for youth susceptible to gang recruitment in the community.

Participants included vibrant and colorful images in the resource brochure to support their perspectives of City Heights as a healthy, beautiful community.


The participants printed 25 these positive images at large scale for a public-facing mural that might counter the influence of gangs. The idea was to reclaim a space that was formerly occupied by gangs.

In addition to beautifying the space, the participants’ intention was to inspire residents of City Heights to embrace their community and reimagine it without the presence of gangs.


The P4C community-facing photo mural is located on the north side of Wightman Street in City Heights between 47th Street and Euclid Avenue.


The S. Mark Taper Foundation funded the program.


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