Skip to main content

Challenging Inequality In One Of California’s Most Divided Cities

Band Members of Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles are pictured minutes before ...

Credit: Courtesy of Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles

Above: Band Members of Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles are pictured minutes before performing at Pasadena City College in this undated photo.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

Violins. Trumpets. Guitars. Those are the traditional sounds of mariachi — along with songs about love and heartbreak. But Carlos Samaniego is challenging the machista world of mariachi by creating a space for queer musicians to make music that's free of discrimination and bullying.

Aired: July 11, 2019 | Transcript

How one kid helped take on big oil

Nalleli Cobo is a teenager from South Los Angeles who’s made a name for herself as an activist. Her transformation began when she was just 9 years old, after kids in her neighborhood kept getting sick. Their health problems stemmed from a drilling site across the street from Nalleli's elementary school.

At 14, she and her peers sued Los Angeles for environmental racism in the way the city granted permits for oil drilling.

"That's why I fight," she said. "So kids read about urban oil drilling in history books and think it was ridiculous." USC student reporter Claire Heddles brings us Nalleli's story.

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles: The world's first LGBTQ mariachi band

Violins. Trumpets. Guitars. Those are the traditional sounds of mariachi — along with songs about love and heartbreak. But Carlos Samaniego is challenging the machista world of mariachi by creating a space for queer musicians to make music that's free of discrimination and bullying.

"You can be who you are here in this group," Samaniego said. "The group is open to anyone."

USC student reporter Jesus Alvarado introduces us to Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles — L.A.'s Mariachi Rainbow.

A coffee co-op whose business model prioritizes community over profit

Kateri Gutierrez is an ambitious millennial who spent her college years preparing for the corporate world. But then, as USC student reporter Ben Tran tells us, she gave all that up to launch a business that challenges the very idea of profit: a coffee co-op that aims to provide a way for low-income communities to resist gentrification and create wealth for themselves.

"Typical capitalism is: How do I survive?' Gutierrez said. "I like to think of it as, 'How do we lift as we climb?' We can’t afford to be selfish anymore."

The caregiver who never sleeps

Like many low-wage immigrant workers in Los Angeles, Aleja Plaza spends her days taking care of the elderly — emptying bedpans, giving sponge baths. But as USC student reporter Rebecca Ressler tells us, this caregiver has a unique history that helped shape her into an activist fighting for the rights of her fellow domestic workers.

"If we allow these people to pay us below the minimum wage, we are actually encouraging modern-day slavery," said Plaza.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.