During the afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, 2022, LMU’s The Learning Community (TLC) partnered with the Center for Urban Resilience (CURes) and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Responsibility (OSCCR) to host a tour and restorative practices circle experience in Ballona Discovery Park for over 30 black students attending LMU.
Dr. Eric Strauss, Executive Director of CURes, welcomed the group to the Park, as did Emelyn dela Pena, LMU’s new Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Hillary Henderson, former Program Coordinator of Intercultural Initiatives and Programs, overseeing the Black Student Space and The Learning Community (TLC) as well as staff co-lead for the Intercultural Facilitator Program at LMU.
Dr. Strauss commented, “This was a great opportunity to meet students and share with them our enthusiasm for the Discovery Park and the power of green spaces to be both places of learning and spiritual well-being. We offered a tour of the beautiful Tongva monument, created by our friend and artist Robert Dorame, and an opportunity for students to experience a restorative circle in the Kiiy [aka mah-mah-har-ke (ch)]. The setting gave us a chance to explore the indigenous human history of the Ballona ecosystem and consider parallels to the African American history in the Americas.”
Schoene Mahmood, Manager of the Restorative Justice program at CURes, and Julia Wade, Associate Director for Restorative Practices in the Office of Student Conduct and Community Responsibility, led restorative practices circles in the Native American Kiiy with Jamal Epperson, Resident Director and Anti-Racism Workshop Coordinator and Consultant at LMU.
The students were split into two groups and then switched half-way through the afternoon to do restorative practices circle in the Kiiy and tour the Park, learning about the history of the area with Dr. Strauss and Lisa Fimiani, Drollinger Environmental Fellow with CURes. The students received journals with the tag line, “Neighborhood Wellness Begins Here”, as a gift from CURes. As part of the Park tour the students walked the Watershed Walk and paused at the Tongva Monument to acknowledge the indigenous Tongva Gabrielino people who lived in the Ballona Wetlands hundreds of years ago.
One of the students, Cecil White, said, “It was nice to see the space, and learn LMU’s history. I enjoyed learning about the monument rock that was donated to the individuals that passed away. This is so good to see the land repurposed for good.”
The Park, located in the community of Playa Vista below LMU’s Westchester Campus, is a project of LMU, the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and developer Playa Vista. It was created as a result of mitigation requirements for the developer to be able to build their community in Playa Vista. The Park is open to the public and invites visitors to learn about the Ballona Wetlands, especially LMU students and the community at large.