November 22, 2019
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4 inspiring things we learned at The Renewal Summit in Los Angeles

The Atlantic and Allstate traveled to the west coast and spoke with community leaders to explore how cities like L.A. can thrive while providing opportunities for everyone to prosper.

As part of the Renewal Series, The Atlantic has been traveling the country—from Houston to Cleveland, and D.C. to Seattle—to hear from local leaders who are building stronger communities. The event series, made possible by Allstate, made its latest stop in Los Angeles.

The Renewal Summit showcased big ideas from L.A.’s educators, entrepreneurs, and activists who are working in neighborhoods across this diverse city. Below are just a few of the moments that stood out. You can watch the event yourself in the player above!

1. L.A.’s black artists are leading a nationwide Renaissance (watch clip). L.A. is home to some of the most sought-after creators in their fields, such as Mark Bradford, Kerry James Marshall, Kendrick Lamar, and Issa Rae. Speaker Anthony Ruffin, from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, spoke of a new initiative called Destination Crenshaw that will help memorialize and preserve black culture in the Crenshaw neighborhood, the largest African American community west of Chicago. “These are all our neighbors,” he said of these artists. “So we say instead of our neighbors having to go far away to see their work … they ought to be able to see it out on the street in their own neighborhoods.” The outdoor art installation is projected to be open at the end of 2020.

2. Allstate uses data to make communities safer (watch clip). As a decades-old company, Allstate has analyzed over 200 billion miles of driving data in the United States, said Don Civgin, president of Allstate Service Businesses. “If you use the data in the right way, you can actually begin to solve some of the problems.” The company uses telematics—the analysis of massive amounts of data points—to help drivers and city planners make better decisions. He cautioned that if you use this data, you must be respectful of it and people’s privacy. But if you take advantage of it properly, it can add value to people’s lives.

3. Beautifying a community brings a new life to neighborhoods (watch clip). The Compton Initiative activates thousands of volunteers who beautify their neighborhoods by painting murals and cleaning up houses and other buildings in disrepair. Director Jeudy Mom says what’s great about the nonprofit is “it really brings out neighbors meeting neighbors for the first time.” Since winning a Renewal Award earlier this year, The Compton Initiative has completed over 150 projects and got more school principals engaged in hosting volunteer events.

4. Music is a powerful unifier (watch clip—and sing along!). The event finale inspired all 175 attendees to get off their seats and sing and sway with artists from the Urban Voices Project. Band leader Leeav Sofer led the choir in procession, singing “I walk in the spirit, I walk in the light.” Then he compelled everyone to stand up and sing in unison. Every member of this magnificent choir has struggled with homelessness. Two singers even shared their personal stories on stage. But as they invited everyone to add their voices to the music, together it created a powerful chorus of hope.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.