Two weeks in LA at the Skid Row Archive and Museum

I spent the last two weeks in Los Angeles, as a guest of the Skid Row Archive and Museum. This is a community archive and museum managed by the Los Angeles Poverty Department, a performance group closely tied to the city’s Skid Row neighborhood. It was founded in 1985 by director and activist John Malpede, who runs it with associated director and producer Henriëtte Brouwers. Its members are mostly homeless or formerly homeless people.

I was the first time at the LAPD pre-pandemic, in 2019 and I always wanted to go back to them to dig up some of the community organising history available in the archive and to spend more time with John, Henriëtte, as well as with Henry and Zach (two of the archivists working there). The Archive has an extensive number of resources on Skid Row History – including planning documents, articles, videos, oral histories, audios, interview transcripts and more – available for research. The archive documents the culture that developed on Skid Row—an activist culture, artistic culture and recovery culture— that offers a useful model for other communities navigating gentrification pressures.

While in LA, I also gave a short seminar to PhD students at the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA, hosted by Ananya Roy. I really enjoyed being there and discussing with colleagues and organisers ideas and practice about emplacement, homing and housing justice. I look forward to be back this coming July for the Freedom school at UCLA.

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