Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.


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The premise of this archive is to preserve voices that will create a multicultural picture of progressive Los Angeles and its activists and philanthropists, by having them tell their own stories on video - stories which may not necessarily warrant a whole film by themselves, but are essential parts of a patchwork of our political history. These individuals and the story of their lives, along with others that will be added as we research activists lesser known to us, but nonetheless crucially important, will provide a multi-ethnic quilt of progressive LA, a "People's History" of Los Angeles progressives on video.

The footage is being shot - if already in existence, collected - and archived here at LA Activist Video Archive. Soon, transcripts from each interview will available on this site. Now, "selects" from each interview we've done thus far are available for viewing. We will add to them as we finish interviews. As the collection of oral history interviews grows, it will be made available to projects which could benefit from the historical perspective provided. Anyone wanting access to the total interview after viewing the selects need only email us.

Eventually on this site, we will provide an index of the individuals, organizations and subjects covered, with links to more information about each interview subject and the political movement/issue in which they were immersed. We are exploring links to bigger educational institution as the final resting place of the LA Activist Video Archive, including UCLA, which has expressed interest in what we're doing.

Baby Boomers who became engaged politically during the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Women's Movement, or the wars in Central America, are reaching retirement age. While many are living longer, we are beginning to lose important Los Angeles based voices; While some small amount of footage may exist on these activists, the whole scope of their work is likely largely undocumented. There are many people in their seventies and eighties, pre Baby Boomers, whose experiences and knowledge will be an important part of any history of progressives in Los Angeles and time is running out to collect their work and knowledge.

The sense of political history in the United States is short lived and transitory. The history of the left is even less visible as it tends to be marginalized by retrograde forces eager to obfuscate and minimize its value. For this reason, we are struck by the urgency of preserving our history.

Progressive forces must be credited for having worked hard to create a time when the U.S. elected a Black President who began as a community organizer. This is the perfect time to provide visibility to community voices who refused to be marginalized. Rather than allowing them to be dismissed as voices on the "fringe," these individuals should be recognized as having the some of the same sensibilities, touchstones, and history as the President of the United States.

Since the time our ancestors sat around fire circles to share stories of their struggles and the lessons learned from preceding generations, the oral tradition has played a pivotal role in defining who we are, and what we aspire to as a people. Now, the fire circle has been replaced or augmented by the Internet, with its ability to spread knowledge farther than ever before. In that context, the internet is becoming the venue for information, and research.

After a sufficient number of interviews are completed, and we make the collection known to universities, foundations, and through grassroots groups, The LA Activist Video Archive will serve as a resource to inform and inspire historians, political and social scientists, journalists, activists, community organizers, philanthropists - virtually anyone interested in our history or who wants to become more fully engaged in democracy. The personal stories collected for this archive will represent the "founding lore" of our generation's progressive community in Los Angeles - from the spark that fueled fledgling grassroots efforts to legislation that turned major victories into law. But most of all, it will be stories of the hopes and aspirations of those individuals who shaped a progressive agenda for our city and our country.

Our work for a progressive political agenda has been forged in resistance, often at great personal cost. This archive will celebrate the political will, choices and instinct toward crafting a more equitable society.

We have assembled a partial list of some 200 people we would like to interview but like any research project worth its salt, the more people we talk to, the more the list grows. There is a way for you to help us build the list of potential activists under the Archive Interview List part of this site.

Thank you for visiting this site and reading about our work to document our political history.


“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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