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Meet Daniel Johnson of Public Allies Los Angeles in Historic South-Central

Today we’d like to introduce you to Daniel Johnson.

Daniel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In 2012 at the age of 24 years old I enrolled in Venice YouthBuild (VYB) with $50 and a dream. While in VYB I began to enhance my knowledge of life skills, leadership development, job-readiness, construction and social justice. VYB is also where I began to strengthen my awareness on issues that affect people in low-income communities of color. My experience in VYB also lead me to pursue my interest in leadership and community service. While in the program I was elected onto the Youth Policy Council by my peers where I assisted with hiring, decision-making, event planning and advocacy on behalf of participants. In March 2013 I was elected by my peers to represent VYB at the Conference of Young Leaders in Washington D.C. One month later in April 2013 I was elected by my peers to represent them in Sacramento at the California YouthBuild Coalition’s Government Education Day where I was then elected onto the Californian Youth Congress (now California State Alumni Council) by California YouthBuild participants. In June 2013 Daniel graduated from VYB with his High School Diploma and Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate in construction.

In fall 2013 I enrolled in the Public Allies Los Angeles program (PALA) where I had an apprenticeship with the non-profit Community Development Technologies (CDTech). CDTech is where I learned collective action, capacity building and asset-based community development. During my time in PALA I participated in culturally relevant training to enhance positive community change. This program also equipped with the tools needed to practice conflict resolution, facilitation, accountability and work collaboratively with people of diverse backgrounds. By the end of summer 2015 I successfully completed two service terms with PALA, earned a Certificate in Community Planning & Economic Development from Los Angeles Trade Tech College and completed a Summer Internship with the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Public Engagement.

In fall 2015 I was hired as a Community Organizer for the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT). At the LANLT I organized and trained community members in South LA on how to advocate for environmental justice. These community members advocated for Park Equity and Measure A. In fall 2016 I was hired into a new role as Program Manager for PALA. As a Program Manager for PALA I have the opportunity to facilitate the growth and development of emerging leaders. One of the ways I get to do this is by facilitating professional training that confronts the conditions of systemic oppression and advances communities of color, LGBTQ, and other protected groups. I am currently employed by PALA.

Other noteworthy accomplishments

Answering the Call 2018
Board of Directors, Venice Community Housing 2017 – Present
President, Zapata King Neighborhood Council June 2015 – Present
President, Community Planning & Economic Development Club, Los Angeles Trade Tech College 2016
Fellow, Front Line Leaders Academy, Young People For 2015
Board member, California State Alumni Council, YouthBuild USA Oct ’14 – Feb ‘15
President, California State Alumni Council, YouthBuild USA Oct ’13 – Oct’14
Vice-Chair of Youth Engagement, California YouthBuild Coalition 2014
Public Advocacy Committee, Los Angeles Regional YouthBuild Collaborative 2014
Greater Los Angeles Youth Policy Council, Los Angeles Regional YouthBuild Collaborative 2013

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was raised in a single parent household alongside his sister and brother. I grew up in South Los Angeles where I witnessed the Rodney King riots at the age of 4 years old. Growing up in Los Angeles, I witnessed drive-bys, shootouts in broad daylight, drug transactions and police harassment. At a young age, I understood due to my living
conditions I would have to make a choice to be a part solution or be a part of the problem.

During my early years, I continued relocating housing and school. Unstable housing made it difficult to build sustainable relationships and unstable schooling made it difficult to provide the support needed to complete on time. In January 2006 my sister Noel passed away due to Multiple Sclerosis. At that time I dropped out of high school because of a lack of credits to graduate. Then at 18 years old I received my first job at Ralphs Grocery Co and tried to enroll in Venice High School but was turned away because of his age. I tried Adult School but it conflicted with my work schedule. On November 9 h 2009 after a long day of work my friend Brandon and I became victims of gun violence. That night we were both shot by drive-by shooters in front of our apartment complex. When the recession hit I experienced the effects first hand. I was laid off from a clothing warehouse where I worked full-time, had a 401k, health benefits, and an apartment. Although I had no diploma I continued to diligently seek employment. In 2011 I lost another job and that’s when I decided to make a change and go for my high school diploma, which I tried to obtain over the years.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Public Allies Los Angeles story. Tell us more about the business.
I work for CDTech. CDTech is a catalyst for change in South LA, activating and focusing the potential of residents and businesses. We equip them with the training, strategies and programs they need to be leaders and organizers for neighborhood improvement and economic growth. With 20 years of experience, CDTech combines grassroots participation with strategic policy understanding, creating community development and economic development programs that incorporate deep insight into the actual needs, desires and capabilities of South LA. Grassroots participation, including the development and utilization of local human capital, helps CDTech to deliver self-sustaining programs with long-term, strategic benefits. As a Program Manager for PALA I have the opportunity to facilitate the growth and development of emerging leaders. One of the ways I get to do this is by facilitating professional training that confronts the conditions of systemic oppression and advances communities of color, LGBTQ, and other protected groups. I am currently employed by PALA.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
My experience has allowed me to connect with people and become a role model for young people of color. My experience in various leadership roles has peeked my interest in pursuing to be the Mayor of LA or a City Council member. Luck has put me in a position to network and build relationships with both community members and local leadership and their staff.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Public Allies Los Angeles, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, YouthBuild, CDTech

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