A LITTLE TOO LITTLE, A LITTLE TOO LATE.
Self Help Graphics & Art has been closed for over two months, but its Board of Directors has been “in place” for years. During this time not only has the BOD not learned their role as a board of directors, but has proven that even now after more than two months since the shut down they are still incapable to act as the guardians of SHG&A: A community cultural center which with its limited resources has managed to earn an international reputation. This remarkable achievement did not happen overnight, nor did it happen because of a multi million dollar budget to facilitate such an accomplishment. It happened because of two main factors:
ONE- The ARTISTS who created an art movement and a body of work which beyond any political or financial power, managed to establish and represent an identity of a people.
TWO- A VISION which in the most selfless manner helped form, organize, nurture and facilitate a path that has brought Self Help 32 years forward. The Self Help community has proven that when it comes to making history NOTHING stands in their way: Lack of funds, old equipment, an old building owned by one of the biggest real estate entities who’d rather dish out millions in cash to silence victims of their sexual perversions rather than invest in their community’s future (perhaps because you can’t take someone to court for cultural molestation!); lack of support from a government- Federal, State or local- whose officials only make an appearance during election year and even then just to promote themselves; and a board of directors whose only use of their position has been to boast about the status this position afforded them in gatherings only to stroke their …fill in the blank… egos.
This combined lack of commitment has left a community that can get so much from their Self Help without a Self Help!
Yes, Self Help has actually achieved a lot, more than any one person can count. Yes, it could have done much more; but at this point in its history Self Help has been forced a turning point. A turning point which can recreate Self Help Graphics & Art in a way that is expected of it. It needs to reaffirm to all those thousands of people who have loyally visited and grew up with Self Help that once again it can take the leadership in serving its local community and the world at large.
Of the two key factors needed, one is and has always been there: the ARTISTS. Artists whose cultural & artistic impact and influence has already established a place in the history of this community. Survival of this phenomenon however relies on the missing element: the VISION. It is absolutely irrelative how well- intentioned an individual may be, or whether their name is tagged with PhD. at the end of it. It does not matter who they know, or do not know, or who knows them! Without a vision, without having the right motivations, without grasping the true spirit of community, without applying all you claim to your own life, one is incapable of devising a plan, let alone Implementing it.
Self Help like many other non-profit organizations suffers from the same problems, this appears to be common knowledge! But without studying other approaches and measuring the success or failure of other experiences, any course of action might turn out to be a temporary postponement of the same fate. On the other hand not being able to recognize the particular problems that are unique to Self Help will result in setting the priorities in a confused manner, hence ending up in the same place at the end.
After some years and two months, the board of directors is yet to come up with a concrete list of problems, Identify priorities and work towards solutions! Self Help needs to move, needs a new building. Leadership needs to identify steps in this process, where it needs help in mentorship or expertise, develop a fundraising plan, a CAPITAL CAMPAIGN, and a timeline and budget projection for the move. But perhaps this is too much to expect from a board that just does not grasp the concept!
This BOD has done ONE and only one “fundraiser” that not only attracted no more than ten people-when the goal was hundreds!- but at the same time managed to cancel a traditional event during the Day of the Dead (2004) programming in order to do this fundraiser which cost Self Help more money than it brought in! This was at a time when SHG&A was in full operation, and had the support & trust of the community! Now they have the public believe that they can actually pull together series of SUCCESSFUL fundraisers to rescue Self Help, when the funders don’t support Self Help, the community is split and nobody trusts the board! To this day, all that the BOD has come up with is stating the obvious in terms of SHG&A being closed (after Harry Gamboa Jr. showed them the picture of the locked gate), and no solutions in terms of how to get passed this stage and be able to actually stay open beyond it! Their only real action in all these years has been their piece de resistance: SHUTTING DOWN SELF HELP!
On May 27th, there was a public meeting at SHG with the board, staff and the community and throughout all the board presented they never gave any indication that they would lock everybody out ten days later! On June 28th meeting after they were finally forced to hold a public meeting to explain their actions, they claimed they did not know how bad things were even though the “chronic financial troubles of Self Help” were repeatedly publicized in LA Times and other publications since summer of 2004! Four weeks into the shut down they confessed that they are clueless, this is what they posted on Self Help website:
“… Any Ideas or contributions please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, they are “asking” help from the community! Isn’t this a bit too convenient? They want your donation, they want you to volunteer, they want artists to “work” with them. This is the extend of their plans to dig Self Help back up from the half- covered grave they shoved it into. And the sad part is that they did not come to this realization because they really care, it’s because all the potential funders rejected their amateur maneuvers for getting the money. BOD could not display credibility for managing these funds. As a last resort they were promised help only if they can show that they actually have the support of the artists and the community. And now like a child running to its parents they are crying for help while blaming others for their incompetence.
At this point in time, even if this board did have a 100% devoted support of the artists and the community, they still could not stop Self Help from getting buried alive.
They lack the VISION.
WHO will be able to display this vision remains to be seen.
East LA, CA. Tuesday, Aug.16.2005….