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WHAT: Public conversation Creating a Compassionate Community: Engaged Women in Skid Row
WHEN: Saturday, November 20, 2021, 2-4pm
WHERE: Gladys Park (corner E. 6th St. & Gladys Ave.), 808 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
WITH: Soma Snakeoil, Monique Noel, Josie Mattson, Natosha Smith and moderated by Cathy Gudis.
A project of Los Angeles Poverty Department with support from CAL HUMANITIES.

LAPD’s project “Compassion & Self-Deception” takes on the mind-boggling contradictions of a city (ours) that votes to create housing for houseless people –and then doesn’t want any of it built anywhere near them: whether that be permanent housing, or temporary housing.

The November 20 conversation, moderated by UCR Public History Professor Cathy Gudis, will be an opportunity to dialogue further about the moral crisis—what perpetuates it and how to undo it.

Soma, Monique, Josie, and Natosha came together with other engaged women in Skid Row to write a letter and submitted an Amicus Brief in response to the lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles brought by the LA Alliance for Human Rights. The women will elaborate on the concerns that motivated their Amicus Brief: the lawsuit’s misrepresentation of the Skid Row community and its history, intended to displace Skid Row community members and disappear Skid Row.  

Panelists will address 41.18, sweeps, Project Room Key, the takeover of public space and the significance of the historical boundaries of Skid Row. The engaged women who signed the amicus brief will be present for this conversation.  And we invite all Skid Row residents, service organizations and officials to join in this conversation.

Los Angeles Poverty Department will perform some excerpts from their performance The New Compassionate Downtown before the panel starts the conversation.

About the panel:
Cathy Gudis is a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, a longtime participant in Los Angeles Poverty Department projects, and a scholar-in-residence at the Skid Row History Museum & Archive. She is interested in how we can activate Skid Row community history to generate current-day social justice.
Soma Snakeoil is Executive Director of The Sidewalk Project, a street-based harm reduction organization with chapters in 5 cities, including a mobile SSP in Skid Row. She is an artist, activist, Dominatrix and playwright. Soma’s passion for the houseless community comes from lived experience as a long-term former PWUD, being unhoused, and almost 18 years of the spectrum of sex work, including survival sex.
Monique Noel leads on Women’s Justice and is Director of Development & Special Projects at the Los Angeles Community Network (LACAN). She is a Womanist, Pan Africanist, activist, organizer and Doula connected with various national and international causes advancing social justice. Monique has a background in international human rights law, is part of the Black Migrant Legal Support Network in Los Angeles and is a Board member of BAJI. In supporting women in their power Monique organizes healing and empowerment activities for women of color. 
Josie Mattson has been a registered nurse and public health nurse for 14 years and has spent the last 6 years working in Skid Row, doing outreach and direct patient care. She focuses on adapting the delivery of healthcare services to meet the needs of the population served.  She follows principles of harm reduction, trauma informed care, and stigma elimination in her work.  
Natosha Smith is a visual artist who enjoys painting murals. A native to Los Angeles who spends her free time fighting for human civil rights, women’s equality, freedom, and justice for all. She is an active member of LA Poverty Department, DWAC and a LACAN freedom singer. A poetess, designer, activist, and organizer who is proud to use her artistry as a tool to fight against oppression.

About LA Poverty Department’s Compassion & Self-Deception ProjectThe project includes three elements: 1. LAPD’s recent performance, “The New Compassionate Downtown,” that dared to imagine a Downtown that draws people to it who value the wisdom and compassionate practice exemplified by Skid Row residents and workers. 2. Robby Herbst’s Guide, the twelve-page broadsheet exploring the socio-emotional impact of Los Angeles’ housing catastrophe: “Compassion and Self Deception: A Guide To Los Angeles’ Moral Crisis.”  You can get your Guide at the event. And 3. A series of public conversations: 

The first conversation, “Creating the Compassionate City,” took place May 6th with arts and social change practitioners Karen Mack, LA Commons; Charles Porter, UCEPP and Jeremy Liu, PolicyLink, moderated by John Malpede.  The conversation addressed not just the creation of housing but importantly, the creation of agency for all city residents to envision and determine their futures. 

The second conversation, “Compassion & Self-Deception,” was July 1 with visual artist Robby Herbst, Matt Harper of the LA Catholic Worker community, and Los Angeles based activist, rabbi, and scholar, Aryen Cohen who all contributed their thoughts to the Guide. UCR Professor of religious studies, Michael Scott Alexander moderated the conversation around the questions: “How Should an Angelino React to the Suffering They Encounter on a Daily Basis?” And: How can we understand Los Angeles – a living contradiction.  A place where some people put care for the civic body above all else, while others, in the words of Curtis Mayfield, “would hurt all mankind just to save his own.”The public conversations will continue throughout the fall and winter of 2021.

This event Creating a Compassionate Community: Engaged Women in Skid Row is the third conversation in the series. This public conversation was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit