South Los Angeles has traditionally been the heart of the Angeleno black community, and of its art and musical life. Since the 1940s, the area has been blighted by poverty and often torn by racial violence; yet community spirit has again and again rebounded and supported the development of locally based organizations such as Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, Homeboy Industries, Healthy African American Families, and other groups. More recently also, an influx of Latino families have changed the demographics of the community; as of the 2010 census, Service Area 6 was 69% Latino, 28% African American.
Dorothy Banks, a peer advocate at the West Central Family Mental Health Center, describes how she helps others:
I try to let each individual know that we’re all human beings and we all have struggles, so no one is above you or beneath you, they are your equal. So don’t separate yourself from a staff member and a client.
I’ve had people approach, because people can see your light. And on the bus or whatever, I’ve had people come talk to me about their struggles. Then I ask them, “Are you receiving services?” or I might say to them, “You take care of your physical health, right, so how about taking care of your mental health?” Because all of us are living, we have a brain, and that brain is mental. So we have to treat that with whatever we’re struggling with, just the same way that we do our physical body.