Date posted: October 20, 2015


Voting starts at 12PM (Pacific) on October 20, 2015 and runs until 12PM (Pacific) on November 3, 2015.

Public Matters has the rare opportunity to raise $100,000 for our fellowship, training, mentorship, and employment program: URBAN FUTURES LAB.

For many of you, this is your first time hearing about Urban Futures Lab. Through the Lab, we’re training Fellows as interdisciplinary creative community problem solvers and future civic leaders as they work on projects that strengthen LA neighborhoods. The Lab creates work that matters. It reimagines Los Angeles’ civic and creative capital by altering how young adults from under-resourced communities of color access opportunities that employ their inventiveness and support their professional aspirations.

With your help, the LA2050 grant will allow Public Matters to train Fellows with career and life skills, and conduct expert-led workshops and trainings. Principally, we’ll be able to bring Fellows on for hand-on learning through projects such as:

• Hidden Hi Fi – an arts + culture + equitable development project with Pilipino Workers Center, Big City Forum and Metro in Historic Filipinotown.

• An urban planning + design project with East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy (ELARA).

• “B.O.S.S.” (The Bureau Of Super Snacks/ Bocadillos Optimizados Súper Saludables) – a program with the LA Kitchen to provide low-cost, healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate snacks on LA’s eastside.

• Market Makeovers – projects to improve healthy food access.

We’re up against some stiff competition: mighty institutions and savvy promoters. Yet, we are hopeful that with our dedicated network — especially with your help – we’ll make it into the Top 10 for our category (Create) and qualify for review by the LA2050 selection committee (voting narrows the field; the foundation makes the final decisions).

Watch the video that puts the spotlight on our potential Fellows explaining their needs for the Lab, and read the descriptions detailing the opportunities the Lab will offer. Once you’ve watched and read more, share your comments on that same Urban Futures Lab’s LA2050 page.

We need your vote to make this happen. You can only vote for one project in each category. We hope to have yours. You’ll need to register with GOOD to place your vote. Don’t be deterred by the process. Every vote, YOUR VOTE, means a lot.

To vote, click HERE.

Finally, please help spread the word to your significant others, friends, family, neighbors, knitting club. It’s the power of the extended network that will help bring this one home.

Thank you from Team Public Matters!


Date posted: August 14, 2015

A Project Review + Event Recap:


Writing + Video by Public Matters Fellow Xochilt Sanchez

The Truth About Flavor culminated with the public celebration of World No Tobacco Day on Friday May 29, 2015, on the South Lawn steps of Los Angeles City Hall. A momentous and festive occasion, our CHAS (Community Health Advocates School at Augustus Hawkins High School) students were joined by City Attorney Mike Feuer and his Tobacco Enforcement Prevention team led by their incomparable Program Director Nora Manzanilla.

Our Public Matters group arrived early that brisk Friday morning, and were quickly joined by our project partner Legacy, represented by Vice President and Director of Community and Youth Engagement, Laura Hamasaka. We arranged the bright, shiny Flavee costumes and puff cloud accents in anticipation, waiting for the arrival of our guests while leaving our mark on the event and City Hall.

Our core group of senior students arrived shortly thereafter. Flushed and giggling, anxious, they stood in awe before City Hall. I took a poll and there was a consensus, it was the first time any of them had been to City Hall. As residents of South Central, many of them have never seen spaces beyond the boundaries of their neighborhood. Yet on this day, they readied themselves to present to esteemed organizations and community members for the betterment of the City of Los Angeles.

For the entirety of an academic year the students had worked vigorously on the project. They now stood on a grand platform to present their work and speak on behalf of their community as advocates. They spoke on the reality of the conditions of South Central, a high-need, low-income neighborhood – how the consumption of tobacco affected them personally, how it shaped urban landscape of their city, and how it ultimately contributed to the deterioration of their community’s health.

The students received billowing applause for their words and for their courage in taking on their role as leaders for the community health of South Central. At the end of the presentation they were each honored with Certificates of Appreciation by the Office of the City Attorney, presented to them by both Nora Manzanilla and the Director of the Los Angeles County’s Tobacco Control and Prevention Program, Tonya Gorham Gallow. Our young leaders smiled proudly as they were presented with their awards, the first of many to come.

Watch Xochilt’s Truth About Flavor Video >>

The Truth About Flavor at City Hall from Public Matters on Vimeo.

Thanks to our event partners:
American Cancer Society/ Cancer Action Network
Coalition for a Tobacco Free Los Angeles County
Heart Association of Greater Los Angeles
Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, Tobacco Enforcement Program
Watts Health Foundation

Public Matters Receives Creative Economic Development Fund Grant!

Date posted: June 23, 2015

Earlier this month, Public Matters got the fantastic news that we’d be one of the inaugural recipients of the Creative Economic Development Fund (CEDF), a program of the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Surdna Foundation.

With the CEDF grant, Public Matters is teaming up again with Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) to employ and train Public Matters Fellows to work on PWC’s historical-cultural tours and execute events in Historic Filipinotown. This includes training to plan and lead PWC’s iconic jeepney tours!

If you don’t know about PWC’s jeepney, check out this video to learn more.

Congratulations to all of our fellow CEDF recipients! We look forward to seeing and sharing in the great work that is happening in Los Angeles. Learn about the grant and all eight CEDF recipients.

For those curious about this project’s history: it builds on work that Public Matters and PWC undertook together from 2008 to 2011 called PDUB Productions.

Read more about PDUB    >>

World No Tobacco Day 2015: 5.29.15, LA City Hall, 10am – noon

Date posted: May 28, 2015

Join us on Friday, May 29th from 10am to NOON on the South Lawn of Los Angeles City Hall to recognize World No Tobacco Day 2015 and draw attention to tobacco prevention among youth!

The students from Community Health Advocates School at Augustus Hawkins High School will present, in full Flavee regalia, The Truth About Flavor, shining a particular light on the use of flavored and mentholated products among teens. The myth-buster videos will screen and we’ll have an interactive photo booth assembled for attendees to get into costume too. Project partner Legacy will be there, as will many other great organizations.

Come by to share your support for these great students, their fantastic work, and the larger cause of preventing youth tobacco use in LA.


If you don’t know where the South Lawn is, don’t worry. The Flavees will definitely be visible from the sidewalk on 1st Street between Main and Spring.

Parking is limited around City Hall, we encourage using public transit.

Learn more about the project + watch the videos >>

Out in the World: The Truth About Flavor at Long Live LA + The Coalition for a Tobacco Free LA County March 2015 Meeting

Date posted: April 9, 2015

Written by Public Matters Fellow Xochilt Sanchez

Photo: Jay Davis

LONG LIVE LA 2015: Premiere Screening

On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, The Truth About Flavor myth-buster videos had their world premiere at Mercado La Paloma as part of Long Live LA. Long Live LA is a collection of 30 short videos commissioned by Freewaves and produced by a diverse group of artists to explore issues around public health and mental health. Public Matters, with The Truth About Flavor project, was one of these groups. Long Live LA was the first opportunity for the students from the Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) at Augustus Hawkins High School to present their work to the public.

Mercado La Paloma is a vivacious marketplace comprised of international food vendors and artisan stands. Located in Historic South Central, the Mercado served as the perfect setting for the event, reflecting the diversity and fluidity of the audience, artists and work. Despite the chilly Wednesday night with rain clouds looming overhead, the Mercado’s warm embrace was felt through with the wafting aromas of fresh tamales and bocadillos from the surrounding restaurants and food stands and the colorful banners and hanging strings of papel picado that danced above our heads. Large plastic bins filled to the brim with bright yellow and deep maroon aquas frescas completed the festive scene – a fiesta in celebration of the artists’ and students’ work and community gathering.

Photo: Jay Davis

Hosted by Anne Bray of Freewaves, the screening took on a loose panel discussion form. Standing against a plain white screen, Anne introduced each artist and his/her respective piece, giving each artist the space to present about her/his work and the intended impact of these videos. Knowing that they would have the opportunity to present, the CHAS students worked diligently with Public Matters in the classroom in the months leading up to the event to develop their public speaking skills and to design a short presentation that could introduce themselves, the project, and the videos.

On that night, our CHAS students, a group of 15, hummed nervously, yet bounced with excitement. They had arrived early at the Mercado to sneak in a final rehearsal. After the countless times they had practiced in class, the clock was winding down and after every passing video it got closer to their turn. The students were lit by nervousness; it tingled out of their finger tips. It was their time to present: to present to the community of family members, friends and artists assembled in the space.

They braved through their nervousness beaming with the opportunity to take the spotlight and fulfill their role as community health advocates. They wove together personal testimonials with informational passages on flavored cigars and cigarillos, including the negative consequences of the heavy presence of tobacco retail in their community. They ended their presentation by taking a stand against Big Tobacco’s predatory marketing strategies by raising up yellow and black signs that read: #NotAReplacement. In honor of Kick-Butts Day, which also happened to fall on March 18, #NotAReplacement is part of a national social media movement for young people to stand against Big Tobacco and state that they refuse to become the next generation of replacement smokers. The black and yellow signs had been placed around the room and the students invited the audience in raising their signs high against Big Tobacco for the sake of themselves, their futures and future of their community.

In a collective roar of support, the audience joined our students in taking #NotAReplacement selfies.

Photo: Jay Davis

After the presentation concluded, the students dispersed from the front of the room to join the crowd and watch the myth-buster videos they had worked so hard on. They giggled along, content with audience reactions, and glowed when the collective laughter and rounds of applause filled the room at the conclusion of their videos. After the screening, the students were barraged by various audience members impressed by the caliber of work and happy to see the investment in community development by an eager next generation of community leaders.


Photo: Jay Davis

In a shift of audience and space, the next day began with an early morning bus ride to the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey. Public Matters and the students from CHAS joined the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Los Angeles County to present The Truth About Flavor and inform the group about small flavored cigarillo use and the role it plays in the tobacco landscape of South Central, specifically among under-age smokers.

The room, a large institutional meeting space decorated with high-tech screens, white lights and large tables, was the backdrop for various presentations on tobacco legislation, products and pricing. The CHAS students waited patiently as their presentation was the last of the day.

Photo: Mariel Capanna

The students, a few in Flavee costumes, glowed against the taupe background of the room. Bright and cheery, endowed with confidence from the Mercado La Paloma screening, the students did an extended presentation of the myth-buster videos. Each video was given an introduction delivered with effervescence and individual spunk. Their concise, engaging presentation, which brought information and excitement to the traditional meeting format, was awarded with a standing ovation. Public health officials rose one by one to cheer on the CHAS students.

Photo: Jay Davis

The students blushed as the Coalition awed at the creative force of these young health activists. Tonya Gorham Gallow, Director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Los Angeles County and Glenn Dodd, Chair of the Coalition, then surprised us all when they presented a Certificate of Recognition to the Truth About Flavor Project.

After the meeting, the CHAS students were approached by various coalition members who congratulated and thanked them for their work. Some even tried on the Flavee costumes and struck poses with our students!

Photo: Jay Davis

Overall, the screenings were very successful. The students blossomed into the roles of educators and community health activists, and The Truth About Flavor’s myth-buster videos were released to educate and entertain diverse groups of people across Los Angeles.

The Truth About Flavor is a youth leadership and media production pilot program in South Central Los Angeles about flavored cigarillos. It is collaboration between Legacy, Public Matters, L. A. Freewaves, and students from Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) at Augustus Hawkins High School.

watch the myth-buster videos   > >


Date posted: February 27, 2015

Join us on March 18 for film, food, and a friendly discussion about art & public health!

We were thrilled when our friends at LA Freewaves invited us to be one of the six artist groups participating in Long Live LA, an OUT THE WINDOW video series addressing issues such as mental health, addictions and fitness.

Beyond the excitement of being able to partner with Freewaves again, the invitation was the perfect opportunity for us to get The Truth About Flavor videos out at the local level.

For the last few months, The Truth About Flavor team – students at the Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) at Augustus Hawkins High School, Community Liaisons, The Legacy Foundation, and many others – has worked tirelessly to develop five myth-buster style shorts that humorously confront a very serious issue: the risks and harms of flavored cigars and cigarillos.

Now, it’s time for the videos to premiere!

Freewaves will screen the Long Live LA videos at Mercado La Paloma on Wednesday, March 18th from 7 – 9 p.m. We hope you’ll come by to meet the CHAS students, chat with our Community Liaisons Jocelyn Herrera and Xochilt Sanchez, eat great food, and see the quirky and critical videos that this team of young health advocates and media-makers has worked hard to put together!

Wednesday, March 18th, 7 – 9 p.m.

Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave, LA 90007


Jeepney Watch: Tonight on KCET SoCal Connected @ 8:00pm

Date posted: November 5, 2014

The PWC Jeepney. An orange wonder on wheels.

We’re excited that it’s getting a well-deserved place in the spotlight, courtesy of the awesome folks at KCET’s SoCal Connected. The piece profiles the Pilipino Workers’ Center‘s Jeepney Tours in Historic Filipinotown, which was launched way back in 2009 (!) as part of PDUB Productions, Public Matters’ collaboration with The Pilipino Workers’ Center, UCLA REMAP and HyperCities.

The profile also includes footage from our Hidden HI FI series through Out The Window, a project with our friends at LA Freewaves, UCLA REMAP and Echo Park Film Center.

Check out the Jeepney in all its glory and the wonderful work that has happened and is happening in Historic Filipinotown:  SoCal Connected on KCET, TONIGHT at 8pm!

more about pdub productions     > >

more about out the window     > >

World Food Day

Date posted: October 16, 2014

World Food Day.

What it’s all about: drawing attention to eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, particularly in rural areas.

Public Matters has been doing World Food Day everyday since it started working in healthy food access. We’re taking time today to look back on all the great work that’s happened, and to generate new thinking on how to improve healthy food access and health outcomes in communities across Los Angeles.

To start our brainstorming, we’re re-watching these classics from our collaboration with the South L.A. Healthy Eating Active Community(HEAC) Initiative and students from The Accelerated School (TAS):

THE TRUTH ABOUT FLAVOR: “Guaranteed Fresh” Perspective

Date posted:

Since the middle of September, students in South L.A. at Augustus Hawkins High School’s Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) have been getting a fresh perspective on tobacco.  Specifically, they’ve been exploring issues related to small flavored cigars and cigarillos and are becoming community health advocates and media-makers in the process.

Public Matters, with CHAS, the American Legacy Foundation (Legacy) and Dr. Mignonne Guy, a researcher from Virginia Commonwealth University, are undertaking this pilot project to better understand and influence flavored cigar and cigarillo use in youth/young adult populations in communities like South L.A.  Central to this project is the creation and dissemination of artist- and student-created media.  L.A. Freewaves and Public Matters will join together again to show five short videos on L.A. Metro buses through Freewaves’ Out the Window project, thanks to generous support from The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. In addition, the class will work with Public Matters to produce a longer documentary video on the subject that will screen out in the community and to tobacco-control audiences in the City and County of Los Angeles.

In the first five weeks of working with Public Matters, CHAS students have gotten crash courses in filmmaking and media literacy, including incursions into big tobacco history and advertising.  “A-ha” moments and all, these sessions form the base of discussions that draw out the students’ perceptions on the risks and harms of flavored cigars, and that ultimately build their knowledge around tobacco-related health disparities and outcomes.

Simultaneously, the class plunged into filmmaking.  With beads of sweat and the bravery needed to face September’s heat, students took to Augustus Hawkins’ field to shoot the title sequence for their videos (teaser photos above). As they continue to develop their own concepts and community content, we’re excited to see how this new cadre of creative young health advocates will approach the topic of small flavored cigars and cigarillos with a critical perspective.

Public Matters would not be able to implement “The Truth About Flavor” without two members of its Urban Futures Lab, Community Liaisons Jocelyn Herrera and Xochilt Sanchez. This dynamic duo offers essential program support, assisting with teaching, production and post-production, and serving as all-around awesome role models for the CHAS students.


Legacy is the largest non-profit public health organization in the nation devoted specifically to tobacco control. It has a history of producing game-changing public health initiatives – like its award-winning truth® youth smoking prevention campaign – that are proven to reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults.

Augustus Hawkins High School consists of three distinct small schools: 1) Critical Design and Gaming School; 2) Community Health Advocates School; and Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship School.  It is located in South Los Angeles.

L.A. Freewaves creates public media art events that bring diverse audiences and independent media artists together in dialogue on current issues; promotes innovative and people-centered cultural engagement through project-specific platforms – multiple, scalable, online, at established and nontraditional venues; serves audiences throughout Los Angeles County and beyond with a mixture of local and international media art; and provides free online access to one of the largest digital archives of contemporary media arts.

Mignonne C. Guy, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research has included small to large-scale health services and outcomes research studies involving multiple stakeholders as well as applying the principles and practices of community-engaged research in cancer and chronic disease prevention. Her research agenda centers on three complementary areas of cancer prevention in multi-ethnic and underserved populations: 1) understanding socio-cultural, behavioral, and structural/institutional factors that present barriers to the prevention of cancer, 2) culturally tailored interventions, and 3) improving access to and utilization of health care services by increasing the reach of evidence-based practices through dissemination research. Her work utilizes mixed-methods and often incorporates community-engaged research approaches.

Expanding our Library

Date posted: July 31, 2014

Hidden HI FI Jeepney

Public Matters just added another book to its bookshelf – Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano’s HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities.

Not just another urban planning tome from another elite East Coast university (the book is available from Harvard University Press), this book “describes the humanist project of participating and listening that transforms mapping into an ethical undertaking – thick mapping.”

Also, it distinguishes itself by having a section devoted to Public Matters’ youth media and civic engagement project PDUB Productions: Mapping HiFi, in collaboration with The Pilipino Workers Center.

Shameless plug: Read the book. Better yet, buy it.

Or check out our PDUB page to learn more about Public Matters’ adventures in Historic Filipinotown.