As a USC Dornsife researcher, Manuel Pastor is dedicated to improving the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income, urban communities.
In honor of his work, the Liberty Hill Foundation presented Pastor with the 2012 Wally Marks Changemaker Award, which honors an outstanding individual whose work in the community illustrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s insight that while "the arc of history is long, it bends toward justice."
Pastor is director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII), which gathers data to study the impact of immigrants who meld into the American fabric, and director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity(PERE), which oversees research on issues of environmental justice, regional inclusion and social movement building. Both centers are housed in USC Dornsife.
“In Manuel Pastor, we have a scholar and researcher who is helping low-income communities not by studying them at a distance, but by partnering with them to produce groundbreaking analyses of environmental injustice, and the region and its people,” said Kafi D. Blumenfield, president and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation. “And just in the last few weeks, he has presented a definitive analysis of emerging social justice power in post-1992 Los Angeles.
“Manuel Pastor is a treasure to USC and to Los Angeles, and Liberty Hill is proud to call him a friend, an ally and our 2012 Changemaker honoree.”
Howard Gillman, dean of USC Dornsife, echoed the praise.
“We are thrilled that the Liberty Hill Foundation has recognized Manuel for his far-ranging contributions to Los Angeles and beyond,” Gillman said. “His work is truly a testament to the goal of our liberal arts community: knowledge for the sake humankind.”
Pastor, professor of American studies and ethnicity, was presented with the award at Liberty Hill’s 30th annual Upton Sinclair Dinner, a fundraising gala to honor community leaders at the frontlines of change in L.A. and beyond.
With the motto “Change. Not Charity,” Liberty Hill works to strengthen leaders and organizations in communities of color. Through grant funding and training programs, Liberty Hill identifies community leaders and equips them with the skills they need to advance social justice.
Pastor has a long history of combining research and activism with an eye toward social change.
After a decade documenting environmental disparities in L.A. and the Bay Area, Pastor and his co-researchers developed a way to identify overburdened and socially vulnerable communities in those locales — then worked directly with residents to address the reality on the ground. The results pinpointed where hazardous sites are located and how they affect the health of nearby communities. The research has fed directly into a campaign to "Clean Up Green Up" some of the most environmentally stressed areas of L.A.
Pastor has also worked with low-income Latino workers to support unionization and the campaign for a living wage in L.A. His work on regional equity — prosperity for all in metropolitan areas —helped to inform organizers across the country and strengthen workforce systems in L.A. He has also collaborated with immigrant communities to support the DREAM Act and campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform.
Through the work of CSII and PERE in USC Dornsife, Pastor is also connecting research with community outreach.
At CSII, members of the academe and the community are collecting data for a better understanding of immigrants and immigrant integration in California and the nation.
Through PERE, researchers collaborate with community organizations on studies that advance environmental equity and regional inclusion.
In light of the 20th anniversary of the civil unrest in Los Angeles, PERE recently hosted “From the Ashes,” a conference to commemorate the city’s progress since 1992. The event was an opportunity to bring together community members to share strategies and opportunities for organizing in Los Angeles.
As part of the event, Pastor and Michele Prichard, director of the Common Agenda program at the Liberty Hill Foundation, co-authored a report chronicling the past 20 years of social movement building in Los Angeles called L.A. Rising: The 1992 Civil Unrest, the Arc of Social Justice Organizing and the Lessons for Today’s Movement Building.
Combining research with activism helps produce social change, Pastor said.
“There are certain things that are unfair and unjust,” he said. “There’s a role that we as researchers can play in educating people about what strategies and policies might work to create change.”
Pastor is founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where Pastor previously taught. He holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has received fellowships from the Danforth, Guggenheim and Kellogg foundations, and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, National Science Foundation and the California Environmental Protection Agency, among many others.
His research has been published in numerous publications including Economic Development Quarterly, Review of Regional Studies, Social Science Quarterly and Journal of Economic Issues. He regularly contributes opinion pieces to the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.
Pastor’s most recent book Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions(Routledge, 2012) co-authored with Chris Benner, argues that growth and equity can and should be linked, offering a new path for a United States economy seeking to recover from economic crisis and regional inequities.
He has served as a member of the California Speaker’s Commission on Regionalism and in 2002 was awarded a Civic Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the California Center for Regional Leadership. He is a member of the Research Network on Building Resilient Regions sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.
Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition in South L.A., said Pastor “has the heart of an organizer and the vision for social justice research that makes a widespread impact on people’s lives.
“Lifting him up as a leader means lifting up Los Angeles as the nation’s most important model of organizing, research and policy toward social justice,” Harris-Dawson said.
Pastor said he was honored by Liberty Hill’s award.
“It’s an acknowledgement from my community,” he said. “To be acknowledged by these organizers and social justice funders who are doing the hard work of changing the world, and who believe researchers’ work can be relevant — it’s the highest honor I’ve ever received.”
View a video of Manuel Pastor’s acceptance speech for the 2012 Wally Marks Changemaker Award.