Mary Ambriz

It Took a Pandemic to ____________: How COVID-19 Propelled Social Change in East Yard Communities

Faculty Mentor: Martha Matsuoka, Urban & Environmental Policy Department


Major: Politics; Critical Theory & Social Justice


Funding: UEP & UEPI Summer Internship Program: Affordable Housing


This report outlines my remote internship with the environmental justice non-profit, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), through the UEP/UEPI Summer Research Program at Occidental College. EYCEJ has multiple running programs geared towards environmental justice in South East LA. I worked with the head of the Community Stability and Policy Organizing sector. My tasks consisted mostly of researching. I looked at police budgets from nine different South East LA cities along with the LA County Sheriff Department’s budget. I also researched policy language on rent/mortgage payment cancellation and the banning of evictions due to COVID-19; my research focus shifted to several ordinances, state and federal policies that covered rental and mortgagee assistance during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Overall, my research uncovered severe budget inequities as a result of overfunding the police or police contracts, as well as insufficient protections of renter’s and mortgagees during the pandemic. The issues my tasks covered were pre-existing, but were forced by COVID into public-decision-making arenas for discussion. A movement demanding social change on multiple fronts is an unexpected, but much needed consequence of the pandemic, and the outcomes of this movement determine how we will begin to dismantle the systems which created these issues to begin with. Further, as separate as these injustices appear, this internship showed me their truly intersectional nature; the key to resolving all of these injustices lies in recognizing both the nuances of each issue along with their intersections.


Watch my research presentation below.

Questions or comments? Contact me at:

View the presentation slideshow