Jonathan Truong



Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States

    Issues Areas:
  • Economic Justice

Campus: University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA

Fellowship Class Year: 2010

Blueprint: Countering Gentrification in South Los Angeles

Jonathan worked to counter the rapid gentrification and displacement of local residents in South Los Angeles by advocating for more just and equitable development and raising awareness of the negative effects of racist and sexist local housing policies that allowed for rising aggregate rents, the influx of large outside retailers, and privatizing spaces, thus deteriorating urban cores ringed with middle class suburban areas.

Featured Fellow Spotlight

What do you stand for?

I stand for opportunities for access to basic human rights. We can work together collectively to creative a better quality of life throughout the world. Even though we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world there are still a lot of problems. These issues range from poverty to the access of basic rights such as education, health care, a home and transportation. All of those things are important in order to create a good quality life for all.


How did you find out about YP4?

A friend who was a fellow in previous years named Daniel Wu. He was excited to share the tools he learned when he was apart of the program. As well as the many people he met. He said I would meet other like minded people and be able to build the movement that we are trying to achieve.


What has been your greatest achievement so far?

I guess the greatest achievement thus far is a change to my own personal out look as been the greatest achievement. I’m not sure if I can focus on one achievement b/c all actions are accomplished collectively. My own attitude to progressivism has changed! When I got to college I was kind of closed minded. I had worked in the political realm by doing electoral work which is also important. I learned a lot more through college and found that there are many different things I can do to get involved as well as to help the community and help affect the lives of every person. I learned to expose myself to new ideas that may not make me comfortable or not familiar to me at first. It’s been a great time for me to grow intellectually, personally and spiritually.


What motivates you?

First my parents motivate me. They are both refugees from the Vietnam War. They had a lot of reams and hopes for their futures. They tell me stories about their struggles and what they observed while in the US. There observations of being around conditions that were very difficult keep me going. Knowing that there are people out there with conditions that I can help change gives me the strengths to be an advocate to keep fighting for them.


Is there someone you’ve met or worked with that has really inspired you?

Daniel Wu who was an YP4 fellow was really inspirational. I look up to him as a mentor and a friend, we are always working together on ideas we have. The feedback he gives me is very motivating and now that I have a peer I can look up to helps me grow. I also look up to the folks that work at non profits. One person is Sandra McNeill the Executive Director who works for Figueroa Corridor Land Trust is a great inspiration. She comes from a different community than that of LA. However she is motivated in working with the community and making sure that the issues of unfair housing and other building measures are taken care of. She is invested in making this community livable and helps it prosper.


What is one main life goal you want to accomplish?

I know there are a lot of issues and we have solutions to create change for them. One thing I would like to do is create shelters for everyone. I realize it’s expensive and most of our tax dollars go towards shelters and transportation. I think that housing, rather that be single family apts, etc. We need to make those things affordable so that people can actually afford a quality way of life. If we can make housing affordable then people can start using the funds they have left over for quality education, food, healthcare etc.


Tell me more about your work:

I go to school at USC in the heart of south LA. This city hasn’t really been invested in; we are almost a food desert. There is a lack of jobs, infrastructure etc. There a lot of these issues that need to be worked on. I work with Campus Community United that I joined a little while ago. We try to look at the new developments that are coming into the city and making sure that they are for the benefits of the community. We look at making sure gentrification isn’t happening. We advocate for responsible development for the community. This work has led us to different ideas. I am apart of a new non profit called Youth for the American Dream. We want to reinvigorate our idea of the American dream which is more inclusive and less about an individualistic approach to success, and how we can work collectively as a people to build success.


What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?

One of the greatest struggles for me is we have to go to classes. It’s tough to balance all your things, like going to classes, being involved in the community etc. We do this work pro bono and sometimes are stretched then but we don’t mind. I love the work I am doing so it’s not an issue, just wish I didn’t have to go to class all the time. It’s a struggle to be a student b/c after 4 years; you can fall out of place and may not be able to find your place in this movement. It is difficult b/c it’s hard to find people who can sustain the work you were doing on campus. Another struggle is making sure you continue to grow. For me I try to take classes that re inspire as well as re motivate me to think in new ways.


What advice so you have for others dealing with similar struggles?

Find like minded people that inspire you on a daily bases, these people will keep you going. As well as go to conferences like YP4 to have your back. Conferences are built to give you the tools you need for success as well as just knowing there are people out there with the same struggles as you and you all can work together to fix them. To sustain an organization are looking for the same values in other people. SO that you can inspire them to continue the work once you are gone.


How can other fellows get involved or find more information on the work you’ve been doing?

If you want information on Youth American Dream you can go to it is in the beta stage but will be building it up. Also we are going to have a fellows program in the LA area. It is a skills based training to give them the skills necessary to start making change. We talk about regional equity, education transportation and the new American Dream. You can email us here! If you want information about Campus Community United you can go here!


What is your vision of social justice in this movement your in?

One in which people have access to many different opportunities! It’s not just the outcome to these goals, but the approach we use to accomplish them. We need a holistic approach to how to get things done. It has to not only be from the bottom up, but top to bottom and from the sides. We need to mobilize our people from the grassroots level and empower people to make the change they want to see.


Future plans?

After college, I’d like to continue my education to the next level, but remembering to keep my connection to my community in the work that I am doing. I’d also like to refine my ideas and add new things to my vision to improve myself. Lastly, I don’t have a career all scoped out yet but I hope I am able to find a career that helps me achieve my goal of providing shelters for everyone.


Is there anything else you want to say?

Thank you YP4 for making my summer a great one. I appreciate the time I spent with the Northeast Region Fellows. Shout out to Northeast Region and hello to all those I wasn’t able to meet.