EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing CALÓ NEWS series on the state of hate in LA and California. If you are an expert on the subject, a victim, an activist, or community leader, please contact us at brenda@latinomedia.org. To follow the series, click here.

Last month, on June 5, a new mural was unveiled in the Pico-Robertson community, honoring the Jewish community in Los Angeles. The mural was part of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ initiative LA vs Hate, in partnership with the Los Angeles chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

The mural, titled “The Common Thread,” was designed by Cloe Hakakian, an Iranian-Jewish muralist and native Angeleno. the mural depicts Jewish history and honors the approximately 656,00 Jews living and residing in Los Angeles

The unveiling of the mural is one LA vs Hate “Summer of Solidarity,” campaign, which was launched in May.

The summer campaign was organized to support Los Angeles County’s cultural and ethnic diversity. The campaign is also about fostering inclusivity and honoring the different cultures and the people that makeup LA. ]

LA vs. Hate has partnered up with community-based organizations to celebrate cultural moments and traditions that are important to the people and communities living in LA. The Music Center also began hosting The Dance DTLA series, where each lesson focuses on learning a specific type of dance style like Samba or Raggeaton. LA vs Hate has been present in those weekly events to share information and resources with attendees and distribute LA vs Hate merchandise.

The Summer of Solidarity will include monthly art-led and community-centered events that will run throughout the county all summer. The unveiling of murals that honored the population of that community is an example of that.

“We chose to start Summer of Solidarity on this day as both campaigns seek to highlight not only the richness of the world’s cultures but also the significant role that intercultural dialogue, community connection, and the arts play in creating peace and safety in our neighborhoods,” said Robin Toma, Executive Director of the LA County Commission on Human Relations

LA vs. Hate also partnered with LA County Parks, LA County Libraries, and LA County Beaches and Harbors to host and organize events for the public, free of charge. These events aim to bring people from different communities together, promote unity and, more importantly, serve as educational spaces to uplift the resources that LA vs. Hate provides to the public, including the 211 LA initiative. The next Summer of Solidarity event will be Countywide Wellness Challenge hosted at the Dockweiler Youth Center and Beach from 8 A.M to 12 P.M

Art is also a vital component of the Summer of Solidarity events campaign. Now through September, LA vs. Hate will unveil monthly murals throughout LA County. The creation of each mural is thoroughly planned, as LA vs. Hate will work with each district and involve community artists, select ideal locations and host public workshops to determine the themes and images to be used in the murals. 

Robin Toma speaking to the guest and attendees that arrived to see the unveiling ceremony of the mural, titled “The Common Thread.”

Each mural will have an unveiling ceremony throughout the summer that will celebrate each community’s respective rich cultures and histories, featuring dance, music and food. “LA vs. Hate has continually placed the arts and culture as an important focal point of their work, emphasizing the power of art to address unity and division, trauma and healing, and peace and hate,” Toma said. 

LA vs. Hate is an LA County agency centered on community and designed to support communities targeted for hate crimes or incidents. They have reporting services and also post-hate crime assistance. It is operated by the LA County Commission on Human Relations, and it aims to build an understanding of what a hate act is and how to report it, as well as provide resources to those who have survived and experienced hate. Through the 211LA program, hate crime victims can call (2-1-1) and be connected with care coordinators who can help identify organizations or programs that can best meet their individual needs. Resources include trauma-informed education, mental health services, food and nutritional services and/or other human and social services. 

LA vs Hate partnered with other social and community organizations that offwe services such as immigration consultation and health services, among other things. Some of the LA vs Hate anti-hate initiative partners include CHIRLA, the AAPI Equity Alliance, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the San Fernando Valley Mental Health Center and others. 

TOMA is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. He was appointed in 2000 and is also President of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) and is on the Board of the California Association of Human Relations Organization (CAHRO). 

Toma is the son of Americans of Japanese and Okinawan ancestry; his mother and her family spent World War II imprisoned in the U.S. He grew up in the Silver Lake neighborhood and attended LAUSD public schools, where he later taught in. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from the University of California at Santa Cruz; and a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA. He worked in Spain and is now fluent in Spanish.

CALÒ NEWS spoke to Toma about hate crime prevention, reporting, 2-1-1 services and the effects hate crimes have among the Latino community. 

Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

ROBIN TOMA, 61, Executive Director of the LA County Commission on Human Relations, Los Angeles, he/him, Japanese -American

Robin Toma


We have a huge responsibility. For Los Angeles County and the entire county because we are the only agency that collects data on all the hate crimes being reported to whichever law enforcement agency or even community-based organization here in the county. We see it as our primary responsibility to not only collect that data but also analyze it and be able to share that with the community so that we can educate each other and take action to eradicate hate in our county. To do that, we’ve done the annual hate crime report. We have a network against hate crime that has been around since 1984 and regularly brings together civil rights organizations, community-based organizations, law enforcement agencies and schools, all with a focus on how we can work together to end a crime.

One of our most important efforts has been the anti-hate campaign and system. We’ve taken it from merely setting a tone and messaging about our need to combat hate and to be united against prejudice and discrimination in all forms of bigotry. What we want to do now is create a system where we can identify what types of hate crimes are happening in LA County, their location, who’s carrying them out, and who’s being targeted. There are almost 10 million people in Los Angeles County, and there are fewer than 1,000 reported hate crimes each year. That doesn’t nearly tell us all the incidents of what we would call bias-motivated acts of hostility. 


Bias-motivated acts of hostility are when anyone acts in an angry or hostile way towards someone else because of their race, their country, their gender, their sexual orientation, their religion, their transgender identity, or their disability. All those are actionable under the law, and even if not as a crime, they can be actionable under our civil rights laws. If you experience any act of hostility based on who you are, or who you’re perceived to be sometimes in terms of race, country of origin, sexual orientation, religion, etc., or gender, you can come to us, and one of our community partners, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost, will help you look at the legal options you have, will help you with counseling and support with healing, and will provide you with a whole range of services that previously were not taken advantage of.


When I was growing up, I wished we had this kind of thing because, growing up here, there was some ugly racial stuff going on and a lot of discrimination that targeted people. I’ve even seen it in my own family, with my mother. One day we were all getting out of a car together to go to an event where my mother was being honored for PTA volunteer work. And this kid riding a bicycle couldn’t have been more than nine, 10 or 11 years old. And he yelled at us, “Get out of here, you Japs.” Now, “Japs” doesn’t mean anything to most of us, but for those who lived through the imprisonment of Japanese Americans, like my grandmother, this incident brought back a whole level of trauma to her that I had never seen before. We were just stunned at this young boy, who couldn’t have learned it in World War II-era times. But maybe they learned it from others around them, maybe their parents or grandparents. This is a country where we should no longer accept and normalize acts of hate. LA vs. Hate has worked with different communities around different issues that try to honor people’s history, but it has also helped communities deal with and combat anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-semitic hostilities and crime.


If you call 211, they’ll give you different options. Option number four is recording hate. And you press four, and then you speak with somebody. And it could be in English, Spanish, or any other language. They will ask the person who called to describe what happened. And they’re going to take that information, and they’re going to ask whether it’s okay to follow up with you later. And then there will be someone who calls them in the next few days who is going to be what we call a care coordinator. They’re like case managers. Then they will work with that person to identify what and how we can help them, like what their needs are. There are various ways in which people get direct help, but the first step is reporting it to 2-1-1, or you can go online. If you don’t want to talk to somebody on the phone, you can go to LAvsHate.org. And you can choose to see the website in Spanish or other languages if you want to. And then there’s a reporting hate link that will take you to a page where you just fill out the information and submit it; it can be done anonymously too. 


There is no doubt in my mind, based on the years of work we put in here, that there is underreporting of hate crimes in the Latino community. And I think there are several reasons why that happens. One is that many people who experience hate are often targeted because of their vulnerability; it might be because they are limited English speakers, because they think that their immigration status could be affected by it, or because of the experiences they’ve had with law enforcement in their home countries or here in this country. Oftentimes, they won’t report a hate crime unless it’s super serious. And so sometimes, even then, they may not. We see evidence of that in the actual numbers. The hate crimes that have not come to law enforcement, we have already seen and heard of when people call 2-1-1. If somebody calls, it’s up to them whether they want law enforcement to be involved. That has to be a decision that they make, and we even provide a way they can do it confidentially. 


We respect confidentiality, and it doesn’t matter your immigration status; that’s never a question that we ask. It’s not relevant at all to the fact that someone is experiencing hate. It might be that even when people experience anti-immigrant hate crimes, oftentimes they’re not immigrants. I’ve been told personally to “go home; go back to where you came from.” And I tell them, “I am where I came from. I was born and raised here in LA,” but people make assumptions just by looking at you. That happens to Latinos who were born here, as well as people who are from other countries. LA vs. Hate is all about countering that.


Resources are critical for our work to get done, and it has been a significant investment by the LA County government to create LA vs. Hate. We have received additional funding not only to hire staff, but also from the county budget and through some particular funding mechanisms to be able to fund our contracts for public education and outreach. Art is an important part of our strategy, both for outreach and for healing. And yes, funding makes a huge difference, because right now, what we pay a community-based organization to partner with us is relatively modest. It doesn’t pay for one full-time person to do this work.

It would be ideal to have enough funding so that they can dedicate a person or staff person to just doing education, victim support, and policy advocacy, but we don’t have that kind of funding yet. We want our community-based organizational partners, like CHIRLA, who are funded, to partner with us and help victims of hate to advocate for changes in policies and practices. I’m happy to say we’ve gotten a substantial increase in our budget for that. We’re not there yet in terms of having all the guaranteed funding each year for that, but we are moving in the right direction. Also, the cost of doing public education outreach—putting out information in terms of advertising or public service announcements, or just having somebody dedicated to communications—can be very costly in LA County. It’s an expensive media market.

Anyone may report anonymously and receive access to additional community-based and crisis care resources. In addition, information about hate crime incidents or crimes may be submitted anonymously online or by calling 2-1-1. Visit the LA Civil, Human Rights, and Equity Department’s resource page HERE for additional state and legal resources.

NOTE: CALÓ NEWS is committed to reporting on hate crimes related to Latinos, from victims to perpetrators to change makers. If you or your organization would like to share your expertise regarding hate crime prevention in Los Angeles and Southern California, please contact Brenda Fernanda Verano at brenda@latinomedia.org

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...