El Centro, also known as the Santa Barbara Lower Westside Community Center, is a volunteer- and activist-led grassroots space located in the lower Westside of Santa Barbara that centers people working toward the liberation and uplift of people of color, womxn, youth, indigenous, and queer communities. El Centro was established for these groups to exercise artistic expression, fundraise, and host meetings and events, building local networks that connect folks to collective self-determination, self-empowerment, self-expression, and liberation struggles. El Centro’s organizers work to build critical dialogue and action for justice and equity and are pursuing financial autonomy on a membership-based model.
Social Change Project:
El Centro Open Community Days
During Open Community Days, El Centro will offer a staffed, supervised, free-of-charge space one day per week where lower Westside community members of all ages can gather to make art, play, read materials from our library, receive homework help, participate in workshops created for and by people of color, or just enjoy snacks and talk. Community youth will be mentored to create special programming and take on leadership roles during these days. There is currently no space in the lower Westside that serves this purpose.
Our family really enjoyed Escuelita at El Centro this summer. Lucas and Sebastian felt comfortable and engaged in so many different ways. The projects were unique and there was something new every day. Everyone there was very friendly and seemed like they were having a great time with the kids. Escuelita had breakfast for them when they arrived and there were healthy snacks all day. They also provided all the materials for their projects. My children are typically shy and reserved, but by the end of the first day I saw they had come out of their shell. I noticed a positive change in their interactions with others during the time they were there. I appreciate so much what Escuelita did for our family. As a single mother I was able to have time to work while my kids experienced so much. But more than anything I like how inclusive Escuelita is. It is truly unique and beautiful.
— Laura Ronchietto, Santa Barbara