In the heart of Los Angeles' predominantly Latino and Korean immigrant Mid-Wilshire
district is a retirement home like no other. Sunset Hall describes itself as "a
non-profit retirement home for freethinking elders who continue to share
independence of spirit and involvement in the world." Since it began operating in
1934, it has served as the home of progressive activists who have been part of
political, cultural, and social movements that have challenged and advanced society.
According to its executive director, Wendy Caputo, Sunset Hall's residents have
included "some very liberal democrats ... people who have been blacklisted in the
McCarthy era, directors, producers, writers, teachers, professionals, union members,
blue collar workers, people who have been active in reactivating Democratic
committees here [in Los Angeles]."
Two such former residents, Irja Lloyd and Lucille Alpert, who took part regularly in
street protests and engaged in political debate throughout their lives, were
featured in a documentary that premiered nationally in March 2005. Sunset Story,
directed by Laura Gabbert, focuses on the friendship between Irja and Lucille and
critiques the larger American society that has marginalized its elderly members--in
the case of Sunset Hall, members who devoted their entire lives to social progress.
Lloyd, whose father fought for healthier working conditions in a Connecticut axe
factory, was a lifelong political activist and a special education teacher. During
the anti-communist era she was jailed while participating in an anti-McCarthy
protest. Alpert, who grew up in Chicago, worked her entire professional life as a
social worker. Since the documentary was made, both women have died, but the spirit
of activism they expressed is still very much alive at Sunset Hall.
The organizational mission states: "We are dedicated to creating and maintaining
opportunities for cultural and political participation by Sunset Hall residents in
the larger society." And indeed the history of activism among those who live there
speaks to the value of their contributions. Residents who, as far back as the 1930s,
had protested on behalf of garment workers in New York and Chicago and were later
driven west during the McCarthy era, marched with Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther
King Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Some participated in
demonstrations that eventually helped lead to the end of the Vietnam War. More
recently, in 2000, residents waged efforts to halt George W. Bush's run for the
White House by conducting "Get Out the Vote" campaigns. In March 2003 many attended
large street demonstrations to protest the impending war in Iraq. In addition,
residents have engaged in political battles over national issues--like the Free
Mumia effort--as well as local efforts on behalf of impoverished bus riders,
janitors, and immigrant garment workers living in Los Angeles.
Come check out the movie. This event is free of charge but donations will be accepted. Also, there is a safer space policy in effect. We won't put up with any racist, homophobic, classist, sexist, ageist, ableist or otherwise messed up attitudes or behavior. Respect.