Laura Oppenheimer
Laura Oppenheimer
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Compton, Calif. isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of an politically engaged community that’s active online. Not now, anyway. M.L. Harrington is trying to change that though. He’s the Network Creator of Hub City Livin’, a Ning Network launched in August 2009, specifically for Compton residents. Want to learn more about what running a Ning Network in Compton is all about? Read on.

mdeucedefaultTell me a little bit about yourself.
Compton born and raised. Always been bright, book-wise. I ran the streets for a while, got in trouble here and there. Took up a vocational trade. Anything like printing, arts, music related… I’m a workaholic. I have a nine-month-old son. I’ve always been community oriented. I like what’s right, like to stand up for what’s right.

How did you go about starting Hub City Living? Did you have any goals in mind when you launched it?
I was promoting myself for hip hop music and was joining a ton of social networks…. I grew up listening to NWA. I saw that music was a way to bring social change and awareness. With hip hop becoming more commercial and harder to break into, it made sense to move these goals online. I still have the passion to want to facilitate social change, and it was easy to transfer that into a social network.

Initial goals when I started were to highlight positivity coming out of Compton. People [in Compton] complain that the media only highlights negativity. I think a lot of the negativity is embedded… we started viewing the discussions happening as being positive [in and of themselves]. There’s a culture in Compton where people are separate. They aren’t used to being engaged.

What’s been the reaction to Hub City Livin’ in Compton?
A majority of people I meet, they love the site. I never paid attention to politics until I started the site. [A community pillar recently told me] that I probably have the most revolutionary thing he’s seen in 50 years. It was just amazing to hear that coming from him. I invited council members, but they haven’t joined yet, though many city employees have. It’s been fascinating.

What’s been surprising for you about Hub City Livin’?
The level of interaction and the way people have gravitated to the site. It hadn’t really hit me until some people told me I’m in uncharted waters. People had never done anything like this. I have the one place in Compton that has the most different organizations in one place. They want to collaborate. They want to come together. That’s been the most surprising thing.

Have you partnered with any other organizations in the area?
No formal partnerships. Early on I had a partnership with [a fire department]. That was the most official partnership [to date]. The first official partnership would be with the Community Redevelopment Organization for Compton. They want to make downtown Compton more like downtown Pasadena, with more foot traffic.

How do you get the word out about your Ning Network?
Any way I can! Word of mouth has been really good. All of the professionals know about it. I do print up fliers and pass them out. It’s been word of mouth mostly.

What are the biggest challenges Hub City Livin’ faces?
To get more people engaged and [involved in] the discussion. The digital divide in Compton is so great. Not a lot of people have regular Internet access.

Do you have any particular goals for the future?
To have the city on [Hub City Livin’] in an official capacity. All the way down, through each department. That’s my big goal, to bring connections to residents and transparency to government. Number two goal is to get more sponsors. To get more sponsors will help get it more of an official stamp.