When ambitious young Latinx face a housing, education and jobs crisis in their beloved hometown, they create bold visions for housing, activism, new politics and turning angst into art.

In 2012, a Boston Magazine article dubbed Lawrence as “The City of the Damned,” riddled with corruption, violence, and hopeless destitution. Local response to the article was swift and defiant. Students shut down classes, city workers took to the streets, and focus groups formed. Hundreds signed onto a Facebook event: LAWRENCE FIGHTS BACK  “We are Lawrence Zombie Pride March.”

Mi Casita documentary follows several lives since this awakening – Franallen Acosta, Elissa Salas, and Leida Mane – on their quests to build useful lives in their beloved hometown, through sustainable enterprise, educational reform, activist politics and self-discovery through art.

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Fran told the City Council, “We cannot wait for a savior… we have to address our own problems with our own resources.” A once vibrant hub of manufacturing, Lawrence is now the poorest in the state. Lawrence families earn half the average income of Massachusetts families ($39,000 vs. $82,000), and 75% are Latinos. 

Franallen Acosta envisions transforming shipping containers into affordable homes. Mi Casita is designed for families to own their own piece of the American Dream in Lawrence, at half the city's current rental rates. To build political clout and to effect progressive change, Fran campaigns for city councilor seat, and we follow his arduous campaign.

Elissa Salas, a cheeky artist and Fran’s soulmate for years, is an education reformer, elected to the Lawrence School Committee in 2017. She mentors other youth and helped create the Students Bill of Rights with other youth activists at ElevatedThought.org

Born and raised in Lawrence, Leida Mane is a spoken word poet in Lawrence. A 2018 high school graduate, she treasures her seven books of poems and paintings that are shaping her voice and identity. She mentors too and dreams of making art to pay the bills.

As communities across the nation grapple with income inequality, housing crises and limited opportunities to learn, these youth and their city focus insights and options for other youth, with solutions for rebuilding hope and empowered activists nationwide.