Actor Nick Cannon helps San Diego-based civil rights group celebrate new home

The People's Alliance For Justice, a civil rights group, opened its headquarters with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, celebrity Nick Cannon, shown here greeting families, and the Rev. Shane Harris, the group's founder.
(John Gastaldo)

The People’s Alliance for Justice, helmed by the Rev. Shane Harris, opens its headquarters in the Skyline neighborhood


With the help of hundreds of community members, a drum-line, some barbecue and one of San Diego’s homegrown celebrities, a relatively new civil rights organization firmly established its roots in San Diego Saturday afternoon.

The People’s Alliance for Justice, a nonprofit founded by San Diego-based activist the Rev. Shane Harris, unveiled the organization’s new headquarters in southeastern San Diego, just a block away from Skyline Hills Library. The new site features office space, plenty of parking and a large meeting room.

Adding star power to the occasion was Nick Cannon, a San Diego native who’s gained a large national following as an actor, advocate and host of highly-watched shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Masked Singer.”

The event also served as an opportunity for the People’s Alliance for Justice to honor Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and several other community advocates, as well as introduce people to some of the group’s initiatives related to criminal justice, police reform, education and the foster care system.

“We’re going to celebrate this grand opening, but the work continues after this,” Harris told the crowd Saturday. “The real work begins.”

San Diego, CA_9_21_19_|The People's Alliance For Justice, a civil rights group, opened their headquarters with a ribbon-cutting ceremony including celebrity Nick Cannon, left, assemblywoman Shirley Weber, center and and Reverend Shane Harris, who founded the People's Alliance for Justice, holding the scissors.

The highlight of the luncheon was a conversation with Cannon, as more than a hundred residents piled into a room to hear the entertainer’s thoughts on a variety of social justice issues and topics important to the black community.

One topic that drew a lot of intrigue from the crowd focused on supporting black entrepreneurship and building economic opportunity in black communities.

Cannon, who grew up in San Diego’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and graduated from Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, said it’s important to invest money back into the community and local businesses, and it’s crucial for those who have resources to look for ways to offer opportunities to others rather than just moving out of certain neighborhoods.

“People think about making the money and moving outside. ... ‘I’ve got to make it out of the hood,’” Cannon said. “We have to shift that mentality. Instead of trying to make it out of the hood, you’ve got to make the hood. It really becomes about building a home.”

Cannon, who is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Howard University, also spoke about the importance of education.

He said he’s a big advocate for higher learning, but there are a lot of ways to get educated, noting he’s met people who’ve been pursuing secondary degrees while visiting prisons. He added the bottom line is to find the path that’s best for you, and education is one of the few things a person can get that can never be taken away.

“Education is true wealth,” said Cannon.”However you get that education is up to you.”

The importance of voting was also a topic residents asked Cannon about.

Cannon, who participated in some get-out-the-vote efforts for President Barack Obama, said he has mixed feelings about national elections, but there’s a ton of value in focusing on local and state offices.

“Local government is the most important thing,” Cannon said. “Voting is effective locally. ... Know your local leaders, know your local community activists, those are the politicians that truly matter.”