Arriba Juntos was created by three social justice activists – Leandro Soto, Herman Gallegos and James McAlister – on May 13, 1965. Originally named the Organization for Business, Education and Community Advancement (O.B.E.C.A), the staff at that time was comprised of just these three men. Their vision, will and commitment to the Mission District led to the creation of a successful new non-profit organization for a community in transition.
The founders would change the organization's name in 1967 to Arriba Juntos but the original mission stayed the same. That was to meet the basic needs of the increasingly large number of Latino immigrants that were moving into what was before a primarily Irish working class neighborhood. The needs of these newcomers were adequate housing and education, improved employment opportunities, reliable childcare, and health care. During the 1960s such efforts were supported by President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.
In the early 1970s the Model Cities Program came to San Francisco and many new agencies began to serve this growing Latino population. AJ's most notable program at this time was training checkers at Safeway stores. Throughout the 1970s and '80s AJ grew, adding many new programs and services, especially in the development of clients's employability. In 1987, AJ also broke ground on a low and moderate income housing development, the Leandro Soto Apartments.
From the 1990s to the present AJ has expanded its vision and now provides all of its programs on a citywide basis. In doing so AJ serves more of San Francisco's diverse population and better stands for its clarion call: "Upward Together."