OPINION: Why Latinos need to speak out for Black lives

Ferguson protesters reach the site where Ezell Ford was killed last August. | Daina Beth Solomon

Ferguson protesters reach the site where Ezell Ford was killed last August. | Daina Beth Solomon

By Alberto Retana, Executive Vice-President, Community Coalition 

How much unrest will our country experience before we substantively address the injustices acutely impacting Black people?

For months, across the nation, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand police accountability, transparency and justice for the families that have fallen victims to state violence.

I am Latino and I stand in support members of the Black community seeking justice for their children and families.  It’s time that we, as Latinos, boldly speak out in support of justice.  If we are to truly deal with racism in America impacting Latinos, we need to understand what is happening right now with Black America.

[Read more…]

Footnotes from South LA schoolday walks

By Randal Henry and Manal Aboelata-Henry

As parents guide their kids to school on foot, the family experiences the joys of living in a walkable neighborhood. They soon launch Crenshaw Walks to encourage others to join.

The Henry family proudly wears Crenshaw Walks t-shirts at the 2014 Taste of Soul. | Randal Henry

The Henry family proudly wears Crenshaw Walks t-shirts at the 2014 Taste of Soul. | Randal Henry

It’s 7:20 AM on a brisk, sunny Monday in South L.A. Brothers Taj and Sadiq check the ‘‘velcro’’ on their hushpuppies and take one last look to make sure lunch pails and homework folders are tucked into their backpacks. Check. Off they go to the nearest Metro Station, about a 12 minute walk. Many people walk in our neighborhood, so most days, Taj and Sadiq say hello to other Crenshaw Manor walkers or talk to their parents along the way.

If the car traffic on Coliseum St. isn’t too heavy and the lights at Crenshaw and Rodeo are just right, they’ll stroll up the platform just in time for the 7:40 train. They might even have an extra moment to find a penny someone’s left behind at the TAP machine. Some days they get stuck waiting for a lull in the steady stream of cars at an unmarked crosswalk at Coliseum or the light at Crenshaw won’t turn until they’ve seen the eastbound train bolt through the intersection. In that case, they wait for the 7:52 train. But, either way, the 7 minute train ride will get them to school well in time for their 8:05 bell.  [Read more…]

First person: City Year tutor in Watts encourages others to mentor

Vanessa Gonzalez with Superintendent John Deasy and Allison Graff-Weisner | City Year LA

Vanessa Gonzalez with LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and Allison Graff-Weisner, executive director of City Year LA | City Year LA

By Vanessa Gonzalez

Growing up, I was a shy, self-conscious, but studious girl. I was afraid that I might become involved in gangs—a common occurrence in my neighborhood. My parents tried their best to help with schoolwork, but their limited education and language barriers were challenging for all of us. The lack of books and computers also made it difficult for me to learn.

I struggled with my self-confidence and circumstances, until one person changed my whole perspective. My amazing high school science teacher, Ms. Tam, told me that she genuinely believed in me and that I was capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to. From that moment on, I was excited about the future and ready to show the world all that I could offer. [Read more…]

OPINION: English-speaking only students have “dreams” too

By Jasmyne A. Cannick

Bookshelf at Chuco's Justice Center in South L.A. | Stephanie Monte

Bookshelf at Chuco’s Justice Center in South L.A. | Stephanie Monte

Unless state lawmakers put forth the same effort into teaching public school students Spanish that they’ve put into English as a Second Language (ESL) for Latino students, with or without a high school diploma or college degree, black and white students will find themselves locked out of the job market for generations to come.

I am 35, educated, and like millions of other native Californians, I don’t speak Spanish. Yes, I took the mandatory state minimum one course of a foreign language to graduate from high school.  I even upped the ante and took an additional year of Spanish to be eligible for admission into the California State University system. Had I known at 16-years-old that Spanish was going to become the dominant language in California, I might have stayed the course and become fluent.And that’s the story for millions of adults my age and older who now find themselves highly educated and skilled but locked out of the job market in California simply based on their inability to speak Spanish.  English-speaking-only Californians are unable to qualify for the “may I take your order please?” jobs to positions as dental assistants, human resources directors, officer managers, administrative assistants, medical billers, warehouse workers, and, ironically, even for positions with labor unions or other non-profit organizations whose mission is to help the underserved in urban communities.

Now before you fire off an email to me accusing me of being anti-Latino, take a chill pill.

This isn’t a knock on the Spanish language or even the number of Latinos in California — legally or illegally — who have made Spanish seemingly the state language.  This is about calling upon state lawmakers to level the playing field for students in California’s public school system who don’t speak Spanish now so that they don’t find themselves in the same position as their parents in the future—unemployable not because of a criminal background or even lack of an education—but because of their inability to converse, write, and read in Spanish.  What I liken to as the new face of employment discrimination, Spanish speakers wanted only.

The fact is, if algebra, geometry, and biology weren’t courses that I had to take in high school to receive a diploma and matriculate into college, I wouldn’t have taken them.  The same can probably be said for many adults looking back on their high school years. So one course of a foreign language, visual or performing art, or trade as the state mandated minimum requirement to receive a high school diploma is not preparing future generations for the local job market—let alone the global job market.

Learning how to operate an iPad isn’t going to narrow the gap between the unemployed and employed in California now or in the future unless that iPad comes with Rosetta Stone®.  Requiring foreign language classes for non-Spanish speaking students beginning in kindergarten through grade 12 will narrow that gap. Be it Spanish, Korean, Chinese, American Sign Language, or some other language—if non-Spanish speaking students in our public school systems are going to have a real chance at the American dream, ironically, it starts with learning a language other than English.

Lawmakers saw the writing on the wall and adjusted policy and social programs accordingly.  It’s time our public schools did the same—because English speaking only students have dreams too.

Previously a press secretary in the House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a native of Los Angeles and writes about the intersection of race, class, and politics.  She was chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and can be found online at jasmyneonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

OPINION: From Cameroon to South Los Angeles—Get tested on National HIV Testing Day

HIV testingby Marcel Fomotar, M.A., MSN

A few years ago, I traveled from my home country of Cameroon to South Los Angeles to pursue a career in nursing as my contribution to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My dear aunt fought a long and hard battle with AIDS and in her last moments, she told me that her remaining days were filled with light and happiness because of the kindness of her nurses.

It is with that overpowering memory that I changed my original career path and ventured to the United States to pursue a career in nursing.  I chose Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), a health professions school dedicated to transforming the lives of underserved communities. They train health professionals who promote wellness and provide care with excellence and compassion – exactly the kind of health care leader I wanted to become. I wanted health to become a means of empowerment for the community and improve the overall health of a home, whether that be in CDU’s community of South Los Angeles or abroad in Cameroon. [Read more…]

Mayor-elect Garcetti holds South Los Angeles town hall

South L.A. Town hall

Breakout session aimed at tackling problems in the city. Photo by Susan Fitzpatrick.

By Susan Fitzpatrick

About 150 people gathered at the Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles on Saturday to strategize on how to improve the city as it welcomes in a new mayor.

The town hall started at 3:00 pm with roughly 10 breakout groups of 15 – 20 people each addressing the broad topics of:  “neighborhoods, economic development, and making city hall work.”  All of the participants were supposed to identify a problem related to these topics and offer a specific solution.

The discussions lasted about an hour with two moderators for each group collecting yellow stickies with abbreviated responses and giving all members of each group an opportunity to explain their problem and solution. [Read more…]

What Chef Roy Choi is teaching South Central L.A. students

South L.A. church opens doors to gay community

Reverends Russell Thornhill and Leslie Butke cut the ribbon officially opening the doors of the new home of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ in South L.A.

Reverends Russell Thornhill and Leslie Butke cut the ribbon officially opening the doors of the new home of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ in South L.A.

On Sunday, June 2, 2013 Reverends Russell Thornhill and Leslie Butke cut the ribbon officially opening the doors of the new home of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ (UFC) in South Los Angeles.

The church was founded in 1982 by Archbishop Carl Bean during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The UFC Movement through the years has grown into a national ministry with the distinction of being known as a spiritual home for the Black same-gender loving and transgender community.

While all are welcome, the UFC has made a point of being the Black church where Black gays can find solace and worship as all of who they are regardless of what they look like or who they love.

Services will be held every Sunday at 11 a.m. at Unity Fellowship mapat 9608 South Figueroa Street in the Vermont Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Visit unityfellowshipchurch.org or call (323) 938-8322.

A garden grows at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

USC students helped St. Mark’s Luthern Church on Vermont Avenue plant a garden.   Take a look:


Help support foster youth!

Living Advantage

Lisa A., client, Eugenia W., Program Director, Eric B., supporter, Cindy Martinez, El Mundo Television Personality

There are nearly 40,000 foster youth living in Los Angeles County—and this year alone 1,400 young adults will “age out” the foster care system thus becoming disqualified for support services.

At the age of 18, their cases will be terminated and many have to resort to life out on the streets with little life skills and no financial support. They become vulnerable and exposed to committing theft, prostitution, and drug abuse for survival. Forty to fifty percent of foster youth become homeless and 25 percent will be incarcerated within two years. These are the problems that Living Advantage Inc. seeks to address.  [Read more…]