The battle to bring cable to South LA

Author Clinton Galloway

Clinton Galloway is the author of “Anatomy of Hustle: Cable Comes to South Central L.A.”

Brothers Clinton and Carl Galloway realized the power of cable television early on. In the 1980s, they tried to bring the service to south central Los Angeles, an area in desperate need of information.

But when the budding entrepreneurs presented the idea to City Hall, the Galloways say they encountered a pay-to-play system consumed by personal greed rather than civic empowerment.

Clinton Galloway’s new book, “Anatomy of a Hustle: Cable Comes to South Central LA,’ documents the brothers’ story. ARN host Omar Shamout spoke with him to find out more.

Listen to the audio interview with Clinton Galloway

Galloway will be signing copies of the book at Leimert Park’s Eso Won Bookstore on April 25th at 7pm.

Criminal justice advocate Susan Burton on prison realignment

imageSusan Burton is the founder and executive director of the “A New Way of Life Re-entry Project” in South Central Los Angeles. As a former drug addict, Burton cycled in an out of the criminal justice system for nearly fifteen years. She now works with women returning home from prisons and jails, helping them transition back into society.

Annenberg Radio News host Omar Shamout spoke with Burton about California’s prison realignment efforts and the problems facing former inmates. [Read more…]

28th Street Apartments rekindle tradition of former YMCA

In 1924, a group of African-American leaders decided their Central Avenue neighborhood needed a place for black men and boys to socialize. After a successful fundraising campaign, the 28th Street Y.M.C.A. was born. The facility re-opened in December as an affordable-housing community. Omar Shamout visited the new 28th Street Apartments to learn more about its staff and residents.

Immigration activists demand reform in Obama’s second term


Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

President Obama has called the failure to pass immigration reform his biggest disappointment. After winning 71 percent of the Latino vote on Tuesday, many of those constituents won’t accept further delays.

That’s because exit polls conducted by polling firm Latino Decisions and the Pew Hispanic Center found that immigration reform is a priority for the Latino community.

California State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo said President Obama is now in a powerful position to help not only the country’s documented immigrants, but it’s more than 11 million undocumented ones too.

“We expect that; he has been committed to that,” Cedillo said. “We think the conditions exist now for it to be realized.”

But commitment might not be enough. In his first term, Obama couldn’t gather enough bipartisan support to pass the Federal Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for people brought to this country as children. That forced many states, including California, to pass their own version of the law.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said Obama needs to go further.

“The immigration question is resolved by legalizing 12 million people,” Salas said. She added that he should work with Congress to make immigration making our immigration “actually work by reuniting families instead of having them wait 30 and 40 years to be reunited with each other.”

Both Salas and Cedillo said Republicans should play a part in this process too, citing common ground among the GOP and Latinos on a number of other issues.

“Latinos in many instances are very poised to be Republicans. [They are] entrepreneurial, small business starters, very faith based,” he said. “All the values that the Republicans espouse are the values that are at the core of the immigrant Latino.”

But not everyone thinks Latinos can broaden the G.O.P. base. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says economic issues prevent many Latinos from ever voting Republican.

“If the party you’re representing says the opposition is cutting taxes and making government smaller – that’s not necessarily a platform that’s going to appeal to voters who pay very little in taxes to begin with and are dependent on the government for a lot of their basic needs,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman said many Republicans also want immigration reform – it just looks different than what Democrats are proposing.

“President Obama’s position seems to be that the interests of those people who came here illegally ought to be placed first,” he said. “The Republicans very often think it’s the interests of business that ought to be placed first, so there are many different perceptions of what immigration reform would entail.”

Since it could take lawmakers time to hammer out a deal, Cedillo and Salas said the President can make an immediate statement by curbing the number of deportations carried out by his administration – a number topping 1.4 million.

Former county jail inmate speaks about abuse

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

image These days, 33-year-old Monte Cullors mentors young gang members, but 15 years ago, he was one.

“I started a crew, a graffiti crew, back in ’93, ’94. From there, due to problems with rival enemies, it turned into a gang through the violence. “I wasn’t in to shooting guns; I was mainly into fist fights,” Cullors says.

Cullors had several run-ins with the law as a teenager, but his life changed forever in 1999, a year shy of his twentieth birthday. After leading police on a high-speed car chase, he crashed into a ditch. Cullors was arrested for fleeing the scene and later sentenced to serve 32 months in jail.

Soon after, Cullors got into a fight—not with another prisoner, but with a deputy during a lineup.

“So he told me get in line, get in line, and I said, ‘I am in line’… He looked at me and he thought I was being obstinate, trying to … puff my chest out at him, so he pushed me.”

Cullors admits he then made a bad decision.

“I should have realized that was the wrong thing to do. It was immature, but … I hit him,” he says.

Afterward, Cullors says he was besieged by deputies who beat him over the head with billy clubs, shocked him with tasers and eventually choked him unconscious.

“When I woke up there was just a pool of blood and I guess they busted that blood vessel and I bled out from my ears and nose. I just remember there was just blood and my head just was ringing,” he says.

Violence against inmates in county jails has been under the spotlight in recent months. A commission appointed by the board of supervisors blamed Sheriff Lee Baca for the high rate of excessive force used by deputies in the jails.

Baca has taken responsibility and vowed to make structural changes in the department while also allowing greater civilian oversight of jail conditions.

But nothing like that existed while Cullors was in custody. After the incident, he says doctors monitored his behavior for several weeks.

Cullors was later diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder by county doctors. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms for schizoaffective disorder include hallucinations, delusions, and mood disorders such as mania or depression.

Cullors describes it like this.

“You just see things that you don’t normally see … people that are cops, but their faces will change into people. You’ll just be totally confused,” he said.

But that’s not all.

“You feel like you’re literally in a videogame, and you get really hyper,” Cullors said.

Mark-Anthony Johnson is a health researcher who’s interviewed many inmates in L.A. County. He says their symptoms should be described as post-traumatic stress.

“Part of the criteria that people talk about for post-traumatic stress is the sense of powerlessness and incarceration is all about being powerless,” he says. “If you read the testimonies in the reports, [in which inmates describe] literally being handcuffed and beaten while they’re in restraints … those are traumatic moments.”

Cullors says he faced further trauma in jail after being arrested again in 2004 for making criminal threats against another driver – a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Cullors resisted arrest – which he says was triggered by going off his medication.

“You know I thought that I was cured,” he says. “And that was the biggest mistake of my life because I was actually going upwards in 2004, 2005. And I went off my meds, and I flipped my script.”

Today, the Cullors family says they’ve been able to heal. Monte’s sister Patrisse helped create a group called the “Coalition to end Sheriff violence in L.A. jails.” She says the group’s larger struggle has been a mechanism for change in their own lives.

“My entire family has felt extremely courageous in this process. They have been able to find a sense of voice that I had not seen in the past,” she says.

And Monte, who now works as a sign-language teacher and youth mentor in South Central, says he has no regrets.

“Who knows what could have happened?” he says. “I could have been on the street and got killed. I’m still alive. I’m here; I’m a better person; so you always make a horrible situation into a better one.”

And that’s what he and his sister say they’ll keep doing as part of the coalition.

Activists want to legalize sidewalk street vendors in South LA and elsewhere

imageStreet vendors hawking fresh fruit and tamales from push carts are as much a part of LA as sunshine and beaches. But it’s actually a misdemeanor to sell food, or anything for that matter, on public sidewalks.

That’s out of step with many big cities in the U.S. says Mark Vallianatos, an urban and environmental policy expert at Occidental College. “Ironically, it’s the only one of the ten largest cities in the U.S. that doesn’t allow for the selling of food on the sidewalk.”

He says many low-income immigrants take up street-vending anyway at the risk of having their carts confiscated. “This is one of the few economic niches that they can move into to start providing for themselves and their family.”

Vallianatos estimates there are as many as twelve thousand unlicensed vendors in the city. Because the practice is a vital source of income for so many residents, activists are pushing City Council to reform the law.

Janet Favela is a community organizer with the East L.A. Community Coalition. She says there’s a ways to go before concrete proposals are made and many questions must be asked. “If we legalize street vending, what should we do? What should it look like? How is it going to better serve their needs so that they do feel like there’s an opportunity for them.”

But even if changes are made, Vallianatos says California’s Health Code presents more challenges to vendors.

“If you want to operate legally, you have to have a cart that has a certain number of sinks on it, or refrigeration, or heating of water, etc. The solution might be to try to work with the companies that manufacture food trucks and carts, and with vendors to try and come up with a lower cost version of the required equipment.”

If a solution can be reached, Vallianatos says that it could provide an economic boost to the city too.

“This activity is happening in many places, but right now the city isn’t getting any permit fees from it, and they’re not getting any sales tax from it.”

Beyond the financial benefit to the city, Favela says vendors also help keep Angelenos healthy.

“We do want to incentivize healthy foods and fruits and vegetables, because we do think that there are specific areas that are part of the city that don’t have much access to healthy foods.”

And she says doing that has a positive impact on the local economy.

“Street vendors always say … we do contribute to this economy and we buy all of our products in the city of Los Angeles.”

The coalition members have held initial meetings with City Council staffers and plans to keep building community support for their movement over the next few months.

Public officials and law enforcement respond to shooting at South LA park

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

Patrick Caruthers was was shot in the back in broad daylight Tuesday while sitting under a tree in Jackie Tatum/Harvard Park – a place where he had spent many hours as a youth volunteer for the Department of Parks and Recreation. Authorities say he was likely mistaken for a gang member, even though Caruthers had no gang affilliation.

Mark Mariscal, the superintendent in charge of Harvard Park, said today that his agency lost one of their own.

“It is a loss; it was a family loss. Mr. Caruthers … was a good volunteer that had spent more than seven years in our park program,” Mariscal said.

imagePatrick Caruthers’s pastor leads a prayer at the start of a candlelit vigil on September 26, 2012.

Tyronda Magee also used to volunteer at Harvard Park and taught Cartuthers dance there when he was a kid. She attended a vigil last night to honor her former student and remembered him as kind and good-natured teenager, who did well in school and stayed away from gangs.

“He never was messing up at school or at home or anything like that,” Magee said. “He was very like, spiritual, and all the kids at the park looked up to him like a big brother.”

imageVolunteers help build a baseball field at Denker Recreation Center.

Less than three miles away from Harvard Park sits Denker Park Recreation Center on 35th Place. Volunteers gathered there this morning to make improvements at the site such as as a new baseball field.

The money was donated by a local affordable housing developer. The center’s recreation coordinator Liz Alamillo said the improvements would have a positive effect on young people in the neighborhood.

“When you provide a safe haven for your children to come to, you’re much more comfortable bringing them here as opposed to letting them be out on the streets. When they’re here they’re away from the element that’s negative in their life.”

Senior lead officer Pierre Olega used to patrol the area around Harvard Park. He now serves in LAPD’s Southwest division, but he agreed that it will take more than police action to solve the problem of violence.

“We’ll do search warrants; we’ll identify these gang members … to make sure they stay away, but it’s also important for the communities and the parks to help on the back end. If we arrest someone and the jail’s overcrowded and they’re back out, what more power do we have?” said Olega.

Security cameras were supposed to be installed in Harvard Park over the summer. But Councilman Parks said in an emailed statement today that the issue was held up “unexplainably” in the Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilman Mitch Englander. A final vote is expected to take place tomorrow.

Superintendant Mariscal praised Parks’ leadership in trying to install the cameras after the council approved funding for them in February.

“Bernard Parks’ office … has really been trying very diligent[ly] to get this whole process done, specifically at Jackie Tatum/Harvard Park.”

While the cameras won’t stop bullets, the hope is that they can act as a deterrent to future crimes.

Eighth District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks will introduce a motion on Friday to provide a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification, apprehension, and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Caruthers’ death.

Narcocorridos: The drug war in song

imageFrom a back alley in Wilmington, illuminated by the twinkling lights of the nearby oil refinery, the sounds of the Mexican-drug war come alive on a windy Wednesday evening — not through gun shots, police sirens or the wailing of widowed mothers — but through song.

“Loyalty to the bosses, or you’re an enemy,” croons 27-year-old Jesse Castañeda in Spanish into a microphone in his home garage, rehearsing for an upcoming show. Jesse is the lead-singer of the four-piece Wilmington band Komando de la Klika. The song, called “Scarface Reborn,” tells the violent tale of a Mexican drug lord executing his foes. [Read more…]

South Central Farmers oppose a controversial land vote

South Central Farmers haven’t grown their food in South LA for years. But they’re still fighting to come back.

Evicted South Central Farmers protest land vote

imageIn a 4-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Budget and Finance Committee approved Councilwoman Jan Perry’s request to make changes in a land deal that would release a developer from allocating land for a park. It’s now up to the L.A. City Council to make a final decision on the future of that land.

Monday’s vote prompted harsh criticism from South Central Farmers spokesman Tezozomoc, whose sustainable farming group was evicted from the property in 2006 and has been cultivating land in Bakersfield since then.

“I think Jan Perry needs to own up to the fact that she got caught making a back-room deal,” he said.

Councilwoman Jan Perry helped broker the deal in 2003 in which the City of LA sold the land to real estate developer Ralph Horowitz, requiring him to donate 2.6 acres for use as a park.

Perry is now advocating for the Libaw-Horowitz Investment Company, which owns the lot at the corner of 41st and Alameda Streets, to keep that land, which had been previously designated as green space. Instead, she’s proposing the company pay $3.6 million to renovate existing facilities such as the Pueblo Del Rio Housing Development, Fred Ross Park and Ross Snyder Park.

In a written statement, Perry told Intersections South LA that the site is not a safe or healthy location for park space due to its industrial zoning and location along the heavy-traffic Alameda corridor.

She also specified that renovations would “include a running track, children’s play equipment, basketball courts and programming dollars.”

Members of the South Central Farmers and community residents denounced the deal during public statements at the meeting and claimed Perry was breaking her promise in order to appease the developer.

Libaw-Horowitz is currently in escrow with a group of clothing manufacturers known collectively as PIMA Development. PIMA wants to build factories on the land in a deal Perry said would create 900 jobs in the district.

“A garment manufacturer is a good use of the land,” Perry said in a statement.

PIMA spokesman Myung-Soo Seok, who was joined at the meeting by PIMA employees and supporters, told the committee his group needs to buy all 14 acres of the land in order to “consolidate operations” at a new corporate headquarters, while also “preparing for future growth” that Seok said would enable further job creation.

Tezozomoc was skeptical of the jobs assessment offered by Perry and Seok.

“Jobs has always been a fantasy number,” said Tezozomoc. “Nobody spoke about living-wage jobs — all of these jobs are exploitive.”

Michael Feinstein, spokesman for the California Green Party, who spoke out against the deal during the meeting, said Perry’s attempt to release Libaw-Horowitz from its pledge is set against a political backdrop.

“What Jan Perry is trying to do here is show big developers that she can deliver for them, because she needs the money to raise to run for mayor,” Feinstein said.