South LA barbershops buzz with camaraderie and culture


Sammy Ross is friend and counselor as well as hair-trimmer at Magnificent Brother. | Sarah Zahedi

The traditional barbershop is known for fostering conversation and camaraderie. With many of these shops closing, two barber shops in South Los Angeles are striving to keep that tradition alive.

Magnificent Brothers No. 1 Barber Shop
4267 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles

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An ex-gang member on curtailing South LA’s recidivism rate

Beron Thompkins in class at the Black Male Youth Academy. | Photo courtesy of the Social Justice Learning Institute

Beron Thompkins in class at the Black Male Youth Academy. | Photo courtesy of the Social Justice Learning Institute

Beron Thompkins remembers his first encounter with the Los Angeles Police Department when he was a 12-year-old. He and his 14-year-old cousin were walking down the street in their South L.A. neighborhood when two policemen driving by asked them to pull up their shirts.

“We were minding our own business. They didn’t ask us where we were going and they didn’t tell us to stop,” Thompkins said. “My cousin said, ‘Ignore them.’ So, we kept walking.”

Thompkins said the police then sped up, swerved in front of them, and threw them onto the hood. The police told them that they had received a call that two black men had just robbed a lady in a nearby park.

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South LA high school curbs suspension rates with restorative justice

A student at Augustus Hawkins. | Sarah Zahedi

A student at Augustus Hawkins. | Sarah Zahedi

At most high schools, getting into a fight means getting suspended. But for many students, suspension isn’t a helpful solution. That’s why Augustus Hawkins High School in South L.A. is taking a new approach.

Learn more in an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

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Obama announces My Brother’s Keeper initiative for young men of color


Obama announces My Brother’s Keeper | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama pledged $200 million last week to My Brother’s Keeper, a collection of programs across the country designed to help young, at-risk men of Black and Latino backgrounds to become successful. He said one objective is to guarantee that “every child in America” can access “a world-class education.”

In California, young boys and men of color experienced the lowest graduation rates and the highest incarceration rates. They are also the most likely to be involved in violent crimes. Many state organizations are stepping up to participate in My Brother’s Keeper, including The California Endowment. The group has committed $50 million to improve education and provide healthcare programs.

To hear from the California Endowment’s spokesman and other commentators on the possible impact of Obama’s initiative, click play on an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

Nature’s Brew Cafe offers healthy food to South LA

Nature's Brew

Nature’s Brew Cafe (Photo by Sarah Zahedi)

After the July 6 opening of Nature’s Brew, a healthy South Los Angeles café, University of Southern California students and local residents no longer lack an alternative food option to chain restaurants, fast food stops and coffee shops.

Located at 2316 Union St., Nature’s Brew offers a range of fresh food and pastry items for breakfast and lunch in addition to various juices, coffees and teas. The cafe also offers free WiFi to customers.

The café is run by the team behind wine bar and restaurant Bacaro LA, which is located two doors down the street. Brothers Danny and Bobby Kronfli run the Bacaro LA and Nature’s Brew locations along with chef Lior Hillel and general manager Noa Sztar.

Noting the absence of a café like Nature’s Brew in the USC area, Sztar says the team was very excited about the opening.

“We always knew there was a need in the neighborhood for a nice coffee shop and restaurant that give you more than plain coffee and dried, day-old pastries,” Sztar said. “We wanted to bring a place to the area with fresh-baked pastries and high-quality food.”

Nature’s Brew’s location was previously occupied by the Ragazzi Room, which closed down in mid-2012. Upon its closing, Sztar says the team jumped on the opportunity to open a café that offers options beyond what’s available at generic coffee shops in the area.

“Usually when you go to a basic coffee shop, the options are not that high-quality and there isn’t much to choose from,” Sztar said. “For the excellent level of food and drinks that we offer at Nature’s Brew, I hope the neighborhood finds us attractive.”

Sztar also emphasized that the team has worked to set reasonable food and drink prices as to be affordable to individuals from a range of socioeconomic classes living in South L.A

“We are not trying to take all our customer’s money with unfair prices. We strive to give them a good product at a reasonable, affordable price,” Sztar said. “People are often telling us that they have had a similar smoothie or sandwich to the ones at Nature’s Brew at other restaurants that are far more expensive.”

By setting more affordable prices for their food and drinks, Sztar also hopes people living in South L.A. will be encouraged to choose Nature’s Brew over other unhealthy options in the area.

“We already are seeing a lot of business owners, workers and families from the area as customers,” Sztar said. “It’s a good thing to see because instead of going out and eating fast food, more residents are coming here to get a similarly priced juice or granola breakfast as a healthy alternative.”

While business has been gradually picking up over the past two weeks that Nature’s Brew has been opened, Sztar is anticipating a rush of new customers as the new school year begins at USC.

“We opened in July because we wanted to have a month to prepare before the students being moving in again,” Sztar said. “We think it’s going to be packed as soon as school starts and it’s a positive thing to worry about.”

The Nature’s Brew customers can stay updated on new add-ons to the Nature’s Brew menu and learn about upcoming Nature’s Brew events via the café’s Facebook and Twitter pages.


Some South LA churches support DOMA, Prop 8 rulings

A member of L.A.’s premier Black gay men’s wellness organization “In the Meantime” poses at the X-Homophobia campaign for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in February 2013.


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