Kendrick Lamar and TDE’s holiday concert and toy give away (Recap) + At 77, South L.A. doctor is still making the rounds



Kendrick Lamar smiles on a 2012 soundset| Oz Futura, Flickr Creative Commons

Kendrick Lamar smiles on a 2012 soundset| Oz Futura, Flickr Creative Commons

Kendrick Lamar and TDE’s Holiday Concert and Toy Giveaway (Recap)

Angelenos gathered at the Nickerson Gardens Projects for the second annual free concert and toy, food and shoes giveaway on Dec. 22. (Examiner.com)

At 77, South L.A. doctor is still making the rounds

One doctor is not only still working but spreading his passion for healthcare to a younger generation of doctors entering the field in South L.A. (LA Times)

5 art shows you should see in L.A. this week

Leimert Park’s Papillon gallery features Andy Robert’s “Blind Contour” show, taking cues from a common drawing exercise in which the artist does not look at work they are creating while drawing a subject. (LA Weekly)

Grant allocates $25,000 to promote child nutrition



Council member Curren Price speaks with a student at West Vernon Elementary School at the launch of their grant bid.

Council member Curren Price speaks with a student at West Vernon Elementary School, which is launching a grant bid. | Photo by Matt Lemas

West Vernon Elementary School in South Los Angeles is vying to be a recipient of a $500,000 national grant program to fund improvements in children’s health and nutrition. The initiative was launched at the school this week.

The initiative, a collaboration between the United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation, has earmarked $25,000 for the Central and South Central region of Los Angeles.

Elementary schools throughout the country will be able to apply for funding, ranging from $15,000 to $25,000, and the application consists of pitching innovative projects in line with the grant’s goals. West Vernon is an applicant and if chosen, it will be one of 10 to 12 schools participating in the program nationwide.

“We’re breaking through the cycle of unhealthy living,” said Councilman Curren Price at Thursday’s launch, referencing that the grant could join a long list of initiatives his office has taken to improve access to nutrition and green space in his district. “When our kids are happy and healthy, our future is bright.”

[Read more…]

3 Worlds Cafe serves up food, social justice



Aqeela Sherills says his mission is “to provide a set of quality services, especially food.” The 3 Worlds Café, named for three of South Los Angeles’ historic ethnic groups, is a place for residents to gather, invest in and transform their neighborhood.

[Read more…]

South LA stunt pro sparks opportunity for protégés



La Faye Baker practices a car stunt. | Photo by Anna-Cat Brigida

La Faye Baker practices a car stunt. | Anna-Cat Brigida

La Faye Baker rolls up her cargo pants and slides on her kneepads. She pulls back the sleeves of her hoodie to secure her protective gloves. Without hesitation, she jumps on the hood of a silver SUV. She grabs the bar stretching across the roof and dangles her torso over the windshield. Her combat boots rest on the hood of the car as it kicks into gear. The car swerves, gently at first but revving up to 15 mph, as Baker thrashes around on the hood for about three minutes in a parking lot, practicing a stunt. When the car finally comes to a stop, she hops down, unfazed. Her gold eye shadow and shimmery lip-gloss show no signs of wear.

This is a typical day for Baker, one of Hollywood’s only Black stuntwomen for more than 25 years. Before Katniss Everdeen was the girl on fire, Baker was bursting into flames, flawlessly executing car stunts and performing fight scenes for movies such as Clueless and Fat Albert.

La Faye Baker | Photo courtesy of La Faye Baker

La Faye Baker | Photo courtesy of La Faye Baker

Nothing about Baker is timid. Not her job, her path to success, or her sense of style.

Instead of gaining household recognition through acting, her work is part of the Hollywood illusion. While action packed movies are typically associated with masculinity, Baker has filled the arena with girl power. In an industry where the #oscarssowhite, she breaks the mold.

Growing up in South Central, Baker lived on the peripheries of Hollywood’s entertainment business.

Instead of following the aspirational route of television commercials and movie extra roles, Baker performed in her own ways. At Crenshaw High School, she was a competitive gymnast and played basketball and volleyball. At 16, she landed a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for spinning 58 hula-hoops at one time after watching a group of girls hula-hooping in the park sparked a new hobby.

As she studied recreation administration at California State University, Long Beach, gymnastics became her focus but the cinema was always in the back of her mind. She briefly considered studying film, but instead followed her mother’s advice to pursue what she considered a more practical degree.

Baker took a job as a probation officer after college, even though she hadn’t completely shaken off her dream to work in entertainment.

There, a co-worker who worked part time as a stunt person introduced her to the world of dangling off the top of racing SUVs. Baker began attending training sessions. After working out with the group for a few months, she knew she had the style and ability to excel.

“I got flare,” Baker said. “I know that I can do this stuff.”  Baker became hooked on the excitement of driving fast cars and being lit on fire. With connections from her training group and her natural athletic ability, securing work came easily.

Since Baker’s first gig working in Atlanta for The Heat of the Night in 1988, she has worked as a stuntwoman or stunt coordinator in 47 films listed on IMDB. Baker estimates she has worked on more than 120 films total. Her credits include the Nutty Professor, Inspector Gadget and Baker’s personal favorite, What’s Love Got to Do with It, a 1993 film based on Tina Turner’s life and career. Baker has recently shifted her focus from starring in fight scenes to overseeing the process as a stunt coordinator.

Through all this success, she has still maintained her job working as a probation officer at a camp  in L.A. for young men in the juvenile justice system.

But Baker said she doesn’t let Hollywood get to her head. She rarely even watches the films that list her name in the credits. She still remembers hanging out with friends in the South L.A. neighborhood where she grew up and the scant opportunities for her to learn about the entertainment industry. She often drove across town for ice skating, tap dancing or skateboarding lessons.

“Being a minority and doing something that other people wish they could have done, it motivates me to keep moving,” Baker said. “I believe that if anybody else can do it, I can do it too.”

This philosophy propelled Baker into her career, and motivates her to encourage other young women and minorities. In 2005, she founded the nonprofit Diamond in the Raw to empower young women to pursue careers in the entertainment industry.

Diamond in the Raw participants at the annual Action Icon Awards | Photo courtesy of La Faye Baker

Diamond in the Raw participants at the annual Action Icon Awards | Photo courtesy of La Faye Baker

Among other programs, Diamond in the Raw organizes an 8-week summer “boot camp” to expose high school students to non-traditional entertainment industry career paths such as screenwriting, camera work and costume design.

Shammah Tatum expanded her knowledge of the entertainment industry when she participated last year in the program, which costs $150 per person. Tatum, a 19-year-old Compton resident and aspiring actress, learned the ins-and-outs of the entertainment industry by pitching, writing and producing a short film throughout the summer.

“It’s important that young people know that there is way more behinds the scenes work that you can be involved with,” Tatum said, listing editors, producers or stylists as lesser-known positions. “They may find that they have another talent.”

While acting is Tatum’s goal, her experience with Diamond in the Raw gave her a deeper understanding of myriad efforts that create a film. After the camp, she used her new skills interning as a production assistant and then as a casting assistant. Other participants have gone on to work as broadcast news reporters or camera technicians. Tatum credits the program with connecting her with an industry that rarely reaches into Compton, or her previous neighborhoods in Inglewood and Carson.

By working with women like Tatum, Baker aims to bring Hollywood into diverse pockets of greater Los Angeles, pushing more women and minorities to fuel blockbuster success — even from behind the scenes

“There are so many different people with different stories to tell,” Baker said. “Now is the time to open up and be a little more accepting of different viewpoints.”

Like Intersections on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and sign up for the Newsletter to stay in the loop on news and views from South L.A. Email reporter Anna-Cat Brigida [email protected] follow her @AnnaCat_Brigida.

A garden sprouts at South LA Library



RonFinley1

Lush greenery shades the street on Ron Finley’s parkway in South LA. | Marisa Zocco

From a tiny seed, a mighty garden may grow. This is precisely what Ron Finley is aiming for as he kicks off the development of his Vermont Square Library garden project in South Los Angeles.

Finley, a South L.A. native, plans to turn the library’s yard into an open-air library beginning May 28, complete with string lights and swings hanging from the trees. The transformation will coincide with L.A. Design Festival, running through June 14. During the time, tutorials will provide instruction on how to make Adirondack chairs out of palettes, graffiti artists will paint murals on giant panels, and movies may be shown al fresco. [Read more…]

Chef brings Caribbean flavors to South LA



By Diana Lee

Stuart Eubanks takes his post at the farmers market. | Who's Hungry Instagram

Stuart Eubanks takes his post at the farmers market. | Who’s Hungry Instagram

Every farmers’ market has its share of fresh produce and a selection of gourmet cheese, but chances are, you haven’t encountered Caribbean cuisine. A local chef is now making waves in South L.A. with his interpretation of many flavors in the islands.

Chef Stuart Eubanks has never been to the Caribbean, but is on a mission to bring the diverse flavors to Los Angeles after stumbling on a Jamaican restaurant years ago. Eubanks says his company, Who’s Hungry Food Solutions, is unique because it incorporates flavors from Jamaica, Cuba and Trinidad among other islands. [Read more…]

Mexicano restaurant opens in South LA



Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo (from left to right) | Photo courtesy of Mexicano restaurant.

Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo (from left to right) | Photo courtesy of Mexicano restaurant.

With the opening of their new restaurant, Mexicano, located in Baldwin Hills, chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu hope to immerse customers in Mexican culture, one burst of flavor at a time. The eatery has been in its soft opening since Feb. 27.

Colorful Mexican floor tiles lead patrons to the restaurant’s focal point: the kitchen. There is no partition between the kitchen and the dining room, so diners can observe the preparation of authentic dishes while surrounded by décor from the Mexican state of Jalisco.

“With the kitchen open, you are in contact with customers and they become a part of the preparation experience,” Arvizu said. “We try to get their five senses going. The smell, the sight of the ingredients, the touch and hearing. All of these are incorporated and bring you closer to the meal.”

[Read more…]

USC students and South LA residents unite with art



 

Wanting to satisfy artistic thirst and consume more of the local area’s taste, Michael Chang, a fine arts student, and Aaron Ashby, a cinema student, created Jukebox, a student-run art collective at USC that uses South L.A. for inspiration and presentation of their work.

“We came to USC as immigrants to this area,” said Chang. “We were transplanted here for college, and I think it’s important for students to understand the context of where we live.”

[Read more…]

Visionaries to showcase South LA innovations and activism Feb. 26



VoicesofSouthLA-Feb-Flyer

This week the University of Southern California will host a lively forum featuring social justice organizations in South Los Angeles.

Panelists Ben Caldwell, of Kaos Network, Karen Mack, of LA Commons, Javier “JP” Partida, of Los Ryderz and Neelam Shara, of Community Services Unlimited, will explore pioneering efforts to mobilize South Los Angeles and improve the quality of life for its community members.

The second in a two-part series, Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice, will take place at University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 6 to 7:30 PM. [Read more…]

All eyez on Tupac Shakur at Grammy Museum



An exhibit about the life and music of Tupac Shakur is on display at the Grammy Museum in Downtown L.A., called “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur.” The space reserved for Shakur showcases some of his own studio notes, handwritten lyrics, outfits, and music. Shakur, who was he was shot and killed in 1996 at age 25, changed hip hop through powerful song writing.

All Eyez On Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur will run through April 22. Visit the Grammy Museum at 800 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles. [Read more…]