Seeking bonds between South LA and LAPD

By Arielle Samuelson 

Rep. Karen Bass meet with Angelenos in South L.A. after asking for suggestions to improve police-community relations. |  Arielle Samuelson/Neon Tommy

Rep. Karen Bass meet with Angelenos in South L.A. after asking for suggestions to improve police-community relations. | Arielle Samuelson/Neon Tommy

Congresswoman Karen Bass, from California’s 37th District, flew from Capitol Hill to Ferguson, Mo. to a South Los Angeles church last Saturday to gather a flock of concerned citizens in a town hall meeting to discuss new policing reforms for better relations between community members and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Two lines stretched down both sides of the church and Bass was kept an hour over schedule in order to hear every person who wanted to offer suggestions to improve police department behavior in the community. [Read more…]

OPINION: Brother’s Keepers & #WhiteMenMarching while LAUSD makes school tougher

Obama may aim to help young men of color through his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles the school district is raising its high school graduation standards — and will need to make a concerted effort to help its most disadvantaged students.

Young Men of Color forum | Sikivu Hutchinson

Men of Color College Forum at Gardena High School | Sikivu Hutchinson

According to GOP Congressman Paul Ryan, an insidious “inner city culture” has prevented “generations” of “inner city” men from seeking jobs. Evoking the ghost of the GOP past, present and future, shiftless lazy black men with no work ethic are to blame for the high rates of unemployment in the U.S.’ ghettoes. Ryan’s comments were no doubt a desperate attempt to stay relevant and on message after not receiving an invitation to be grand dragon (marshal) of the “nationwide” White Man March.

A few weeks before Ryan trotted out his Black Pathology 101 thesis, President Obama announced that the administration would spearhead a “Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address the dire socioeconomic conditions confronting young men of color. A central focus of the initiative is improving college-going rates for African American and Latino young men, who lag behind women of color in college admissions. Another is reducing Black and Latino mass incarceration.

See also on Intersections: Obama announces My Brother’s Keeper for young men of color

[Read more…]

South LA could get Promise Zone funding in Obama’s 2015 budget plan

Obama | The White House

Obama discussed the 2015 budget at an elementary school in Washington D.C. | The White House

President Barack Obama released his 2015 budget proposal on Tuesday, revealing a plan to create 40 new “Promise Zones” nationwide — a major bump from last year’s designation of just five. As a low-income neighborhood, South Los Angeles stands to benefit, said Rep. Karen Bass.

“I’m thrilled by the resources he’s putting in,” she said. “In regards to South L.A., he’s calling for the establishment of 40 more Promise Zones, so that could really increase the possibility that an application from South L.A. would be successful.”

Last year, Obama passed over South L.A. in selecting neighborhoods eligible for funding that could improve education, housing and public safety. Instead, he picked L.A.’s Pico-Union, Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood and Hollywood neighborhoods. The move left some L.A. leaders and activists feeling that South L.A. had been neglected. [Read more…]

First person: Why I should get in-state tuition as an undocumented student

Obama offered me protection from deportation and the chance to get a job — But what about my education?

My Graduation

Miguel pictured with family at his high school graduation in June 2012

I am told I crossed the border to the United States when I was 2 years old, sitting in the back of a car. But my earliest memories are of South Los Angeles — of my parents staying up until midnight and then waking up every weekday and on Saturdays at 3:00 a.m. to check on the tamales and boil water mixed with maizena, blocks of chocolate and cinnamon, for champurrado, a traditional Mexican corn-based drink. My dad would load his yellow vendor tricycle with a huge olla , or pot, of tamales, utensils, and the freshly made champurrado. My mom would fill a grocery cart with the prepared foods, which she would push as she walked my sister and me to elementary school.

That changed the fall of my senior year in high school. My parents told me they were moving because they feared for their lives. They had reported to the police that a gang member was extorting money from them. When the gang member found out, he threatened to kill them. My parents wanted me to move with them, but I chose to stay to finish high school because I believed there were more opportunities for me in California as an undocumented student. The day before I sat for the SAT, I said goodbye to my younger siblings and my parents.  My father started to cry when I hugged him; I think that was the first time I saw him cry — and it made me cry. I then entered my house alone and lay on my bed until I fell asleep. [Read more…]

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.

Emotional roller-coaster at Community Coalition´s election voting party

By Patrick Thelen
Associate Editor

South LA residents watching the elections at Community Coalition’s headquarters

The long, exhausting and grueling presidential campaign is finally over. Barack Obama has been re-elected and his supporters woke up this morning feeling happy, relieved and at ease.

Last night, emotions weren´t as peaceful among some President Obama supporters. In an electoral viewing party held by Community Coalition, South LA neighbors came together to watch CNN’s coverage of the election.

“How are they doing?” These were the first words asked by a woman arriving to the party with her teenage daughter at 6:50 p.m.

“It´s tight,” was the response she received.

“Oh, that´s not good. I’m worried.”

She wasn´t the only one feeling that way. There was a tense atmosphere among the people watching the coverage at Community Coalition´s headquarters.

“I want Obama to win but it looks like a tight race. We´re at the edge right now. It´s like we´re walking on a tight rope,” said Francisco Pérez. “Whatever happens,” he added, “we´re going to have to deal with it.”

At 7:00 pm, a number of people cheer when they hear that CNN has projected President Obama´s victory in New Hampshire. 15 minutes later, CNN reporters say that Democrats hold onto Senate majority. The mood is beginning to change. People are starting to loosen up and some are even making a couple of jokes. Others decide to stand up and begin eating the food offered by Community Coalition.

It´s 7:20 pm and Rose Davidson is still feeling worried and anxious. “I´m very nervous. It doesn´t look good in some states,” she said. “I´ll feel bad if Obama loses. A lot of things will change. It´ll be hard for us.”

Katy Nixon enjoying the food at the election voting party

Katy Nixon is sitting next to Rose. Both of them were born in Belize, and arrived to the United States in the early ‘70s. They’ve been friends for over 20 years. “If Obama loses it´ll be hard for the 47 percent of us Romney criticized. He doesn´t know much about living from one paycheck to another paycheck,” said Katy. “For my part,” she added, “I´m just praying for Obama to be re-elected. I have my confidence in God. He´ll put Obama back there.”

At 7:44 pm, people begin cheering when CNN projects that President Obama has won Minnesota. 11 minutes later clapping sounds fill the room as they find out that Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race.

At 8:00 pm, a large cheer is heard as the community learns that Obama has won California, the biggest and most populous prize of the night, which carries with it a whopping 55 electoral votes. Only five minutes later, the loud joviality turns into silence when CNN projects that Mitt Romney has won North Carolina.

Mirna Márquez and her daughter Jocelyn

Mirna Márquez is not as nervous and excited as some of the other community members. “I voted for Obama,” she says in Spanish, “but I am sad because he has not done what he promised in 2008. I have not seen changes. Everything is the same.”

Jocelyn, Mirna’s 11-year-old daughter who studies at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership, doesn´t care who wins. “Why is everyone so nervous about this?” she asked.

As these words came out of her mouth the room was filled with cheering, yelling and cries of happiness. It was 8:15 and CNN informed that President Obama had won the elections. “Everybody´s going crazy,” Jocelyn said, as she observed the members of her community. “You have to write that down in your article,” she added.

Post-victory comments

María Muñiz, a young member of the Latino community said “I am super excited right now. I support Obama’s views on birth control, and I am glad that I will have the freedom to choose what to do with my body.”

JoeAnna Fulton was also glad about President Obama’s victory. “I am happy that Romney didn´t win because he got on my nerves.”

Katy Nixon, the senior citizen that Intersections had previously talked to, was delighted. “I´m feeling happy. Things are going to be progressing now. President Obama will have four more years to make things better for whites, blacks, rich, poor, everybody. You know what, I´m going to have a good night’s sleep.”

Obama teacher vs. Obama chicken & waffles

$75,000 Educator Investment vs. $8.90 Obama Three Wing special

imageApple Distinguished Educator Daphne Bradford

When I donated $15 to enter the “Obama, Clooney & You” dinner lottery, I knew a Super Star educator like myself had a slim chance of winning dinner with President Obama at the mega glitzy home of George Clooney.  Although the anticipation of hopefully winning was kind of fun, I understood losing against the odds on that one.  But when I read the accompanying TMZ and Huffington Post news reports about Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles renaming my favorite “#9 Country Boy” to “Obama’s Special” in honor of an unscheduled visit the commander-in-chief made on October 24, 2011, my hope of meeting the president during his next Los Angeles trip was instantly renewed.

I felt, deep in my soul, there has to be a HUGE possibility for President Obama to make a scheduled visit to meet the most innovative Obamateacher in nation and the history,the student-led, Barack Obama Digital Media Team at Crenshaw High School.  After investing personal money, priceless overtime and raising more than $75,000 dedicated towards implementing four years of President Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” in education, I firmly believe the “man of HOPE” I voted for in 2008 would give me and my amazing students the same $8.90 Roscoes’ Chicken and Waffles visit if the opportunity presented itself.

Well, I guess God’s ears heard me because on June 7, 2012 President Obama is schedule to attend a View Park, California $2,500 – $40,000 per couple fundraiser that’s five minutes or less from Crenshaw High School; probably close to the same distance as Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles was from the October 24, 2011 fundraiser hosted by Will & Jada Smith.

Just as the Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles visit endorsed the president’s support of small businesses, a Crenshaw High School visit with the Barack Obama Digital Media Team will support his “everyone deserves a fair shot at a first-class education” anthem. The $75,000 plus investment in the commander-in-chief’s 21st Century innovative education blueprint has produced amazing students who are Apple certified technology geniuses, budding Microsoft game designers, Let’s Move! High School gardeners and first time teen authors of Journey to the White House:  An Educational Blueprint for Change in Action.  Every where we go people are more than happy to record video messages to POTUS asking him to check us out.  Hopefully he will listen.  We have a book already signed and waiting for President Obama to accept.

imageThe Crenshaw Digital Media Team

The first of its kind, the Crenshaw High School Barack Obama Digital Media Team has carried the Obama name since the 2009 inauguration, years ahead of the Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles $8.90 Obama’s Special.  Beginning in the 9th grade, the four years strong digital media team will graduate a week after the president’s June 6th-7th visit to Los Angeles.  These career and college bound students will also exercise their right to vote for the first time on November 6, 2012.

Mr. President, how about making a scheduled visit to Crenshaw High School on your way to breakfast on June 7, 2012?  Let a dedicated educator and her students have a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles chance at meeting you.  I’m easy to reach:  db4obama[at]

Is the President’s new drug policy just more of the same?

imageListen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s new Drug Control Strategy for 2012 recommends roughly equal spending on treatment and punishment.

It allocated $10.1 billion on prevention and treatment; $9.4 billion on law enforcement and incarceration; $3.6 billion on drug interdiction; and $2.1 billion on international programs.

Meghan Ralston of Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization advocating marijuana legalization and de-criminalization of other lesser drugs and amounts, was underwhelmed. “It’s essentially been the exact same allocation of funds, the exact same approach, since the days of Nixon. So it’s really just the same old, same old.”

Ralston thinks Gil Kerlikowske, the President’s drug czar and head of the ONDCP, and the Administration are trying to do the right thing, but they’re going about it from the wrong direction.

“The policies that are in place at the federal level, and the rhetoric that’s happening at a federal level, is really inconsistent and out of touch with what a lot of the American people want and what a lot of American people need and really the direction the rest of the country is headed.”

With polls showing overwhelming support for medical marijuana, Ralston said, there’s a big disconnect between federal policy and popular will.

Kerlikowske has been touring the country to tout the new strategy. He held a news conference at Los Angeles’ First African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the West Adams district, to highlight a portion of the community-based approaches the administration thinks may be more effective at the local level. The Drug Free Communities Support Program offers small grants to community groups that address youth substance abuse.

Standing in the church’s sunny garden, Kerlikowske said local faith organizations reach more people regularly than he could possibly reach himself. “These are the folks that touch people every single day.”

He also said the new strategy will take into account the rising scourge of prescription drug abuse. “It was just a few years ago that no one talked about the problem of prescription drugs. Now prescription drugs take more lives in this country than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.”

Whether the new strategy will be any more effective in combatting this and other forms of drug abuse than prior attempts remains to be seen.

Additional information can be found here.

OPINION: Do something

By Paula Minor

imageLast September, someone called my house and left a message about attending an Obama campaign meeting. I got the message and decided to ignore it.

Over the next few days I noticed that my friends and I were constantly complaining about the negative political rhetoric we saw on TV and online. I took a step back and realized that I needed to stop complaining and do something.

I’ve always felt the call to do something for the greater good. I first felt the call over 40 years ago when I participated in the Civil Rights Movement in my small college town. I joined student organized protests and marches against racial segregation and discrimination.

Our first protest involved hundreds of students crowded in my college’s Chancellor’s office. The Chancellor refused to meet with us or hear our concerns and called the police to remove us. The police told us that students who were still present after 5pm would be arrested and expelled from the college–yellow school buses arrived, ready to send a caravan of students to jail.

As time went by, I witnessed many students leave in fear, followed closely by my friends and family. As my cousin walked out, he warned that my mom would be upset with me. That warning was more worrisome than the threat of arrest and expulsion, yet I still stayed to protest–somebody had to stand up and do something on behalf of all African American students.

5pm came and went. We were arrested and expelled for fighting for our rights.

Months later, our charges were reduced and we were reinstated in school. The school also agreed to end the discriminatory policies we were protesting.

Nowadays, I am retired and the grandmother of eight. African Americans, and especially those who are retired like me, should give some time and volunteer for the Obama campaign. We should serve as role models and share our story with the next generation of organizers. Together, we will reelect the President this country needs.

Just do something. I am ready to help, to make that personal sacrifice, and to stand up for something important again. Join me today and do something.

Obama campaign offering field organizer training