Homecoming for Animo Inglewood alum running for state superintendent


TuckAnimoCharterMarshall Tuck, candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, checked up on Animo Inglewood Charter High School Thursday as part of his statewide bus tour. The campaign stop was extra special for Tuck, as he helped found the school in the early 2000s.

Take a listen to his visit in an audio piece for Annenberg Radio News:

Tuck and incumbent Tom Torlakson are in a tight race for the nonpartisan superintendent job, with Tuck up by three points in the latest poll. The race has crystalized divisions within the Democratic party over education reform.

Inglewood poised to revamp its streets and its image

The freshly renovated Fabulous Forum | Olivia Niland/Neon Tommy

The freshly renovated Fabulous Forum | Olivia Niland/Neon Tommy

Inglewood-based architect Chris Mercier sometimes likes to play a word-association game with people when he talks about the place he’s called home for the past decade:

“If I say to you, ‘let’s go to Inglewood,’ you probably don’t picture a city, do you?”

As an artist and partner at (fer) Studio, an architecture firm in Inglewood, Mercier is an outspoken advocate for revitalizing Inglewood—starting with a city-wide rebranding.

“You probably imagined four things,” said Mercier. “The Forum, Hollywood Park, rap music and crime.”

For some, Inglewood is a place better known for its past—as the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers for 32 seasons, site of the iconic Randy’s Donuts, and a ubiquitous name-check in ‘90s West Coast rap—than its current endeavors or future plans.

“The city has created income from these things,” said Mercier. “It’s created a brand that isn’t good branding.” [Read more…]

Will Forum be good for Inglewood business?

Many say the new Forum in Inglewood renovated by Madison Square Garden will turn out to be a rewarding investment — but will it benefit local businesses just as much as its new owners? Flip through the slideshow below to hear what locals have to say about The Forum’s possible impact on their businesses and community. (Click each photo to view the caption.)

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Update: Fracking controversy in Inglewood

The oil fracking method that is being used in the Inglewood oil field has been the source of controversy for the past few years.

South L.A. residents are finally seeing some government response to their concerns over fracking in Inglewood.

The oil fracking method that is being used in the Inglewood oil field has been the source of controversy for the past few years. Hydraulic Fracturing, or better known simply as fracking, is a drilling practice involving the pumping of immense quantities of water, chemicals and sand into the ground at very high pressure to break or fissure rock formations in the hope to access hidden pockets of oil and gas.  The Inglewood Oil Field sits between Culver City, Inglewood and Baldwin Hills — a community of 300,000 people — and at 1,100 acres it is the largest urban oil field in the country. [Read more…]

OPINION: IUSD is getting on my nerves

By Melissa Hebert, editor of 2UrbanGirls.com

The 2012 – 2013 school year started off with a bang. Inglewood Unified School District was in debt, employee morale was at an all time LOW, the state took us over and we got a state appointed administrator. Heading into the winter recess, shit hasn’t changed. It’s actually getting worse! image

What really has my panties in a bunch is the fact that IUSD, in an attempt to be more accommodating of all students, have made the following changes:
• Advanced Placement (AP) classes are now open to ALL students
• $0 funding for GATE

Why is this disturbing to me? AP classes are supposed to be hard to get into while GATE (a program I was in) is practically non-existent. Angie Marquez, who is over GATE, has explained to us time and time again the district has zero funds for gifted students. So wait, IUSD has ZERO funds for kids who are excelling in school, but if your child is dumb and falls into the basic, below or far below categories (based on their test scores) here is what is available, so ask your individual school about these services:
• access to AP classes
• $1,100 in outside tutoring services
• laptop computer
• free uniforms
• free backpacks
• free supplies

Why do basic and below average students have access to AP and magnet classes? Former State administrator Kent Taylor stated it was a form of “discrimination” to not allow all children to enroll in the classes, and it would be up to the child to remove themselves if the classes where too hard. Well how in the hell does Inglewood Unified School District expect to retain quality children if they don’t invest in their achievements? Why should children who earned a right to be in the class be forced to share space with someone who can barely read? It is no coincidence that if you attend any of the various advisory committee or school site meetings that the hispanic community has taken a visual AND vocal stand against what is transpiring on the IUSD campuses.

They protest, write petitions regarding the piss-poor job the staff and faculty are doing both in the class, the lack of hygiene in the bathrooms, lack of administrators present on campus, staff out getting their hair and nails done as opposed to working on-site, and guess what – the district is listening. As a direct result of their actions, several principals where put on notice by Taylor about their school’s behavior (take note Mrs. Baptiste over at Bennett-Kew). It is still unclear why the program coordinator over there is in charge of a multi-subject school although her credential is for single subject only, but I digress, it is sad when only a handful of African American parents are present and voicing their concerns on the lack of education IUSD is giving our children. Are we that complacent and afraid to speak up? Do we not care about our childrens future?

A word to the wise, if you have a smart child attending one of the many Program Improvement schools in the district, get them out of the Inglewood Unified School District as fast as you can! Wilder Prep is the best school in Inglewood and you have Environmental Charter on Imperial. If you are considering a path that includes private schools, A Better Chance is more than happy to help you out. Just ask your neighbors in Ladera.

A son heals through his mother’s love

Listen to an audio story from Anennberg Radio News:

Brandon Blackshire, 23 years old, has witnessed multiple murders in his hometown Inglewood. Since the murders his mother has been struggling to keep him from falling into a deep depression.

Click on the photograph below to watch a slideshow of Brandon Blackshire.

Community reacts to Fredrick Martin’s death

imageListen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

By Kunal Bambawale

Enough is enough. That’s the Inglewood community’s reaction to Fred Martin’s death.

Inglewood police say that Martin shooting was one of three unrelated incidents that night. Martin was the only one to lose his life, but five others were injured, including his eight year-old son, Tre. It’s the kind of senseless violence that has saddened Inglewood residents like Michael Washington.

“Every time gun violence occurs in a city, it’s one of those things that eats your heart a little bit. There needs to be more done.”

Fred Martin’s death has clearly touched a nerve in the Inglewood community. But it’s unclear whether this will lead to lasting reform. For now, the only reminder of Fred Martin’s bravery is that Tre is still alive.

For more information, watch ATVN’s story on the $10K Offered in Inglewood Dad’s Death

Inglewood Cemetery will host public viewing of music legend Etta James

Deceased legendary singer Etta James will return to South L.A. one final time for a public viewing, her family said on Tuesday.

The public viewing will take place Friday evening at the Inglewood Park Cemetery Mortuary (located on West Manchester Blvd). The viewing is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

imageInglewood Park Cemetery Mortuary. Courtesy of Inglewood Park Cemetery’s website.

A private funeral for family and friends is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena, according to spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger.

James was born in South L.A. but moved to Riverside, California with her family. She died at a hospital in Riverside surrounded by her family. James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to The Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Today, Wednesday, would have been James’s 74th birthday.

Inglewood restaurant offers meat-free meals in a sea of fast food options

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageLatisha Jordan stands in front of the grill at Stuff I Eat heating up some tortillas.

“I’m making mixed tacos,” she explains. “There’s wild rice and tofu mixed together, with S.I.E. [Stuff I Eat] sauce and with medium, mild, or spicy salsa, and then kale with carrot mango dressing.”

Jordan works for her aunt and uncle at Stuff I Eat, the only vegan restaurant in Inglewood with her cousin Danielle Horton. Both cousins are vegan for health reasons.

Horton went from a size 18/22 to size 8 after giving up meat, she says. “It was seeing my family members, my mom, my dad, some of my cousins, all overweight, having diabetes, high blood pressure at an early age, I was headed in that direction.”

The Center for Disease and Control reports that the African American community has an obesity rate of 36 percent, which is higher than either Hispanics or whites.

Horton saw an alternative in her aunt and uncle, Ron and Babette Davis, who opened Stuff I Eat in 2008. They see themselves as missionaries of a vegan diet in a neighborhood full of fast food restaurants, she says.

“People were always saying why did you guys open up in Inglewood? You guys would make a killing in Santa Monica or Venice, but we live here, so we thought this would be a good place to have a healthy alternative for our community,” Horton says.

Not everyone in the community is convinced.

“We’ve had people walk in and walk right out,” Horton says. “But a lot of it is still it’s the breaking through the habits and traditions that have been passed down. That’s the big main challenge. People think they can’t live without meat.”

Customer Makeda Cowan is trying to learn to be a strict vegetarian for health reasons, but she says the food also just tastes good.

“My favorite when I come is the something-something, which is a variety of almost everything, and I like it spicy,” Cowan says. “The community needs it. There’s too many people sick and obese, and it’s because of fast food, not knowing what to eat. It’s old school to me, it’s how I grew up. I didn’t have my first burger until I was 22 and I didn’t like it.”

Vegans still may be rare in the African American community, but Stuff I Eat has found its niche. It is opening an event space next door to the restaurant in 2012.

Inglewood garden grows more than just food

When Frank Scroggins helped his family grow cotton, corn and watermelon on a few acres of farmland during the tail end of the Great Depression in Shreveport, Louisiana, he never thought he would find himself a small-space grower in concrete-laden Inglewood. image

For nearly four decades, Scroggins, 77, has maximized his small, half-acre yard to grow heaps of tomatoes, peas, mustard, chard, cucumbers, turnips and his favorite three varieties of collard greens. Several months ago, he took part in launching the Queen Park Learning Garden across the street from his home.

“I prayed to God for something like this to happen,” said Scroggins. “It’s hard to get kids interested, but we want to get more young people involved.”

imageScroggins and his Queen Street neighbors considered the idea of a community garden for years, although the nearby park was a challenge because of its rundown facilities. In March, they got their chance: Queen Park received a makeover with new playground equipment from KaBOOM!, a Disney-sponsored nonprofit that creates playgrounds in low-income residential areas.

“Our model is to partner with people who want it,” said D’Artagnan Scorza, director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, which provides gardening resources to Inglewood residents. “I don’t want us to run gardens. I want people to run these gardens for themselves.”

A core group of 15 Inglewood residents manages the Queen Park Learning Garden through weekly committee meetings, events and maintenance schedules. The committee’s event on Earth Day drew nearly 300 guests, 20 of whom signed up for committee involvement.

Despite a rich, agricultural past, Inglewood is one of many communities identified as a food desert: an area which lacks adequate access to fresh produce and instead, offers an abundance of liquor stores and fast food restaurants. Now with a population of 130,000, Inglewood was incorporated in 1908 with most of the land used for farming through the 1930s. After the Great Depression, most farmland gave way to industrialization and buildings that still stand along Manchester Boulevard.

By the time Scroggins arrived in 1974, he was the exception to the rule for growing his own food. Now, he hopes more residents will take part in the practice through the Queen Park Learning Garden.

“[My children] go with me on Saturdays to water, and my two-year-old loves that because he always likes to hold the hose,” said Maygan Marie-Orr, an Inglewood resident, teacher and committee member. “They have a good time trying to identify the plants, like, ‘Oh, that’s squash. Those are peppers.'”

Marie-Orr and the committee are designing a curriculum to engage students in the entire process of growing food: preparing soil, planting, maintenance and harvesting for maximum yield. So far, they have grown more than two dozen varieties of vegetables and herbs. image

Los Angeles County is home to 73 community gardens, most of which serve gardeners who have annual incomes below $25,000, according to the UC Cooperative Extension Common Ground Program, which trains gardeners to provide nutrition and growing education to low-income areas. They report that 64 percent of their gardeners make less than $15,000 per year.

“There will always be a much greater need than all of our collective agencies and efforts that are made out there,” said Yvonne Savio, Common Ground Program manager. “But more is always better when it comes to lots of information and helping people.”

The Common Ground Program was created in 1978 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified 20 major metropolitan cities that would use funding to help low-income communities grow their own food. The funds for Los Angeles went primarily toward establishing the Common Ground Program and ten low-income housing developments that contained community gardens. When Savio was hired in 1994, most of the housing development gardens had dwindled to non-existence due to lack of maintenance, and federal funding had steadily decreased over the years.

However, agency-funded assistance isn’t always what community members may desire for improving their food system.

“People always talk about low-income communities wanting to rely on welfare and handouts,” said Scorza. “But I always know that’s a misnomer or a misunderstanding of what’s really going on in these communities. Most communities do want help, but they want help so that they can do it for themselves.”

Still, free food programs remain the prime way residents of food desert communities receive fresh produce. As of the 2010 Census, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that one in seven Americans receive food stamps, totaling 44.2 million recipients. In February 2011, more than 9.7 percent of California’s roughly 37 million residents received food stamps.

The Los Angeles Food Bank provides food for those who may not qualify for food stamps but still lack adequate funds or access to food. Through a partnership with the nonprofit Feeding America, the bank provided more than 62 million pounds of food last year, 20 percent of which came from central California farmers. However, the program has to formally team up with urban growing programs.

“It’s definitely something that could reduce the dependency on food banks and pantries if we can get more of these out there,” said Darren Hoffman, communications director for Los Angeles Food Bank. He noted that the 14-acre South Central Farm, which used to sit across the street from the bank, was a promising source of sustainable food production until it closed several years ago after a change in land ownership. The farm has since relocated closer to Bakersfield.

“We’re looking into more ways to find more sustainable ways for people to get their food, but it’s tough to try to find that time and synergies where we can link with this or that group or get more people out there growing their own food,” said Hoffman, adding that policy changes are often more effective on a large scale than individual projects.

Even though small-scale gardening groups continue to crop up across food desert neighborhoods, policy groups, too, are slow to integrate with these initiatives.

“Unfortunately, I am not aware of any relationship between the effectiveness of urban farming initiatives and the federal nutrition programs,” wrote Matthew Sharp, a senior advocate with California Food Policy Advocates, in an e-mail. “There isn’t much connection between our policy work and the impressive, neighborhood-level garden and urban agriculture projects.”

So far this year, the organization has proposed several state bills to improve nutrition education in underserved communities, such as the Putting Breakfast First Act, which would provide $350 million to California public schools to offer healthy breakfast as an alternative to sitting on an empty stomach until lunch time or snacking on junk food in between.

Large-scale programs aside, community gardeners insist that small-scale initiatives are the most effective way to educate about nutrition and health on an individualized basis. image

“Community buy-in is number one,” said Marie-Orr, who pointed out that the desire for healthier nutrition standards has been a regular conversation topic in her Inglewood neighborhood. The Queen Park Community Garden is only a few months into operation, but several vegetables are being harvested, such as beets, lettuce and several herbs.

“When I get a garden, then I’m going to grow strawberries everywhere and then pick them and eat them,” said 3-year-old Brooklyn Milliner, whose mother brings him to Queen Park to play now that the playground has been renovated.

Longtime neighbors like Scroggins were not accustomed to seeing the no-smoking signs and colorful murals that now stand prominently at Queen Park.

“If we can just keep the gang bangers out of here, this park can be for the kids,” said Scroggins, who recalled that a young man was shot and killed in front of his home a few years ago. “To tell you the truth, it’s been nicer here since they put in the whole park.”