South L.A.’s Martin Luther King Jr. park scores new sports field

MLK Jr. Elementary 5th grade class with community leaders.

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary 5th grade class with community leaders. | Stephanie Monte

A class of fifth graders from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in South L.A. excitedly rushed to score goals at the school’s new sports field on Thursday, just next door at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.

Councilmember Bernard Parks and representatives from the Department of Recreation and Public Works were on hand to announce the completion of a project that they say will provide a safe place for kids to play and exercise.

To hear comments from Parks and others, click play on an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

The bright green synthetic grass field measures 80 by 130 feet and is surrounded by fencing and two sets of bleachers. The construction cost about $650,000 from a special project fund. [Read more…]

Documentary on South LA rugby team receives a win

The documentary film, “Red, White, Black and Blue,” following students in a rugby program at a K-12 public charter school in South Los Angeles, won “Best Documentary” at the Idyllwild CinemaFest on Thursday.image

The film touches on the lives of 38 male and female high school rugby players, who participate in a rugby program at the Inner City Educational Foundation (ICEF) run by Director Stuart Krohn.

The rugby team traveled to New Zealand where they had the opportunity to learn about different cultures and dispel the negative views of South Los Angeles, while competing in rugby.

The program began ten years ago, and was started by Krohn, a former professional rugby player and English teacher. Over 4,000 students have been introduced to rugby through P.E. classes and after-school programs. Each year, 200 boys and girls compete on the tackly rugby teams, according to a statement by the ICEF Public Schools. Krohn organizes international trips for his players each year. Previous trips have allowed students to visit Hong Kong, England and South Africa.

“Rigby is a chance for our students to step outside the box and try something different. Our kids have the ability to suspend judgement and defy the stereotypes that other people might have of them,” said Krohn, in a statement.

The film will continue to appear in festivals around Southern California over the next several months. It will appear at the Pan African Film Festival at the Rave Baldwin Hills Plaza in Los Angeles on February 12, 2013.

For more information on the film, visit “Red, White, Black and Blue.”

Cricket team teaches sportsmanship in Compton

What looks like a weird game of baseball is really the game of cricket and its being played in Compton. The Homies & POPz, a local Compton team, has traveled around the world competing against more experienced players. Their matches can be challenging, but so is their bigger goal: giving young people a positive alternative to gangs and violence in Compton and South Los Angeles.

Cricket, formally nicknamed “the gentleman’s game”, is a bat and ball sport that originated in England in the early 16th century.

The Homies & POPz have received funding through sponsorships from various companies including Prudential Life Insurance, BUM Equipment, Tommy Boy Records and more.

In 1995, The Homies & POPz, originally called the LA Krickets, began to play at the Dome Village community for the homeless in Downtown Los Angeles. When the team was created by Ted Hayes, a homeless activist, and Katy Haber, a film producer, neither of them knew that it would grow into what it has become today.

imageHaber, who enjoyed the game of cricket, needed an extra player for a random weekend game and called upon Hayes, a fellow volunteer at the Dome Village. A newcomer to the game, Hayes stepped onto the field for his first time and began a love affair with cricket.

“I went out and played with the team and liked what I saw,” said Hayes. “But more importantly I liked the etiquette of the game and saw it as a tool to help change peoples lives.”

He came up with the idea to bring the game to the homeless community to teach the its members sportsmanship.

Shortly there after, the first all homeless and all-American cricket team was born and they began touring the world beginning with England.

In 1996, Haber and Hayes decided to expand their horizons and bring the game to Compton where they thought young people could benefit from the game that teaches proper etiquette and sportsmanship. They began by teaching a workshop on how to play the game at Willowbrooke Middle School. Some of those students grew up on the team and are still active on the green grassy fields. They love to play, but they also enjoy helping change the city’s negative reputation.

“We have given Compton in the last 15 years very good publicity,” said Hayes.

Team member Sergio Pinales has been playing the sport since 1997 and said that at first , he had never seen anything like it before.

“I like how they catch with their bare hands and not use gloves,” said Pinales, while taking a break during the game. “It was one of those things that caught my eye.”

Pinales, who grew up playing baseball in his front yard with his bare hands, says that cricket quickly became second nature.

“The thing that took the cake was that they told me that I could hit the ball in a 360 degree angle anywhere you want,” said Pinales. “That’s what sold me right there; I could hit anywhere on the field.”

Today the diverse group of men plays together in weekly Sunday matches at Woodley Park in Burbank.

The team has won the British Cup twice and a trophy from The LA Social Cricket League. In addition to this, the hub city team toured the United Kingdom in 1997, 1999 and 2001 sponsored by organizations such as British Petroleum, Channel 4,, Lashings and Maxim Magazine.

The Homies & POPz just recently traveled in February to play down under in Australia against local and university teams in Melbourne and Sydney.

“It was a great thing to go to Australia,” said Hayes. “But it has to happen more. It has to expand more and we need to get more of these young men involved and that is going to take funds.”

Haber says the Los Angeles Police Department has reached out to the team and wants them to teach them how to play the game in hopes to assist in their counter-terrorism program within the Muslim communities.

“We are just trying to open the eyes of people and tell them look there’s more to life than just gangsters out here,” said Pinales. “What we are trying to do is something for the future. Anything to make a positive step for anybody and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

A Look Inside the Ring

This article also appeared in the Toiler Times, the student newspaper of Manual Arts High School.

By Nestor Nunez

My sweat, the lights, and fear that’s inside my body. Knowing I am walking up the ring with no way out. The emotion I see in the audience faces makes me bashful, but when I listen, I hear the audience rooting for my name. I also see posters with my name on them. This scene takes my nervousness away and tells me that I’m in it to win it.

March 17, 2005, was just another ordinary day of school. My dad picked me up and said, “We’re leaving to go see your uncle fight for this event he is having.” When I heard the news I knew I was going to like it. When we arrived I saw the lights, I heard the music, saw the girls, and smelled the ring. This position was a new picture to me. My dad and I sat. There are two fights before my uncle enters the ring. I liked every piece of it. Everybody gets quiet and a theme song called “Eye of the Tiger” pops out. My uncle emerged all pumped up and waved at us.

By the second round, it was clear my uncle was the winner. “Knock Out by Francisco a.k.a. Pancho!” the announcer yelled. From that day I knew boxing was my new thing.

Joining boxing classes and having a personal trainer made me feel like a pro already. When I hear my trainer saying “We have a champ” I knew from that start I was going to do well in this career.

Now I had a new schedule, every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I’ll have training. On Wednesday I have sparing. Everyday my preparation gets harder and harder. Even though the trainings are tough I had to commit to my word and to my sport. I had about a year of training already preparing myself for an extraordinary event.

I’m in the locker room having my trainer helping me with my hand wraps and also advising me what to do and what not to. Training for five minutes before the fight gave me a cool sweat. “Nestor Nunez aka the Golden Boy, Jr.” the narrator says on top of the ring. I advance to the ring sweating, nervously seeing the people around me, and also my opponent. I see my family rooting for me. From the point I felt like Manny Paciao who is also my role model.

Hearing the bell and hearing the referee say “Fight,” felt like war just started. Walking to the opponent using every technique the trainer has taught me was actually coming in handy. It was third round. Hearing my opponent breathing hard I knew for a fact that he was tired. I had two minutes to take a break. Receiving water from my dad and my coach professionally telling me to stay balanced and to knock him out, felt like this match was all mine. One jab straight to his chin, seeing my opponent getting lightheaded I knew that one more punch it was over for him, and so I did. The match was over and the announcer said my name with joy and screaming “the winner”.

Boxing is the sport I mostly like and if people feel like this sport could be the right one for them, make sure you bring your heart and your “A” game.