Xinran Ji suffered fatal blows to head

Jonathan DelCarmen and Alberto Ochoa listen to witnesses give testimony as Rose Tsai, attorney for Xinran Ji's parents, watches from the audience. | Daina Beth Solomon

Jonathan DelCarmen and Alberto Ochoa listen to witnesses give testimony as Rose Tsai, attorney for Xinran Ji’s parents, watches from the audience. | Daina Beth Solomon

By Daina Beth Solomon, Celeste Alvarez and Olivia Lavoice

Xinran Ji died from swelling and bleeding inside his brain after being struck on the head at least six times with a blunt object, possibly a baseball bat, testified a L.A. County medical examiner Wednesday as prosecutors revealed evidence about the killing.

The 24-year-old from China was attacked last summer in an attempted robbery near his apartment, blocks from where he studied engineering at the University of Southern California.   

Deputy medical examiner Louis Pena said any one of six blows could have been fatal. Ultimately, the brain stem, which controls one’s breathing and heart rate, failed as capillaries ruptured and bled.  [Read more…]

Yo, Brother: Teach me to be Black

A powerful book and a community of elders help a

young man to learn “how to be Black so I could live.”


The author with his mother around 2000, the year he discovered "Yo, Little Brother" | Courtesy Christian Brown

The author with his mother around 2000, the year he discovered “Yo, Little Brother” | Courtesy Christian Brown

Last Saturday, Oct. 25, 600 Black boys and men congregated on the University of Southern California’s campus to learn survival techniques from Omega Psi Phi, a fraternity that originated in 1911. Among them was Christian Brown, who credits the group with providing him with the tools so he could grow up to be a professional Black man in Los Angeles, and in particular exposing him to a book he received from one of Omega’s elders called “Yo, Little Brother.”

I was halfway through my jog around my suburban Los Angeles neighborhood when a White police officer stopped me.

“Hey! Do you live around here?” he demanded.

I was angry with the police officer, but also wondered if some of the blame was mine. I had forgotten the 145-page book that taught me how to be Black so I could live. One of the key lessons: I should never run at night. [Read more…]

Los Angeles Times book festival comes to USC, not everyone happy

Original reporting by Smitha Bondade. Read by Emily Frost.


Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News story:


image For 10 years, the Festival of Books was held on UCLA’s campus in Westwood. Moving it to USC brings it closer to the city’s center and gives thousands of people a fresh look at South Los Angeles.

Beverly Kenworthy of the LA Chamber of Commerce says attendees will be surprised by how much the area has changed.

“The improvements and all the new construction and the new buildings, the new offerings for food and everything has been tremendous,” Kenworthy said. “It’s going to be positive not just for the businesses but for USC as well.

But some residents don’t think it will mean much for the local community. Clemente Franco at the South Central Neighborhood Council thinks lower-income and Latino families of the area are being excluded from the event.

“I think USC and the LA Times have done a poor job of making it accessible to get those folks involved,” Franco said. “And I don’t think USC is very inviting, although I think they give the appearance that they are, but I just don’t think they are.”

USC’s President Max Nikias expects a crowd of 150,000 to attend.

South Los Angeles residents remember 1992 riots

On April 29, 1992, Los Angeles erupted in violence following the announcement that white police officers involved in the beating of black motorist Rodney King were acquitted of charges of assault and use of excessive force. For six straight days, looting, violence, arson and death wracked urban Los Angeles as racial, cultural, and social tensions reached a peak.

Gladys Castaneda

Shopping malls and residences directly across the street from the University of Southern California’s campus went up in flames from the rioting. Gladys Castaneda has served at USC’s University Club for more than 27 years. She was in the neighborhood when the riots began in April 1992. Listen to her memories of that tumultuous time in an interview with Annenberg Radio News host Sarah Erickson.

Duane Earl

Duane Earl and his brother are the owners of Earlz Grill in South Los Angeles. The brothers started with a hot dog stand and were getting ready to open their first brick and mortar restaurant. Duane talks about the Grill’s first location when the riots hit. Rebecca Shoenkopf of Annenberg Radio News interviews.



Sika owns the store in Leimert Park. He tells the story of protecting his store Sika, which sells jeweler and African clothing and imports. Here he tells his story of how he kept his store safe with a little help from the neighbors.


Sandi Beamon

Sandi Beamon had a new born in 1992. The riots made her see her community in a different light.


Larry Weintraub

Larry Weintraub is one of the owners of Randy’s Donuts. The riots didn’t cross to the west side of the 405, but Weintraub was bombarded with something else – police officers.


Julius Dorsey

Julius Dorsey is the director of transportation for Watts Health Center. The riots didn’t stop him from doing his job.


Marcus Anderson

Marcus Anderson worked next door to a Korean liquor store that burned down – but not from what you would expect.


Jeffery Walls

Jeffery Walls remembers exactly where he was when the riots started.


Richard Speed, Jr.

Richard Speed Sr. lived in South Central in 1992. As he sees it, the riots were misdirected.

Giants fan remains in critical condition

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


Trenise Ferreira: Bryan Stow has been in a coma since he was brutally attacked outside of Dodger Stadium on March 31. He suffered a brain injury as well as a fractured skull. Doctors had to remove part of his skull to reduce the swelling. Stow’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Gabriel Zada, gave an update on Stow’s condition today at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medial Center.

image Dr. Gabrial Zada: “And he required a life-saving operation to decompress the brain and reduce the pressures, which was successful. However, since that time, he has remained in a comatose state, and our medical team has done and is doing everything to ensure that the most optimal outcome that is possible is achieved.”

Ferreira: Stow’s cousin, John Stow, was also at the news conference. He said the family does not hold this violent act against the people of Los Angeles. Instead, he thanks the community for its support in this difficult time.

Stow: “To know that people who have never met Brian that care so much about him and his well-being has truly been overwhelming.”

Ferreira: He also said that he hopes the men behind this attack will fess up to what they have done.

Stow: “I hope somehow deep in their heart or their friends or whoever it is that knows who did this, that they would at least have the courage to come forward now and face what they’ve done. It’s bad enough that they hit him, but at least come forward and have the courage to face the facts and face the book for what you’ve done here.”

Ferreira: Dr. Zada said by next week, they’ll have a better idea of Stow’s prognosis, but for now, it’s too early to tell. Dr. Zada also said the recovery will be very intensive, and that it’s possible there will be some brain dysfunction going forward.

Manual Arts student speaks at USC Annenberg

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

by Carla DeLeon

On December 4, 2010, I was selected from my journalism classroom to present my school’s newspaper article at USC. The program with which I was going with is called Youth Media Los Angeles Collaborative. In the auditorium there were about 100 people, everyone from all over LAUSD. I was happy I wasn’t going to be the only student presenting.

I didn’t have much time to prepare my presentation because I arrived about 25 minutes before the event started. This made me very nervous; I wasn’t exactly sure about what it was I was going to say. My mentor, Silva, helped me out with as much as she could and prepared a presentation with for me.

When the big day came, my mentor was directing people to the auditorium and helping others. While she did that, I was in the back with her laptop thinking of what exactly I would say for each slide of the Prezi. Silva wasn’t able to help me out as much as I wished she could because she couldn’t be at ten places at once, but thank goodness that my boyfriend Carlos, my friend Kerlie, and brother Marvin were there to help me out.

The event started at 11:15 a.m. A lady taking photographs was telling us to go inside the auditorium. Silva, Mike, and the director of journalism school, Geneva Overholser, began the event. After that, high school students and college students presented on women’s rights, Cesar Chavez, public matters, and more.

The whole time, I was counting down for when it would be my turn. I was a nervous wreck. I felt cold sweat running down my neck and I was shaking like an earthquake. Soon I knew I would go up to the podium. Carlos was telling me to relax and that it would be okay, but I didn’t want to listen. I believed it wasn’t going to be okay until I was home.

When my turn finally arrived, I went up on stage. The prezi Silva prepared malfunctioned. I figured I had already started everything wrong. After a few seconds the prezi started working so I began to talk about my article, which discussed teen suicides among gay, lesbian, and intersex students.

When all the presentations were over, the audience began asking questions. Public matters and Alejandra Cruz were receiving most of the questions so I figured I was safe because no one would ask me any questions. I was dead wrong. Out of nowhere, people began asking me questions.

But by the end of the day, I felt such a relief to be done with it. Even though I did have a few problems, such as forgetting what to say and not knowing how to answer the audience questions, I had a good time and the experience was amazing. Knowing I can present something in front of many people felt good and I can’t wait to do it again.

Recent poll finds Democrats not enthusiastic about this year’s election


Listen to the audio story:


LeTania Kirkland: This is sort of an unusual election year. How would you say that is?

Darry Sragow: Well, every election year is unusual. This one is unusual in part because we have a Democratic president who was elected with a lot of hope and a lot of votes, and who I think has disappointed a lot of voters, and the result is that there is a sense that the Democrats will not do well in the midterm elections. There’s a lot of precedent for that. It’s not unusual for the party of a new president to have a problem two years into his first term. That’s kind of a dynamic that people think they’re going to see here.

Kirkland: There was a theory that Democrats were not enthusiastic about this year’s election. How enthusiastic do you really think Democrats are?

Sragow: There was a statistical measure we use, which is we ask the folks in our polling how enthusiastic they are about voting. We give them a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most enthusiastic. And there was a gap in the September LA Times/USC poll on that measure between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats were less enthusiastic about voting. In the October USC/Los Angeles Times poll, there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats appeared between the middle of September and the middle of October to have gotten more excited collectively about the campaign.

Kirkland: In 1978, California opposed property taxes with Proposition 13, and in 1994, we had Proposition 187, which was sort of a rally against illegal immigration. Do you think there’s any common place where Californians are placing their frustration in this election?

Sragow: No, that’s a great question because when you ask Calfiornians is the state headed in the right direction or the wrong direction, 80 percent of Californians think the state is headed in the wrong direction. More than half of the people who said the state’s headed in the wrong direction, said they were disappointed. That’s why we’re not seeing people take to the streets, that’s why we’re not seeing a Proposition 13 or a Proposition 187 or a recall. I just think they are incredibly frustated and disappointed, so I think they’re sort of going, ‘I don’t know what my options are anymore.’

Former Obama supporters might vote Republican in next week’s elections

Listen to highlights from Obama’s speech Friday:


Groups that supported President Barack Obama in his bid for presidency two years ago are now swaying to vote for Republicans, according to a new CBS/New York Times poll released today.

Women, Independents and even low-income citizens are now more likely to vote for Republicans this mid-term election. But in the last weeks, Obama has traveled the states campaigning for Democratic candidates, attempting to convince voters to stay the course and repeat that the change he campaigned for in 2008 does not happen overnight.

Obama landed in Los Angeles last Friday to rally voters to head to the polls for Senator Barbara Boxer and the Democratic slate, drumming the same message. Boxer and an array of Democrats including candidate for governor Jerry Brown, candidate for state attorney general Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Obama at the University of Southern California.

With the backdrop of sunny skies, and an audience of 30,000 people, Obama addressed the crowd with the charisma and message of hope and change that launched him into the White House two years prior.

“You think, boy, we are not moving as quick as we want,” said the president amid cheers. “I understand that, but don’t let anybody tell you that our fight hasn’t been working. Don’t let them tell you that we are not making a difference. I need you to keep on believing. I need you to keep hoping. And if you knock on some doors and make phone calls and keep marching and keep organizing, we won’t just win this election. We are going to restore the American dream, for not just some, but for every, every, everybody in this great land.”

Obama encourages supporters to ‘Fight On’


imageAt 2:05 pm on Friday, President Barack Obama stepped to the podium placed on the steps of Doheny Library at the University of Southern California.

It was a much-appreciated moment, especially for the several cheering supporters in the crowd of an estimated 37,000 who had arrived as early as 6 am. President Obama’s initial plea for his audience to get “fired up and ready to go” was met with resounding applause.

The President’s speech concluded the Democratic National Committee’s “Moving America Forward” rally. Before the President took to the stage, there was a host of high-profile California Democrats: Sen. Barbara Boxer, Gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, Attorney General candidate Kamala Harris and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

With just 11 days before the midterm elections, the theme of the rally was vote and vote Democrat.

“It is up to us to move the country forward, to not stay on the sidelines, and to at least vote,” Kal Penn, a former actor and current campaign field worker, instructed the crowd.

Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s reform-minded District Attorney, who is running against Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley for Attorney General, echoed that sentiment, saying that the election proved a forum for discussion. “It’s about our voice, and we’ve got a lot to say,” Harris said.

During his 25-minute speech, President Obama emphasized the need to move forward, to avoid the mistakes of his Republican predecessors, and for the audience, to recommit themselves to what he called a “difficult task.”

He also warned the audience that a return to a Republican-dominated government was essentially a return to the past.

“We tried it, we didn’t like it and we’re not going back to it,” Obama said.

Using the metaphor of a car and driver, Obama argued that Republicans had driven the country into a ditch. Jokingly, he added, “[Republicans] can’t have the keys back, [they] don’t know how to drive.”

While most of his speech drew comparisons between the ideologies of the two political parties, Obama reminded his audience that change takes time, and with change inevitably comes dissent.

“But don’t ever let anyone tell you that our fight hasn’t been worth it,” said Obama. “Don’t let them tell you we’re not making a difference. Because of you, there are people here in California who don’t have to choose between getting treatment for their cancer and going bankrupt.”

“Fight on,” he added to the roar of the Trojans and against a backdrop of students clad in cardinal and gold USC garb.

imageFor the majority of the audience, Obama was the big draw to the rally. Supporters were adorned in “Yes We Can” T-shirts and Obama blankets.

Residents of the surrounding South Los Angeles neighborhood took special pride in having President Obama on their turf.

Sherall Preyer-Sumler, a South Los Angeles resident, attended the “Moving America Forward” rally because she still believes “Obama has a lot to offer us.”

“At USC, everyone can get to come and see him by bus, train or driving. It’s just a great location,” said Preyer-Sumler.

The choir from the Foshay Learning Center on South Harvard Boulevard sang for the crowd before the President’s appearance, and Crenshaw High School student Esaul Parra donned his military dress to stand on stage with the commander-in-chief.

For Preyer-Sumler, education was a key issue for Obama to address. Her 6-year-old daughter attends a charter school Lou Dantzler Preparatory Elementary on 53rd Street.

“I think it’s important that we have money to support schools more than anything else,” Preyer-Sumler said.

Education was also on the minds of several of the University of Southern California students in attendance.

“He promised to put so much money into education, and a lot of its been reallocated to things like Afghanistan,” said Jake Kennedy, a University of Southern California junior.

imagePilar Posada, a West Covina resident, spoke out against the economic downfall.

“[Obama] needs to take the economy a little more seriously and evaluate everybody’s necessities equally,” Posada said.

While concerns about Obama’s policies lingered, many in the crowd expressed great appreciation for the ability to witness a presidential speech.

Keith Baker attended the rally with his young son Kamal. Kamal perched on the barricade in order get a glimpse of Obama, a president he hoped would be in office “forever.”

“I’ll probably never see this again in my lifetime,” Baker said. “So any chance I get, it’s so important that we can share this.”

“Down for Life” explores one girl’s reality of life in a gang

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

LeTania Kirkland: I understand you were chosen for this role under unusual circumstances. What were they?

Jessica Romero: I was at school. I was going to Manual Arts High School in South Central. They were having a casting call at my school. Some lady asked me if I wanted to be in a movie, and I told her, ‘No, I’m cool, no thanks.’ Another lady came up and asked me about five minutes later. She was just like, ‘It’s a really good opportunity for you, so why don’t you just go?’ So then, I was like, ‘Alright then, I’ll go.’ So then I went, and they were asking all of these girls. There were a lot of girls in the auditorium, and they were lined up on stage, and they were going into this little room for about three minutes and coming out. It was my turn to go into the room, and I went in for about 20 minutes, and in those 20 minutes, they were just asking me different questions like, am I in a gang, have I ever been in a fight, have I ever started a fight. I just answered pretty honest, you know. And here I am, three years later.

Kirkland: And the reason why they were looking at high schools, they thought it would be better to choose kids from South Central because they do relate to the story. How did you relate to this character Rascal’s story?

Romero: At the time, I was more involved in gangs and stuff. I didn’t really have my priorities straight or anything. The character Rascal, she kind of discovered herself, too, in the story. At the time, that’s what I was going through. Now I’m 18, and thanks to this movie, I’ve kind of found my way, and I know exactly what to do with myself now.

Kirkland: And you said you know exactly what you want to do with your life now. What is that?

Romero: My dream is to be a marine biologist. That’s what I want to do with my life. Before, I didn’t really look forward to anything besides the day I was in. Now, I have goals and stuff that I want to do five, 10 years from now. I think Rascal goes through that. In our story, everything takes place in one day, but what I discovered in three years, she discovers in that one day.

Kirkland: This story was based on the actual writings of a girl at Locke High School. Do you feel like you did her story justice?

Romero: I met her a couple of times. She told us herself, ‘Wow, you guys did it right.’

Kirkland: Has being a part of this film changed your mind about the power of art and the effect it can have?

Romero: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of things out there, and a lot of different books and movies and poems. But it’s different when something comes straight from the heart, when something is real. That’s how our movie is. There’s no fancy stuff, no extra stuff. It’s just plain and real, and I think that’s what touches people.