LA County Office of Education forced Kedren Head Start closure, says Waters

Maxine Waters speaking outside the LACOE meeting on Tuesday. | Stephanie Monte

Maxine Waters speaking outside the LACOE meeting on Tuesday. | Stephanie Monte

Congresswoman Maxine Waters demanded a federal investigation of the L.A. County Office of Education on Tuesday, saying the office strong-armed the CEO of Kedren Head Start to give up its contract and close about 30 centers.

Kedren serves roughly 2,200 children at Head Start facilities located in South Los Angeles communities including Watts.

Waters told families and press gathered outside the Board of Education meeting in Downey that LACOE forced the President of Kedren, John Griffith, to make a decision in less than two hours.

“What they do is intimate the directors of these delegate agencies,” said Waters. “They tell them if they don’t give up their contract, that somehow it’s going to be even worse off for the program.”

See also on Intersections: Children’s Institute to take over Kedren Head Start centers in South LA 

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First person: Does my Watts neighborhood want me to get pregnant?

A college student asks why she gets so little support compared with young women who have children

Shanice Joseph and her mother

Shanice Joseph and her mother

If I were to get pregnant, I would know just where to go for help: the local offices of Women, Infants, and Children, the federally funded food and nutrition program; Planned Parenthood; and the Family Resource Center. All three are places where I stood in line for hours with my siblings as a child growing up in Watts. But finding local resources to pursue higher education is harder. As one of the few community college students living in Watts, I can’t find a place to print out an essay or get college-related advice.

When I ran into a friend who grew up in the same low-income housing development as I did, she said there was an easier way than to struggle through college. “You should get pregnant,” she told me. “Girl, the government will take care of you, trust me.”

I didn’t think much of her idea. But she was right about one thing: In my community, there are many resources for young parents, and barely any for college students. Just on my own block, I recently counted a total of five programs for mothers my age or younger.

Click to hear Shanice Joseph give an “audio intro” to her neighborhood, produced with Kerstin Zilm.

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First person: Thanksgiving without turkey?

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

As our family ate tacos and cupcakes on the occasion of my grandmother’s 65th birthday last week, my four-year-old brother Bryce—the youngest of the seven of us, four of whom were present—asked her, “Nana, what are we doing for Thanksgiving?”

He had a huge smile on his face while he waited for an answer, but my grandmother, with whom I live in Watts, and my mother and I all looked down in shame. No one wanted to be the one to tell him that we didn’t have anything planned for Thanksgiving. Or that we weren’t certain whether we would be able to come up with something.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of appreciation and celebration. If nothing else, it’s the one day out of the year when my entire family gets together at my grandmother’s house.  Normally, I work nights at LAX and go to school during the day at Long Beach City College, where I study sociology. Thanksgiving is a day off. My six siblings come over from my mom’s place in Lomita. Other relatives from far and wide make a point of getting back, despite how busy they are. [Read more…]

Sonic City: Watts

The iconic Watts Towers. | Willa Seidenberg

The iconic Watts Towers, July 2013. | Willa Seidenberg

Hit play for an audio snippet from Watts from Annenberg Radio News‘ “Sonic City” series: 

Also check out a slideshow of the Watts Towers by Willa Seidenberg.


Foundation pledges $5 million for Watts; Council members push to end street vending ban

November 6th marked the 100th anniversary of Exposition Park  (originally Agricultural Park) | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

November 6th marked the 100th anniversary of Exposition Park (originally Agricultural Park) | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A roundup of news stories about South L.A.:

Foundation pledges $5 million for Watts social/ educational programs (LA Times)

Council members push to end street vending ban (LA Times)

New Chicago Cubs manager hails from South Gate, Ca (LA Wave)

Man in custody after standoff in South L.A market (KTLA)

Memorial service for Emily Mason Ware

Memorial for Emily Mason Ware.  November 5, 2013.  Photo credit:  Karen Lin

Memorial for Emily Mason Ware. November 5, 2013. Photo credit: Karen Lin

A memorial service was held Tuesday for Emily Mason Ware at Grant AME Church. Ware was the second African-American woman deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County. After she retired, she got her degree in education and entered the teaching profession. Ware was 97.

When Ware was teaching at Jordan High School in Watts, she helped set up Project Jordan to help high school graduates who cannot afford to go to college. Wini Jackson worked with Ware for decades, and said Project Jordan offers more than financial assistance to recipients. [Read more…]

Growing up queer in Watts: What happens when school is still not a safe place


Watts Towers | Photo taken by Xochil Frausto

Watts Towers | Photo taken by Xochil Frausto

Discovering my sexual orientation in a violent, poverty-stricken environment was not easy. I remember the first time someone called me a “dyke” at Markham Middle School.  At that time I was a punk rocker, wearing ripped jeans and men’s shirts. I didn’t yet consider myself queer — or even really know what that meant — but I was already aware of homophobia. Not until junior year of high school did I begin to explore my identity. Jordan High was reflective of the area that I lived: It was dangerous. Race riots broke out between Latinos and Black students, and students were not welcoming of gays. I did not feel that teachers, administrators or counselors could support me. [Read more…]

LA approves $1B Watts revitalization project

Life in solitary: advocacy groups push to change security housing units

It was lonely, quiet, and constricting in the 8 by 10 foot security housing unit 4B where Armando R. Morales spent nearly 23 hours a day in isolation at Corcoran State Prison.

He entered the prison system at age 16, and for the last eight years of his life spent his term in a security housing unit, often referred to by advocacy groups as solitary confinement.

Bobby Morales

Armando “Bobby” Morales at 8-years-old. Click here to see more.

Morales was 29 years old when he hanged himself by a shoe lace and a blue blanket in his unit on August 28, 2012.

Armando Robert Morales, known as “Bobby” by his family, was one of 32 inmates in a California prison who killed himself in 2012.

He was housed in the Security Housing Unit, or “SHU” — a place where inmates are 33 percent more likely to commit suicide than inmates in regular cells, according to Dr. Raymond Patterson in a federal report.

Prisoners in the SHU are 2 percent of California prisons’ population, but make up 42 percent of suicides overall, according to a 2012 report by Amnesty International, a global human rights group.

Stories like Morales’ are one of the reasons that California Families Against Solitary Confinement are pushing the California prisons to change the way inmates in segregation are treated. [Read more…]

Transforming lives of Watts kids: one bike ride at a time

Javier Partida

Javier Partida, founder of Los Ryderz. | Astrid Solorzano

On Sunday, May 5, Javier Partida rode his bike around Watts with a group of 30 young adults that live in the area.

While approaching a red light at the intersection of 108th Street and Compton Avenue, Partida lifted his fist in the air to direct the rest of his bike squad behind him.

As the bikers behind him came to a stop, a man in a black Impala with tinted windows and silver rims stopped next to Partida.

“You’re doing a great thing for these youngsters, man,” the driver said. Partida nodded his head and replied, “I appreciate it, man. Good looking out.”

The light at the intersection turned green and the Impala sped off. “Everybody let’s go,” said Partida. “Don’t stay behind!”

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