Healthcare fair comes to South LA

Volunteer Carmen Abalos enjoyed a healthy snack during a break.

Volunteer Carmen Abalos enjoyed a healthy snack during a break.

Los Angeles Trade-Tech College was abuzz with crowds, booths, colorful displays, food, and games being played under large white tents last Saturday afternoon. In one corner, children bounced in an air-filled castle, taking occasional breaks to drink bottled water and eat fruit cups. The adults moved from table to table, chatting, carrying reusable shopping bags filled with paperwork and hand sanitizer.

In spite of the carnival-like atmosphere, the event’s purpose was serious: to provide hundreds of L.A.’s lowest income families with healthcare before the day’s end. [Read more…]

Community seeks environmental study for South LA oil site

A packed house turned out at City Hall to discuss plans for the Budlong drill site. | Matt Tinoco

A packed house turned out at City Hall to discuss plans for the Budlong drill site. | Matt Tinoco

More than 150 Angelenos showed up at City Hall on Tuesday to voice concerns about oil giant Freeport McMoRan’s plans to expand operations in its urban-drilling facility located in South L.A. near the University of Southern California.

A room on the 10th floor of City Hall was filled with a sea of Angelenos from various walks of life, ranging from the working-class residents of apartment buildings bordering the facility to committed ecological warriors residing in Hollywood Hills.

Their collective demand was simple: Require a full environmental impact report before permitting the oil company to proceed with its plans for expansion. This meeting had been organized to allow the public to direct comments to Maya Zaitzevsky, associate zoning administrator for Los Angeles.

See also: West Adams neighbors seek to oust oil production [Read more…]

Timeline: South LA protests of the Ferguson decision

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LA marches from Leimert Park to Downtown after Ferguson decision

By Faith Miller, Emily Thornburg, Heidi Carreon and Rebecca Gibian

Protesters shut down the 110 freeway as police officers surrounded them. (Charlie MacGovern/Neon Tommy)

Protesters shut down the 110 freeway as police officers surrounded them. | Charlie MacGovern/Neon Tommy

As the clock ticked down to the grand jury announcement regarding the shooting of Mike Brown, the nation geared itself. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon already declared a state of emergency almost a week ago. NYPD had been monitoring protestors in Union Square all day. Police officers in Philadelphia scanned social media to keep track of planned rallies. Although LAPD announced that it would “facilitate” peaceful protests, Chief Charlie Beck made sure Twitter followers knew “LAPD would not tolerate acts of violence or vandalism.”

In Los Angeles, where the memory of Ezell Ford has far from faded in the minds of some residents, a Facebook event pointed people to Leimert Park at Spring and Crenshaw. A crowd of about 100 people gathered to hear the grand jury’s announcement and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson.

View more images from Neon Tommy photographers Charlie Magovern and Benjamin Dunn.

“Hands up, don’t shoot, hands up, fight back,” chanted members of Fight for the Soul of the Cities, a grassroots organization. Throughout Leimert Park, people raised their hands in memory of Brown as LAPD officers watched from the edge of the park. The scene was calm compared to a rally against police brutality held in the exact same park just three months ago.

But when the announcement came that Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted, there was hardly a shift in mood as people continued to chant and hold signs protesting police brutality. Jaymes Barnett, a protestor, believed that the grand jury’s decision to not indict Wilson will “add kindling to the fire” and lead to more meaningful conversations surrounding the issues regarding Ferguson.

“But America seems to have a problem with being real to itself,” Barnett says. He says that although people talk about social issues amongst themselves, many of them aren’t prioritized. People yelled, but they didn’t riot.

“I’m glad there’s no violent protest,” said Derrik Lewis, who says he is Brown’s relative, “Just came out here to see who came out, happy to see that people are coming still.”

Lewis says he hopes people will talk more about “unison for everybody,” and work to improve issues such as racism and police brutality in the coming months.

Later in the night, protesters began peacefully marching from Leimert Park to downtown Los Angeles, gaining more and more supporters as the march went on.

Nicole Lamar started marching in Baldwin Hills. She said the decision not to indict Officer Wilson was not surprising, but still a “slap in the face.”

“As black people, we know our bodies have no value in this country … you just never get used to it, you know?” she said, not slowing her stride. She had already been walking for three hours.

“It’s not that you’re shocked, you know it is going to happen because you know this country doesn’t care about black people. It never has, since we came here and built the country for white people, established our wealth, established this system that we are now trying to fight, we’ve never meant anything to anyone.”

Nadia Khan, another marcher, also said she was not surprised, but she was angry. She explained the march allowed Los Angeles to show solidarity.

“This is people power, this is exactly what coming together is all about,” she said. “I don’t think we should not feel angry, I just think, what do we do with our anger.”

The march continued until the 110 Freeway, where marchers climbed a hill to gain access to the freeway and stopped traffic going both north and south. Police began to surround the protesters as many laid or sat down on the pavement. The police then declared the protest unlawful, and said protesters had five minutes to get off the freeway or the police would have to start arresting people and using force. Many protesters remained on the freeway, holding their hands in the air and standing in front of the police lines.

Eventually, everyone was pushed off the freeway and back down the hill. There, the police announced the protest on the street was unawful and people were given another five minutes to disperse. Hundreds of police officers lined up, slowly walking towards the crowd, many of whom stayed put, continuing to either hold hands or put their hands in the air. The officers walked slowly, moving in on the remaining protesters.

As they moved down the street, some officers went ahead and lined the sidewalk. All were dressed in protective gear and all were carrying firearms.

Protesters began yelling at the officers, “Aren’t you supposed to protect and serve? Who are you protecting right now?” and “Darren Wilson, why is your finger on the trigger?”

A LAPD officer watches the march. (Benjamin Dunn/Neon Tommy)

A LAPD officer watches the march. | Benjamin Dunn/Neon Tommy

As the police got closer, the crowd backed up under the 110 freeway bridge. Suddenly, the officers shouted and started running towards the marchers. Three warning shots were fired and marchers grabbed their friends and fled, cutting down alleyways. Other protesters stopped once out of the underpass and turned back to see what was happening.

The hundreds of officers began heading down alleyways and sidestreets as well, slowly blocking off exit-ways. They continued to announce that the march was unlawful.

Though many protesters took this time to leave, many others remained, keeping their hands peacefully raised in the air.

Originally published in Neon Tommy.

Michael Brown protesters block freeway + City makes progress on South LA pocket park

Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, on stage at the St. Louis Peace Fest the day before burying her son. |Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, on stage at the St. Louis Peace Fest the day before burying her son. |Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Michael Brown protesters block freeway: Protesters in South L.A. were upset but not surprised by decision of a grand jury in Missouri not to indict the police officer who shot Brown. (L.A. Times)

Avalon/Gage pocket park continues to take shape: The traffic island near Avalon Boulevard and Gage Avenue has transformed from a bleak set up benches to a colorful pocket park. (Streetsblog L.A.)

From Crenshaw ball boy to quarterback: Daiyan Henley has progressed from a young ball boy to Crenshaw High’s starting quarterback. Coaches say he holds promise and potential. (L.A. Times)

Zambezi Bazaar returns to Leimert Park: The retail store reopened its doors in Leimert Park on Saturday November 22. (Leimert Park Beat)

Pedestrian killed on Avalon Boulevard: A 41-year-old man died Sunday morning after being struck by a motorist on Avalon Boulevard near 46th Street. (CBS)

South L.A. firefighter remembered: Arnett Hartsfield Jr. is remembered for his work integrating LAFD. (Contra Costa Times)

LA PRESS CLUB AWARD WINNER: The godfather of LA’s Black comedy scene is plotting his comeback


Michael Williams is battling a series of
personal traumas to bring African-American comedy back to L.A.

Michael Williams (front row, right) with comedians, including Jamie Foxx (far left) | Courtesy Michael Williams

Michael Williams (front row, right) with comedians, including Jamie Foxx (far left) | Courtesy Michael Williams

Editor’s Note: This piece is a finalist WINNER for the 2014 National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards granted by the Los Angeles Press Club! Check out our updated piece with audio from Michael Williams and his fellow comedy cohort.

On any given Thursday night in the late 1980s, Michael Williams would watch from the wings as up-and-coming Black comics, including Jaime Foxx, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac and Chris Tucker, performed at the comedy club he founded in South Los Angeles.

The Comedy Act Theater was one among the first comedy clubs in the country to cater to the Black community and was the launch pad for many successful Black comedians.

For 12 years, comedy fans packed the house. The first night, 200 people crammed into a room that could accommodate only 160. Within a few weeks, the place regularly sold out — a streak that lasted five years. Williams opened outposts in Atlanta and Chicago.

Williams, who had worked for six years as a stage manager and event producer, started the club after being frustrated by the way L.A.’s comedy scene failed to speak to Black patrons like himself. [Read more…]

Obama announces immigration reform


Obama addresses voters | Flickr Creative Commons

President Obama announced Thursday executive actions that will remove the threat of deportation and grant work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants. This will apply to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for five years or more. Obama also expanded his 2012 action which authorized young people who came to the United States as children to remain legally in the country, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Since Congress has stagnated for years on creating immigration reform that changes laws and a path to citizenship, Obama issued the reform with his own presidential authority. [Read more…]

LAPD prepares for Ferguson shooting grand jury decision + Possible endangerment charges for South LA mother

Protestors in Chicago | Flickr Creative Commons

Protestors in Chicago | Flickr Creative Commons

LAPD prepares for grand jury decision in Ferguson shooting: Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck said the department is preparing for demonstrations when the verdict of the Ferguson shooting is announced. (L.A. Times)

Potential endangerment charges: A mother who left her three-year-old son in the car while she went to the ATM near Vermont and Manchester avenues faces possible endangerment charges. (My News L.A.)

A death that touched a community: Family and friends remember Rhasson Eugene Hamilton, a 28-year-old who was shot in Manchester Square. They describe him as an “innocent victim.” (L.A. Times)

Man denies charges in Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet stabbing death: Reggie Cervantes, 22, of South L.A. pleaded not guilty for an Oct.17 killing in a swap meet parking lot. (Whittier Daily News)

“Promise Zone” application submitted: A coalition finalized the application to designate South L.A. as a promise zone, which would help the area receive funding for anti-poverty programs. (My News L.A.)

100 South LA sidewalks fixed, 400 more to go

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Video courtesy of Annenberg TV News

Councilman Bernard Parks and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative broke ground on the city’s 100th sidewalk repair yesterday as part of a project to improve South L.A.’s District Eight, calling on repairman to tear out the old pavement with shovels and drills.

The initiative’s executive director Veronica Hahni said the partnership had succeeded at “improving the quality of life for South Los Angeles residents by removing invasive tree roots and replacing these uplifted sidewalks.”

The repair also marked an important milestone for 84-year-old South L.A. resident Geneva James, who has lived at the corner of St. Andrews Place and 48th Street for more than 40 years, according to the L.A. Times. For many of those years, the broken-up, uneven sidewalk impeded her ability to leave the house, James’ grandson said at the event.

“I am glad I live to see it,” James said. “I will be able to come out and worry about not falling.” [Read more…]

South LA applies for Promise Zone grant

The proposed Promise Zone for South L.A. shaded in light blue. The current Promise Zone is shaded in gray. | Photo: Courtesy Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

The proposed Promise Zone for South L.A. shaded in light blue. The current Promise Zone is shaded in gray. | Photo: Courtesy Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

A coalition led by a South Los Angeles college submitted a key application Thursday for the “Promise Zone” initiative that would give South L.A.  priority in federal funding for anti-poverty programs.

“This project brings together everybody with a very common purpose which is … the economic revitalization of this area through increased opportunities,” said Leticia Barajas, Vice President of the L.A. Trade-Technical College.

The program, created by President Obama in 2013, named five Los Angeles neighborhoods as “promise zones” in 2014. South L.A. was left out, to the disappointment of the Los Angeles City Council and community members.

The coalition hopes to become a designated area for federal help because the poverty rate in the region is close to 50 percent and the unemployment rate is 12 percent.

The college-led coalition formed a group called the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z). The SLATE-Z group would invest in transit centers, educational programs, businesses, and South L.A. redevelopment. The City Council and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area, support the application.

Originally published on Annenberg TV News.