Concerns arise as Inglewood Oil Field plans for increased activity

imageView from La Brea, between Slauson and Stocker, looking West. (Photo by David Roy.)

Wide open spaces are hard to come by in Los Angeles. The crowds and traffic that permeate the city make the expanse of the more than 300-acre Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Baldwin Hills that much more of an anomaly. The green space, complete with walking trails, wildlife, and scenic views, sits right next to another L.A. landmark: the Inglewood Oil Field.

The oil field is more than three times bigger than the park–the 1,000-acre spread is the largest urban oil field in the country. A recent increase in activity on the oil field has some residents concerned about the health and safety risks that could come with adding more wells.

“People are running and exercising right next to active drilling without even realizing it,” says Ronda Brown. She thinks there needs to be better signage within the recreation area warning people of the proximity of the oil field. “I’m not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to go there, but they do have a right to be better informed.”

From 1980-2004 an average of 10 new wells a year were added to the field. In 2004, Texas-based oil company Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) discovered more oil reserves in the field. PXP reinvigorated a drilling program on the land that many previously thought had already yielded most of its resources.

What really concerns Brown is that PXP now plans to drill 600 new wells in the next 20 years. The company has drilled 32 new wells since the beginning of 2011.

Brown vividly remembers that in 2006 drilling operations were ramped up and the release of harmful fumes forced nearby residents to evacuate their homes. The county forced PXP to stop drilling operations for six months after the accident while it worked to develop regulations. Until then, very few had been in place.

In 2008, two years after those evacuations, several community groups filed a suit against PXP. The groups settled in July of 2011. Part of the settlement includes noise limits and additional air quality monitoring.

imageView from La Brea, between Slauson and Stocker, looking West. (Photo by David Roy.)

Despite the settlement, Brown still has concerns about the potential long-term health effects of living so close to a functioning oil field that had never been the subject of a comprehensive environmental impact report until 2008.

What Brown finds the most distressing is the lack of communication between PXP and the county and the approximately one million residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. She has attended several meetings of the Baldwin Hills Community Advisory Panel – a group that was formed, according to the county website, to “foster communication and ensure continued community input for the County and for PXP.”

When Brown again expressed her concerns at a community advisory panel meeting on October 27, 2011, she was told that exercising next to an oil field is no more dangerous than exercising in other parts of the city, because there’s always the potential to breathe pollution from cars or the airport.

When she asked about improved signage within the park, panel members didn’t know who was responsible to address the issue, who should be in charge of following up on the matter, or if anything could be done in regards to her concerns.

In a follow-up email with Lisa Paillet, the community advisory panel member who represents PXP, Paillet said that Baldwin Hills Conservancy Director, David McNeil offered to work with Brown. But to date, no one has contacted Brown.

Compton business owner sets up a shop with style

When you think about all the possible places to find fun fashion around Los Angeles, the city of Compton may not be the first place that comes to mind. But one young entrepreneur is trying to change that.

Jai Hawkins, 24, is the owner of Zazz Boutique, a women’s clothing store on Compton Boulevard. Hawkins got her business license and officially opened last April, but her store really picked up momentum over the summer. She prides herself on offering something she always felt was lacking in Compton: a place to find unique, stylish clothes at affordable prices.

Jai Hawkins

Jai Hawkins shows off her wares at Zazz Boutique. She makes it a goal to have new items in every week.

Hawkins went to school at LA Trade Tech for fashion design and then worked as a buyer at Nordstrom. When it comes to clothes, she knows her stuff. But she was sick of having to drive far away from Compton to work in the fashion industry or to buy exciting outfits.

While she always thought she might own her own business one day, Hawkins never imagined it happening so soon. But she felt like the opportunity to be the first one on the fashion scene in Compton was too good to pass up.

“I think it’s going to work,” Hawkins said. “Because there’s not too many places like Zazz Boutique in this area, so I feel like it stands out, it’s unique, and the people around here need something like this.”

And Hawkins’ store does her store stand out. She set up elaborate displays with manikins wearing bright colors and tons of accessories in her front window. She got the word out about her grand opening through friends and family and handing out flyers on the street.

Hawkins describes her items as “eccentric.” And she’s got quite the variety too. “Very cute rings, chandelier earrings, really cute shoes, handbags, scarves, accessories, you name it, I’m gonna have it,” she said.

Since her store has opened, Hawkins has seen a lot of support from the surrounding community, including from her landlord, Luz Herrera. Herrera owns the building where Zazz Boutique is located, and she’s also a lawyer and big advocate for the city of Compton.

“[Compton’s] not perfect and there are things in terms of infrastructure that need to be, I think, worked on,” Herrera said. “But there’s also a lot happening. If you go up and down the streets, this place looks very different than when I came here in 2002.”

Hawkins and Herrera do not have the typical strictly business landlord-tenant relationship. In the process of Hawkins opening her store next to Herrera’s nonprofit, the two women have become friends. When she first advertised the empty space, Herrera was approached by a lot of churches and AA groups. But she decided Compton already had enough of those. She wanted to find someone offering something the city hadn’t seen in years.

“There are a lot of new stores and shops and some of it has been brought in by city council because of these big developments, but then you also have the mom and the pops that are fixing their own facades and providing services that community members need here instead of going outside to other parts,” Herrera said.

In Herrera, Hawkins has found a kind of mentor. Herrera helped Hawkins get her store started, but said it’s been Hawkins hard work that has kept it going.

Six months since her store’s official opening, Hawkins has found her rhythm. Her store is still open, but she noticed business slowing down this fall. In October of this year, the national Consumer Confidence Index fell back to levels last seen during the 2008 recession. But she doesn’t let the national trends get her down.

“I can’t worry about what the big companies are doing,” Hawkins said. “I just have to worry about Zazz Boutique. That’s my main focus.”

Jai Hawkins

Hawkins never thought she’d be running a business at age 24, but now that her store is up and running, she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Her plan? Get on the phone and start calling up customers. In an age where much shopping is driven by huge holiday sales or online coupons like LivingSocial or Groupon, Hawkins offers something different: a store where the people running it actually know your name.

Hawkins grew up listening to people like her mother, Vanessa Scott, tell stories about a different kind of Compton, and their stories have served as an inspiration as she’s worked to distinguish her store in the community.

Scott remembers making weekend outings to go shopping with her entire family. “There was a downtown Compton during the time I was growing up, so we got a chance to just walk out of our homes and walk downtown to all the little local stores,” she said.

And while Scott gets just as excited about fashion as her daughter, she thinks Zazz Boutique can be part of a bigger movement. “We would like to see more people out, walking the streets, rather than people on the outside saying they’re afraid to be in the city of Compton,” Scott said.

Hawkins agrees. And she’s hoping her store can become the gathering place she never had growing up.

“I want Zazz Boutique to be the go-to store for all ladies, teenagers, all the young girls,” Hawkins said. “I want it to be that store.”

All over the city, there are signs that say “Birthing a new Compton!” And in a way, Hawkins could be considered a part of this movement. But she doesn’t see herself as doing something novel. She views it as a way to take Compton back to its roots.

Zazz Boutique is located at 1214 East Compton Boulevard, Compton, CA 90221. (310) 608-5767

Listen to an audio version of this story:

Jai Hawkins brings style to Compton by Kaitlin Parker

South LA students learn radio reporting skills

Every Saturday, a dedicated group of teenage journalists meet up at the Urban Media Foundation to sharpen their skills and practice their story telling.

This weekend, the focus was on radio. After some discussion and listening exercises, the students broke into groups, recorders in hands, ready to interview each other about their lives, communities and plans following graduation.

Here are some of their stories!

Jeena Tanks, Brandi Finney and Lafaye Mooer discuss extracurricular activities and what they see themselves doing after high school.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 1 by Intersections

Olivia Smith and Chizo Iberosi tackle tough transitions—from moving from a big to a small school, to moving from another country entirely.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 2 by Intersections

While discussing what they see for their futures, Jocelyn Foster and Bianca Alonzo discover they have a shared interest—science!

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 3 by Intersections

Tia Halsey, Justin Tanks and Octavia Smith all know they want to go to college, they’re just not sure where. One thing they do know is who their favorite authors are – Suzanne Collins and Edgar Allan Poe make the short list.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 4 by Intersections

Aaron King, Kevin Soils and Jesse Gonzales may be young adults, but they’re already thinking about what kind of legacy they’d like to leave future generations.

Urban Media Foundation Radio Training Group 5 by Intersections

The radio workshop was led by Melissa Leu and Kaitlin Parker, USC Annenberg students and Intersections South LA reporters.

New MLK Health Center opens in Willowbrook

imageMembers of the group Mariachis Ellas Son provided music and a festive spirit to the grand opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health.

Hundreds of community leaders and health advocates from Compton, Inglewood, Watts and Lynwood gathered at the grand opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook on Friday morning.

The new health center represents part of the gradual re-opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors elected to shut down the hospital, formerly known as the Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, in August 2007 due to its poor record of patient care and several failed federal health inspections.

Despite the dark past of the medical center, the mood this morning was decidedly sunny and forward-looking. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas took on the tone of a preacher–“Somebody say ‘Phase one!’”

“Phase one!” the crowd shouted back.

Referring to the first the three phases for the federally funded medical complex, the health center officially opened today addresses three major needs of the South LA community: immunizations for children, testing and treatment for tuberculosis, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

The MLK center has been seeing patients in September on a walk-in basis and most services are available for free or at a very low cost.

imageThe public health center also puts an emphasis on healthy living and prevention of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

There’s a community kitchen that offers lessons on healthy cooking and a fitness garden with walking trails and installations for doing exercises like modified pushups.

Ridley-Thomas acknowledged the center’s bumpy past, reflecting on how the hospital was hailed as a national success when it opened in 1972 and the local heartbreak that came with its closure four years ago.

“This new public health center represents a covenant with the community, a fulfillment of the promise to rebuild the medical center,” he said.

Phase two of the project includes plans to reopen a smaller hospital under a partnership between L.A. County and the University of California, as a nonprofit organization governed by an independent board of directors. Ridley-Thomas said he hopes for this phase to be done by the first quarter of 2013.

Before stepping down from the podium, Ridley-Thomas thanked the Obama administration for the health center, which was funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Herb Schultz, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the new health center showed that South LA can be a leader in a national movement to “reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparity in healthcare.” He also pointed out that the center is expected to bring 5,000 jobs to the community.

One of those jobs belongs to Laura Gazdziak, a community liaison and public health nurse who works in the new health center. Giving a tour of the energy efficient, LEED certified building, Gazdziak smiled. “Everyone’s in a happier mood working here,” she said.

imageThe lobby of the building is filled with natural light and original artwork by Cliff Garten. Waiting rooms are clean and feature bright colors. A computer in every exam room will help keep digital records on all the 17,000 patients the center expects to serve this year.

Stephanie Burton, a clinic nurse who works in the tuberculosis testing and care center said patients start to arrive around 7:30 in the morning to register, and appointments begin at 8:00 a.m. She encouraged people wanting to visit the clinic to arrive as early as they can to avoid waiting too long.

On average, nurses see 15 patients per session, Burton said. There are two sessions in a day – one in the morning, and one after lunch. On Wednesdays, the clinic stays open later, offering appointment times into the evening. The tuberculosis unit also employs seven community workers who take medication directly to patients’ homes—no small job when there are over one million residents in MLK’s service area.

Back outside, Gazdziak said the new building has made a direct impact on the surrounding community. “It’s amazing how much safer people feel when things are clean and well lit.”

Still, she said, the absence of a high-volume emergency room in the area continues to be problematic to those who need serious care right away.

“This new center is wonderful. It does so much,” Gazdziak said. “But every night, I pray for more. It’s needed.”

New technology brings more convenient, confidential STD testing to South LA

The 2010 stats on STDs in Los Angeles are in, and while it’s not good news for South LA, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas says he’s determined to do something about the high numbers in his district.

The Second Supervisorial District, which includes South LA, has the highest number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the county. Last year, a total of 14,999 chlamydia cases and 3,646 gonorrhea cases were reported for residents of the Second District—that’s more than 30 percent of all chlamydia cases and 38 percent of all the gonorrhea cases in the county.

It was against these grim statistics that Ridley-Thomas addressed an audience of community and faith leaders, healthcare providers and educators outside the new Martin Luther King Jr. Public Health Center to share his district’s STD Control Plan.

imageThe plan, which seeks to help women overcome the barriers to the diagnosis and treatment of STDs, revolves around an expansion of the county’s “I Know” home STD testing program. The county is emphasizing the technology behind the “I Know” campaign—both in the test itself and in the way women can obtain the free testing kits.

The test, which can be done at home in a few minutes, is a nucleic acid amplification test, which the Department of Public Health identifies as the most accurate type of test for either chlamydia or gonorrhea. It’s the same type of test that would be done at a clinic, but now women can get tested on their own time without having to arrange transportation or face the embarrassment or stigma that may exist with going to a clinic.

Testing kits can be ordered for free through the website or by calling a toll-free hotline (800-758-0880). The kit arrives by mail within a week. And starting this year, outreach workers will be attending community events who can register women for a kit on-the-fly with mobile devices. The Second District will also be placing kiosks around South LA that allow women to sign up to have a kit delivered. Ridley-Thomas said the kiosks were movable and that they would be experimenting with locations to find the most high-traffic areas.

Results can then be checked online or through a toll free number. Women can have confidential access to their results at a time that works for them, without having to worry about a nurse calling them at home or work or somewhere else that lacks privacy.

The hope is that the increased options for testing, along with education, will help overcome feelings of shame tied to going to a public clinic to get tested. As Ridley-Thomas had his audience repeat several times, “Shame is not a cure.”

Mobile testing units offer another alternative to visiting a clinic or performing the test at home. Health workers can run tests for common STDs as well as HIV. Each RV contains two private examination rooms.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the director of the LA County Department of Public Health emphasized that it’s especially important for young women to get tested for these two diseases because they can be asymptomatic, and if left untreated, can lead to more serious complications like pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility in some cases. With increased testing, Dr. Fielding hopes the county can identify instances of chlamydia and gonorrhea early on, when they are easily treatable.

Reverend Clyde Oden, the senior pastor of Byant Temple AME Church Oden said the options for increased health awareness are much needed in “a community that has been overlooked and underserved.”

In addition to the new technology, Oden also encouraged a new kind of education for faith leaders in South LA so that they can actually talk knowledgeably about sexual health to the young people in their faith communities.

The question remains though, will the increased accessibility to testing reduce the number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea?

Angelica Woodard and Andreina Cordova, two peer counselors and volunteers with the “I Know” street team, think the kits will make a difference. While education about STDs continues to be a challenge, the kits, they explained, remove another barrier to getting tested that women in South LA were facing—transportation to a clinic.

“You get out there and realize that there’s just a huge knowledge gap for people in this area of their lives,” Cordova said. “We need to get people talking.”

And they’re hoping to do just that. Recently, they’ve been hitting the streets, passing out information on the kits and answering questions.

“We held up a banner at the Lakers’ parade that said ‘LA: Number One in basketball and Number One in chlamydia.’” Cordova said. “That got their attention.”

Aztec dancers perform during Latino Heritage Month celebration

Mayor kicks off Latino Heritage Month honoring prominent LA Latinos

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a special presentation to three Los Angeles Latino leaders during a packed City Council meeting this morning. The awards were handed out as part of the city’s activities kicking off Latino Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Celebrating a Culture of Hope and Progress.”

Sal Castro, Cesar Millán and Fernando Valenzuela received awards from Mayor Villaraigosa.

Educator and activist Sal Castro received the Spirit of Los Angeles Award, world-renowned dog trainer Cesar Millán was honored with the Dream of Los Angeles Award, and former Dodger’s pitcher Fernando Valenzuela was presented with the Hope of Los Angeles Award.

Mariachi performers

A performance of mariachi music, Peruvian dance, and an appearance by Miss Latina contestants began the ceremony inside the City Council’s chambers.

Peruvian dancers

Outside on the South Lawn, the celebration continued with traditional food, arts and crafts, more dance and music and an opportunity for each man to speak about his own experience as a prominent Latino in Los Angeles.

In his introductions, the mayor commented that the celebrations of the day were a reflection of a place that “truly is a city where the world comes together.”

imageFernando Valenzuela, who grew up in Sonora, Mexico, joked that giving speeches was not his strong point, but offered his gratitude for the award and remembers thinking that L.A. was a great place to play baseball.

A left-handed pitcher who started a craze called “Fernandomania” in 1981, he became the only player in Major League History to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season.


Villaraigosa described Cesar Millán as someone who “embodies the success of the immigrant dream.”

“The Dog Whisperer,” which is both Millán’s nickname and the name of his television show, has several connections to South L.A.

Millán said that when he first arrived in L.A. from Mexico, he began walking dogs in Inglewood, but didn’t know that there was a law against walking dogs without a leash here. He came to the realization that he needed to start “training dogs and rehabilitating people” and opened his Dog Psychology Center, which was housed in South L.A. from 2002-2008.

For the final award, Sal Castro, known for his role in the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts, said he would “accept this honor on behalf of the young people who have touched my life.” Several students from Sal Castro Middle School, who were on a field trip to City Hall, joined Castro in front of the stage.

In the mayor’s closing remarks, he referenced the California Dream Act, which would give qualified undocumented immigrants access to state scholarships and grants, saying that the three men honored today should be held up as examples of what can happen “if we let people follow their dream.” The California bill is currently sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

But Villaraigosa wasn’t thinking just about Los Angeles or California. He mentioned the failure of Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform amidst a time of partisan grandstanding.

“The entire country would benefit from a Dream Act,” he said to thunderous applause. “It’s time to bring people out of the dark and into the light.”

imageToday’s Latino Heritage Month event also coincides with the celebration of Mexican Independence Day.

About Latino Heritage Month

This tradition started in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the week of September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week to commemorate the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on September 15 and Mexico’s independence on September 16.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the period of observance to a month-long celebration, from September 15 to October 15, to honor the cultures and traditions of Americans with heritage tied to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

On a national level, this year’s theme for the National Hispanic Heritage Month is “Renewing the American Dream.”

Unemployed workers hopeful on president’s job plan

Around 50 unemployed people gathered in Mercado La Paloma just off the Figueroa Corridor to watch President Obama speak about his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress on Thursday. The event featured two viewing areas where attendees could watch the speech in English or Spanish.

Larry Taylor, a former security guard now on disability hopes the plan includes an extension on unemployment benefits.

Many came with friends or family members. Larry Taylor came to watch with his union, United Service Workers West. Before the speech began, Taylor, a former security guard now on disability, said he hoped Obama would offer an extension on unemployment benefits and a jobs package with new growth in construction jobs, as well as better opportunities in the arts and sciences.

“We need people with good brains to be paid to use them,” Taylor said. He also shared his frustrations with Congress. “I’m tired of this obstructionist attitude. Now is the time to come together.”

He’s not the only one who felt that way. Once the speech began, people clapped when the president said it was time to stop the “political circus” and put Americans back to work. But the biggest reaction from the crowd at Mercado La Paloma came when Obama addressed some of the inequities in the current tax and income structure. Viewers shouted and applauded in agreement.

Paul Villegas expressed on concern on the growing social and wealth disparities in the U.S.

For John Paul Villegas, this is an argument that defines the social inequality in this country. “The people at the top are making so much more than they used to,” he said. “But the people at the bottom are still making next to nothing. How can anyone ever catch up?”

Villegas liked what he heard in the speech, especially the promise of tax relief that would provide a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, but part of him worries that it’s too good to be true.

“It sounded so good, but it’s up to the people to re-elect him. If he doesn’t win in 2012, the whole plan could be out the window,” Villegas said.

Rosa Gudiel, about to lose her home, is looking to the president to create jobs and help homeowners.

For some, the evening presented a chance to talk about an issue closely related to jobs – housing. Rosa Gudiel, speaking through translator Peter Kuhns, said she was in the process of losing her house, but was determined to fight to the very end to save it. “I hope that the president really can create more jobs,” she said. “Then maybe we could really help the economy by helping homeowners.”

The gathering at Mercado La Paloma was one of nearly 200 “job speech viewing parties” held in homes, community centers and parks throughout South Los Angeles hosted by community organization Good Jobs LA. The South LA-based non-profit organized the events to emphasize how unemployment is “the number one issue” affecting local communities.

Find fun Mother’s Day activities in South LA

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! If you’re looking for something fun to do with mom in South LA this weekend, we’ve got some suggestions. Have other ideas? Post them in the comments below.

And a big thank you to all the mothers, step-mothers, adopted mothers, aunts, and grandmothers in our lives!

imageBlack Women for Wellness ( is holding its annual fundraiser on Mother’s Day this year. Last year, money raised from the event helped educate more than 500 women on breast and cervical health as well as initiating a “Green Chemistry Tips” project to provide natural, environmentally-friendly alternatives to beauty and household products for the African American community. They’re hoping to have a similarly successful outcome this year.

Tickets can be purchased in advance here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011, 2-5 pm, Community Build Garden
4305 Degnan Boulevard
Leimert Park, Los Angeles, CA 90008

Take a class at Crenshaw Yoga and Dance

Share something with mom that everyone can love—good health and peace of mind. Crenshaw Yoga and Dance offers all levels yoga classes that embrace beginners and experienced yogis alike. The studio is even owned by mother-daughter team, KarLee and Melissa Young.

5426 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90043

Smell the roses at the Exposition Park Rose Garden

Anyone can send mom a bouquet, but how about spending a day checking out flowers still on the vine? This urban oasis is a great place for a Sunday stroll.

Exposition Park Rose Garden
Open daily from 9:00 am – sunset
701 State Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Get a massage at Lotus on the Nile

Moms work hard, and what better way to offer a reward than a soothing massage at the Lotus on the Nile Wellness Center in Leimert Park. In addition to several styles of massages, the wellness center also offers yoga and acupuncture.

4307 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008

Shop for fresh food at the Wellington Square Farmers Market

If you’re thinking about cooking dinner for your mom, how about taking her to help pick out ingredients at the Wellington Square Farmers Market in the historic West Adams neighborhood? The market accepts EBT and all fruits and vegetables sold at the market are grown without the use of pesticides.

Open every Sunday, 9am-1pm
W Washington Blvd & Wellington Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Enjoy tea and history at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum

The Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum hosts an annual Mother’s Day Tea where tea sandwiches and pastries are presented in a beautiful and historic setting. There will be guitar music and a dance performance as well.

Reservations are required, and can be made by calling or emailing the museum.

May 7, 2011
11:00am -1:00pm

18127 S. Alameda St.
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220
(310) 603-0088

Dinner and dancing at the Mother’s Day Slam & Jam Love-In

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the evening, check out this fundraiser to benefit Mother’s Day Radio and the Youth Media Symposium & Concert. Dinner will be served, followed by poetry and music. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.

Sunday, May 8
7:00pm – 11:00pm
Angel’s Piano Bar & Supper Club
2460 Wilshire Blvd.




Leaders from South LA nonprofits speak on ideas, hopes for future

More than 200 people and 30 South LA community organizations gathered at Bethune Middle School in April to discuss aspects of healthy living and the needs of their neighborhoods. The California Endowment sponsored the event as part of their Building Healthy Communities program. Several South LA nonprofits took a moment to describe the goals and functions of their organizations. Take a listen below!

Benjamin Torres

Benjamin Torres is the president and CEO of CDTech, a development group that works to address poverty-related issues in South LA. One of the strengths of the South LA community, Torres says, is the ability for people to come together. He cites the day’s event as just one example–several members of his organization were at another community gathering just the night before, celebrating approved plans for a new community housing development.


Karen Mack

LA Commons was founded by Karen Mack over eight years ago. The idea was to use culture to connect and bring individuals together. Since the organization’s inception, Mack has seen a flourishing of different kinds of arts within the Leimert Park community.


Cesar Portillo and Ruby Chevreuil

For Cesar Portillo and Ruby Chevreuil, one of the biggest problems they see in South LA is that mental health issues in children go undiagnosed. LA Child Guidance has walk-in hours in as a service to both kids and their parents.


Charles Fields

Charles Fields gives more inside into the California Endowment’s strategic plan, Building Healthy Communities.