Sign language in Spanish


Left to right: Felix, Mr. Sanchez, Mrs. Sanchez, and Hector. Enrique in the front.

Irma Sanchez has three young sons who love football and video games, so when they’re all home, visitors might be surprised by what they hear: absolute silence.

Sanchez’s three sons were all born Deaf and must communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). Inspired by her journey to learn ASL, Sanchez started the group “Deaf Latinos” – a free weekly class at her South Los Angeles home where Sanchez teaches ASL in Spanish.

Felix was eight months old when Sanchez had him tested for hearing loss. A red flag went up for Sanchez when she noticed that her child wasn’t turning around for loud noises, like when the vacuum cleaner was on. Doctors diagnosed him with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss – he was deaf. Sanchez was shocked to learn Felix was deaf. “I recall coming home and sitting down and thinking to myself, ‘Okay, so I have a deaf child, what am I going to do?’” [Read more…]

Founder of South L.A. clergy training group dies

Reverend Eugene Williams, leader and Executive Director of the Regional Congregations and Neighborhood Organizations Training Center (RCNO) has died, the RCNO announced in a press release on Monday.

imageRev. Eugene Williams, 1960 – 2012.
Photo courtesy of The Durfee Foundation.

On Friday, March 16, Williams died at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood due to complications from lung cancer, Reverend Richard Byrd, President and Chair of RCNO’s Board of Directors said in the press release.

According to their website, RCNO “instructs clergy and lay persons in the art of community organizing, public policy formation and program development.”

Williams founded this organization in 1987 in Philadelphia but brought it to South L.A. in the early 1990’s. He served in the ministry for over 25 years.

In 1994, Williams led 17 member-churches for L.A. Metropolitan Churches (LAM). LAM now includes 40 churches in its network.

Today, RCNO has over twenty national affiliates. This network collaborates through conferences and mentorships to “build the capacity of clergy and lay leaders,” especially in urban and low-income African American communities.

At Williams’ family’s request, in lieu of flowers or food, they ask that monetary tax-deductible donations be made to RCNO. The Center intends to make Eugene Williams III – Change Maker Legacy Fund “to maintain support for his important work.”


Stuntwoman goes from South L.A. to the big screen

Weeden on the set of the movie “Meet Dave,” where she doubled for actress Gabrielle Union

They’re the people who entertain others by jumping off of speeding cars, setting themselves on fire, breaking through windows, and fighting hand-to-hand combat – they’re stunt performers.

Some of these performers joined together in 1967 to establish the Black Stuntmen’s Association. This group strived to break racial barriers and earn black performers a place alongside white stuntmen in film and television.

In February 2012, the NAACP honored the founders of the Black Stuntmen’s Association with the prestigious President’s Award. Legendary actors Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte handed out the award at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards.

April Weeden, a former resident of South L.A., has been a stuntwoman since 1995 and was thrilled that the NAACP was finally honoring the Black Stuntmen’s Association.

April and her daughter Kiera

“They sacrificed so much and fought a great fight for us,” Weeden said. She commended the Black Stuntmen’s Association for “going into the studios and to producers and demanding justice so… performers of color could do stunts in the entertainment industry.”

According to her biography, Weeden has stunt-doubled for celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, and Taraji P. Henson.

Weeden’s film credits include “Seven Pounds,” “Swordfish,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Anaconda,” and “Eraser.”

She has also appeared on television in shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “True Blood,” and “Community.”

How did this woman from South L.A. make it big in the stunt business?

Weeden spoke to Intersections about how she became a stuntwoman, whether her family supports her career, and what she would say if her daughter decided to become a stuntwoman too.

What inspired you to become a stuntwoman?

My inspiration to become a professional stuntwoman came when I was doing extra work on the movie “Presidio,” and I was asked to be one of the people to ride on the Ferris wheel with stunt man Benny Moore. They needed someone to ride on the Ferris wheel that was not afraid of heights and have a camera above their heads. So I did the stunt with him as a background person, and I caught the bug. I still didn’t know how to get into stunts, but I kept in touch with Bennie Moore and pursued my acting career.

How did you start working in the stunt business?

I started working in the stunt business by doing background work in features, television shows and commercials. My former husband, William Washington, trained me as well as Shane Anderson, Rick Seaman, Wally Crowder, and Bobby Ore. William was instrumental in [teaching me] the ins and outs of the stunt business and taught me everything and how to survive in the stunt game.

Do you ever fear for your life when you do stunts?

No, I never fear for my life when I do stunts! I pray and ask God to protect me. I never do a stunt without praying first. My prayer process begins immediately when I receive a phone call to do a stunt. Being a professional stunt person does not require a person to be fearful. It requires training in as many areas as possible of a physical nature. Being fearful is very dangerous and you could lose your life. Of course, I get butterflies in my stomach, but I associate that with adrenaline. I get a major rush of energy and adrenaline before I do a stunt. Being prepared and trained up is key.

Did your family support your decision to become a stuntwoman?

Yes, my family supported me in wanting to perform stunts. I was raised by my single mother, Thelma Weeden, who was an educator, and she encouraged me to do whatever my heart desired. She always pushed me to do my best.

Would you allow your daughter to be a stuntwoman too?

My daughter Kiera Washington is already a stunt performer. She appeared in “Johnson’s Family Vacation” at the tender age of nine months. She was in the scene when the truck comes barreling in at the family function. She has also appeared in the television show “Trauma” as a stunt performer, in a scene with actor Derek Luke and stunt coordinated by Terry James. The stunt business is a family-oriented business. It is about your skills, who you know and who knows you.

What do you like to do on your off-time when you’re not working?

I go to the gym, travel, read many books, study the Bible, attend church, volunteer my time at church, and mentor over 100 children, women and men. I am always checking on my mentees. I have an organization called the Joy Foundation and I give back to many. I am the President and Founder of The Joy Foundation. I love helping others.

I am always on the red carpet, doing radio and TV interviews. I have so much to do. I am also a singer and currently have a Hewlett Packard commercial running and I drive in commercials stunt doubling actresses. I love what I do.

I have a motto I go by: “I give because I have and I have because I give – and because of this, I am never without!”

April in all her gear.

Check out Weeden in action on an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The episode “Fool for Love” featured Weeden as “Nikki the Subway Slayer,” a vampire slayer who is killed by Spike the vampire.

“I did a lot of episodes of ‘Buffy,’” Weeden said. “I did all of my own fights and I really enjoyed working on ‘Buffy.’ I stunt doubled for many for the leads and it was tough working on the set, but I pulled it off.”

Weeden continued, “When I would work on Buffy, I had to be in the best fighting shape possible. I had to be alert and focused.”

“Sometimes I would have to perform five different fights in one day. I had to know them all on the same day.”

The benefits of bringing light rail stations to South LA

LACMTA CEO Art Leahy (Courtesy of Transit Talent)

Congress member Maxine Waters wrote a letter urging Arthur Leahy, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), to seek funds for the construction of light rail stations in South Los Angeles.

The proposed light rail construction is in Leimert Park and Westchester on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.

The funds for the light rail stations would come from a TIGER grant – a competitive nationwide grant program that creates jobs by supporting investments in transportation infrastructure.

Waters hopes to gain Leahy’s support in amending the transportation bill, H.R. 7, which would add one billion dollars in TIGER funds over the next two years in addition to constructing the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor in Leimert Park and Westchester.

In her letter, Waters states, “The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor will improve air quality, relieve traffic congestion, and expand access to work, education, shopping, and entertainment opportunities throughout Los Angeles County.”

Leahy, who used to be a bus driver in South L.A., stated that he “do[esn’t] think there are negatives” to constructing the light rail system. He is confident, “When people ride [this] line, they’re going to love it.”

What other areas in South L.A. could possibly benefit from a light rail system?

imageSouth L.A. resident Pam Licavoli shared her opinion:

“A light rail system that would go down Crenshaw would be nice, but it would head north and south bound from Wilshire, all the way to [Pacific Coast Highway],” Licavoli wrote. “That would help tremendously for those who have jobs way out there.”

Leahy agreed that the new light rail system will provide “more access to job sites” and “more flexibility as to where [South L.A. residents] live and where they work.”

Licavoli further suggested, “Another area [a new light rail system] would help would be on Imperial, East and West bound way out past Kaiser, as that would help the elders and able them a chance to get to and from their doctor’s appointments.”

Leahy predicts that this new Leimert Park/Westchester line would be the “busiest light rail line in the country.” He imagines that this line would rival the popularity of even the Blue Line and Pasadena’s Gold Line.

“LACMTA is revolutionizing Los Angeles,” Leahy said. “You can do things today that were inconceivable 20 years ago.”

South LA educator Kinects with Crenshaw High students

imageBradford at Microsoft’s U.S. Innovative Educator Forum 2011

Daphne Bradford had nothing to lose by applying for Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program – but she gained an all-expense paid trip to Washington and a spot at one of the most prestigious educational technological forums in the nation.

After being chosen to participate in the Partners in Learning program, Bradford is especially inspired to encourage other South L.A. teachers to apply too.

In Washington, Bradford had the opportunity to participate in Microsoft’s prestigious U.S. Forum. The U.S. Forum is an all-expense paid two-day trip to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. All K – 12 teachers are invited to apply.

At the U.S. Forum, teachers and school leaders share their classroom experiences and collaborate together to incorporate new innovative teaching techniques. The final deadline to apply for the U.S. Forum is May 15, 2012.

Teachers and educators can also apply for the Global Forum. This year’s Global Forum will provide an all-expense paid trip to Athens, Greece where innovators can share and collaborate on ideas with a global audience.

After her invaluable experience at the U.S. Forum, Bradford returned to Crenshaw High School to lead students in an after-school Digital Media program. Bradford and Crenshaw High School biology teacher Jacqueline Lopez partner together to help the students create a project that will be presented for the 2012 U.S. Forum.

Bradford explained her innovative project collaboration:

“We’re collaborating on a gaming project using the [xBox 360 video game console] Kinect sensor where your body is the controller of the game. The Crenshaw High School Digital Media Team (after-school program) is developing a healthy eating game. The work I’m doing with Ms. Lopez is the in-class project during regular school hours. Right now I’m working with the honors biology class and one regular class. They will do the some relevant research and test the game while the after school team designs and writes the code.”

Check out our Q&A with Bradford, who was also chosen this year as Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Social Media Ambassador.

What inspired you to apply for this program?

I consider myself on the cutting edge when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom. The students I work with at Crenshaw High School are my biggest inspiration. Last year my students designed the project I presented in Redmond[, Washington] at the Microsoft headquarters.

Why should other South LA teachers apply?

It’s a great opportunity for educators to showcase the innovative work they’re doing in the classroom. It’s also very inspirational and encouraging for students to see their teachers and school get recognized for the lessons they’re teaching.

Do you have any words of advice for these teachers?

My advice would be to apply without being too critical of your innovative teaching methods or projects you’re working on. Let Microsoft be the judge of that. As long as you use at least one Microsoft technology program you’re good to go! Take advantage of this great opportunity. Apply! Apply! Apply!

What are some of the invaluable things you’ve learned with this program?

Microsoft offers free quality software programs for teachers to use in the classroom. One of my favorites, Photosynth, allows you to create 3D panoramas.

What do you think the technological future holds for South LA educators?

I can’t answer about the future because we’re so behind right now!

Find out more and apply for the Microsoft Partners in Learning program.

Pan African Film and Arts Festival heads to South LA

Move over Academy Awards, because South LA will host an award show and film festival with just as much glitz, glamor, and prestige.

imageThe official logo of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival

The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is set to kick off its 20th anniversary with star-studded festivities, beginning on Thursday, February 9. RAVE Cinemas at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza will show 158 films from all over the world, including from South Africa, to Rwanda, to Brazil, to Ghana, to Jamaica, to name a few.

The Los Angeles premiere of the film “Think Like A Man” will be the first event of the Festival. The film is based on the New York Times best-selling book by Steve Harvey and the film’s stars are expected to attend the premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles.

Check out the movie trailer for “Think Like A Man.”

The PAFF is scheduled to end on February 20.

At the close of the festival, prizes will be award for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature Film, as well as audience favorite awards. PAFF has selected 170 films representing 30 countries as well as 106 feature length films (narrative and documentaries) and 64 short films to contend for the awards.

Watch this fascinating exclusive interview with Nigerian actor-turned-producer, Hakeem Kae-Kazim (HOTEL RWANDA, “24”).

Besides a star-studded award show and movie premieres, PAFF will also incorporate dozens of programs such as a spoken word event, a student fest, children’s festival, and artist’s fest. There will also be intensive panels and workshops focusing on acting, film producing, writing, and movie marketing, distribution, and finance.

PAFF was established in 1992 by award-winning actors Danny Glover and Ja’Net DuBois and executive director Ayuko Babu. PAFF is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film and arts festival and is dedicated to promoting culture and racial tolerance through film, art, and creative expression.

Parking is free, but ticket prices differ for movie tickets, children’s festival, panels, and all other festival activities. Tickets can be purchased at RAVE Cinemas’s box office or online. Head over to PAFF’s official website to find out the entire film guide for the festival.

Interview video courtesy of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s website.

Inglewood Cemetery will host public viewing of music legend Etta James

Deceased legendary singer Etta James will return to South L.A. one final time for a public viewing, her family said on Tuesday.

The public viewing will take place Friday evening at the Inglewood Park Cemetery Mortuary (located on West Manchester Blvd). The viewing is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

imageInglewood Park Cemetery Mortuary. Courtesy of Inglewood Park Cemetery’s website.

A private funeral for family and friends is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena, according to spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger.

James was born in South L.A. but moved to Riverside, California with her family. She died at a hospital in Riverside surrounded by her family. James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to The Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Today, Wednesday, would have been James’s 74th birthday.

“Three Weeks in January” art project strives to end rape in LA

I know someone who was raped. Do you?

imageCouncilwoman Jan Perry knows someone who was raped.

That is the loaded question that the “Three Weeks in January” public performance art piece dares to ask.

Rape is a topic that most people don’t want to discuss.

But when, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women have been raped at some time in her life, it’s no longer a topic that should be silenced.

On Monday, Councilwoman Jan Perry presented “A Community Dialogue on Ending Rape in Los Angeles.” Few media personnel and community members braved the rainy weather to make it to the Ninth District Neighborhood City Hall for the discussion, but those who attended were able to have a frank and intimate conversation about rape.

This event was part of the “Three Weeks in January: End Rape in Los Angeles” public performance art piece by Suzanne Lacy. Beginning January 10 and ending on February 1, “Three Weeks in January” partners with multiple Los Angeles student and arts groups, political organizations, and civic institutions, like the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

The art piece is located at Deaton Auditorium, in front of the LAPD in downtown LA. There is a huge map of Los Angeles where every day young men and women will stamp where someone was raped, according to the prior day’s police reports.

In a press release, Lacy said, “This project will mobilize young women, men, and an intergenerational coalition across the region to consider the next steps in a necessary agenda against sexual violence.”

imageTeenagers drew and wrote the first thoughts that came to their minds when they read the word “rape.”

Also at the art site is a bench that plays interviews of over forty different people who were raped or know someone who was raped. The audio is looped all day, every day until the exhibit closes.

The women and men who were interviewed are from the Downtown Women’s Center or the Peace Over Violence organization.

The audio is filled with haunting confessions, with women talking about “the first time” they were raped or about their friends who were impregnated by their own fathers.

One woman states, “Until it hits close to home, then it doesn’t seem real to them.”

“Three Weeks in January” strives to be an intergenerational movement, with several events already passed that were targeting young people. However, art movements like this can’t be the only place where youth can talk about rape.

Melinda Guillen, a member of “Three Weeks in January’s” project organizing team, believes that schools must become involved with advocacy as well. “If in high schools and in public school education, if you can’t talk about sex, then you’re definitely not going to talk about rape, “ Guillen said.

One event geared towards youth took place on January 20, where teenagers were able to discuss rape in a free environment. They were also asked to draw or write whatever came to their heads when they saw the word “rape.”

At Monday’s “Community Dialogue” meeting, Councilwoman Perry was shown what the teenagers had come up with.

imageCouncilwoman Perry looks at what teenagers drew and wrote about the word “rape.”

Looking at the words, Councilwoman Perry said that with the technology so many teenagers use, “They don’t always talk that much [about rape] when there’s a lot below the surface and a lot of information to be learned from them in their lives and their homes.”

She hopes that more teenagers come forward to talk about rape, even if it hasn’t happened to them before.

Before Councilwoman Perry left the meeting, she was asked the loaded question: “Do you know anyone who was raped?”

Without hesitation, Councilwoman Perry quietly informed everyone that a man that she knows was raped after being drugged at a bar.

He never pressed charges or pursued any legal action.

Learn more about the history of “Three Weeks in January” through this short video about artist Suzanne Lacy’s original 1977 piece “Three Weeks in May.”

Three Weeks in May by: Suzanne Lacy (1977) from LACE on Vimeo.

Download the full schedule of the Three Weeks in January events here.

Music legend and South L.A. native Etta James dies at 73

Blues singer Etta James, most famous for her love song “At Last,” passed away on Friday due to complications from leukemia.
James died in her son’s arms at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, California. She also lived in Riverside, about 60 miles away from her birthplace in South Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Times, James moved her family to Riverside in the 1980s in order to escape South L.A.’s gang violence.

James is survived by her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills, and her two sons Donto and Sametto James. It was also revealed that James suffered from dementia and hepatitis C.

James’s manager Lupe De Leon commented on her death: “This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world. She was a true original who could sing it all — her music defied category.”

Indeed, while James’s trademark song was her 1961 pop hit “At Last,” she also captured the musical essence of jazz and rhythm and blues.

James was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and won six Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2003.

imageEtta James receiving her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2003.

Within her lifetime, James struggled with heroin addiction and weight problems. In the mid-1970s, James checked herself into rehab to avoid jail time and overcome her heroin habit. Even though she successfully completed her time in rehab, she ended up addicted to cocaine a few years later. In the 1980s, James gave up alcohol and cocaine and reestablished her spot as a credible music icon. James wrote about her struggles in her 1998 memoir “Rage to Survive.”

James’s legacy transcended into modern artists’ praise and dedication to her music.

One of her most vocal fans was Christina Aguilera, who posted a message about James on her official website on Friday: “Her raw tone and the passion she put forth on a record spoke to me at a very young age and has continued to influence and inspire me throughout my career.” Aguilera continuously paid homage to James on stage and in her 2010 film “Burlesque”.

imageEtta James posing with one of her biggest celebrity fans, Christina Aguilera, 2006.

Beyonce Knowles sang “At Last” for President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s first dance as Mr. and Mrs. President.

James’s song “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” can even be heard on the radio today, remixed into Flo Rida’s newest single “Good Feeling”.

With the 54th Grammy awards airing on February 12, there should be no doubt that the music industry will continue to pay its respects to this legendary singer.


Free College and Career Convention comes to South LA

For some South LA students, the idea of going to college might sound as likely as winning the lottery. When thinking about college, so many questions can zoom through a student’s mind: “How am I going to pay for it?” “Why should I be the first in my family to go to college?” “Can I still attend college even if I’m not a legal citizen?” image

All of these questions and more can be answered at the L.A. Cash for College’s College and Career Convention held on Wednesday, December 7 and Thursday, December 8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

All students are welcome to attend this convention.

Representatives from dozens of schools will be there to speak with students about their options to be accepted to their school. Confirmed exhibitors include representatives from USC, FIDM, Pepperdine University, U.C. Berkeley, and Loyola Marymount University. There will also be reps from various California State Universities, art schools, community colleges, and out-of-state schools.

Besides the diverse array of college recruiters located in the exhibit hall, Powerpoint presentations and workshops will be available to provide information. College Life workshops will cover topics such as scholarships, preparing personal statements, and AB540 resources.

On Wednesday, December 7, the Convention will also host a special evening for families to attend so that parents can have their questions answered too.

Issues that will be addressed at Family Night are how to choose a college and pay for it, what to expect from campus life, and how to access financial resources regardless of immigration status.

Cash for College estimates that around 10,000 high school students from the L.A. Unified School District will attend the Convention using free bus transportation. Even though parking at the Convention Center is $12, families can arrange for free transportation. Locations offering free rides to the Convention can be found here.

Check out Fox 11’s coverage of last year’s convention:

Cash for College Workshops:

All photos courtesy of Cash for College