Festival of Books changes location, honors professor’s son

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is opening a new chapter at the University of Southern California. For the first time in 15 years, the event is switching locations, and the change of location brings one of the authors a little closer to home.

The late David Saltzman, son of USC professor Joe Saltzman, will have his best-selling book “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” featured at the event. His mother, Barbara Saltzman, says the book has an inspiring message.

“The book is a wonderful, joyful happy story about laughter and how it’s always inside of us no matter what is going on in our lives,” she said.

David wrote and illustrated the book his senior year at Yale while fighting Hodgkin’s disease. Before he passed away, his family promised him his book would be published.

“He was completing the book, knowing that he might not survive, and he maintained his optimism and his sense of humor and laughter throughout that process,” Saltzman said. “Any child who reads the book really grasps the message of joy that is contained within it.”

The Saltzmans have continued to honor their son’s memory by starting The Jester and Pharly Phund. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to both helping ill children and encouraging a love for reading among students nationwide.

“The Jester tells Pharley that it’s up to us to make a difference, it’s up to us to care, and we have taken that as the motto for The Jester and Pharley Phund,” Saltzman said. “And that is what inspires children.”

Through programs, more than 150,000 books have been given to hospitals, shelters, underserved schools and other special needs facilities.

“Our programs have been overwhelmingly successful,” Saltzman said. “Our children have read more than 26 million pages in 10 years to help other children.”

This saturday, The Jester and Pharly Phund will have its own booth at the festival. For each book that is sold, the Saltzmans will donate a book to a child in the hospital.

Glamour project for Los Angeles homeless creates confidence

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Instead of getting food and money, the homeless women of Southern California are getting makeovers.

After losing nearly everything of material value, the last thing a person would think a homeless woman needs is a makeover; but Kara Fox, the co-founder of Glamour Project, knows that homelessness is not only about losing houses and cars.

“Sometimes people who are having challenging times are looked at as though they are lesser people or as though they’re invisible people, and I think it’s critically important to mirror back to someone how lovely they are,” Fox said.

That is exactly what Glamour Project does. The project is a volunteer non-profit effort to remind homeless women they’re beautiful inside and out.

“That I think is part of the backbone of Glamour Project, to allow the women to get in touch with the beauty that they have that they don’t remember because no one has really addressed it,” Fox said.

The Glamour Project visits homeless shelters throughout the Los Angeles area. The group takes makeup and props for a day of pampering and dressing up. Pamela, a veteran of Daybreak Women’s Shelter and a participant in Glamour Project, remembers the day she got her makeover.

“They did the nails, they put hats on, they did some makeup and they dressed me up,” she said. “They brought, like, a series of clothes for different types of personalities. It was fun to see myself as someone else would dress me up.”

Not everyone thought the project was fun, though. Linda, another Glamour Project participant, couldn’t wait to wash her face at the end of the day.

“I finally get this stuff off,” Linda said. “I don’t wear makeup normally, so this is kind of, like, woah. When I go outside and see myself, I’m kind of like where did all of this come from, woah.”

But even though she wasn’t a fan of all the makeup on the outside, Linda says the makeover she got on the inside was worth it.

“Well, when you’re depressed and living on the streets, you know when that has happened in your life, you’re in the gutter,” she said. “You’re self-esteem is in the gutter and just this little thing of showing up and they make you up and dress you up and take pictures and everyone’s oohing and ahhing and saying things. It helps the self-esteem; it helps lift you up and make you feel better about yourself.”

At the end of the day, the women may still be homeless, but the glamour shot keychain they now have serves as a reminder that transformation is possible.

City welcomes first Mexican American heritage museum

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


It was a long construction process for La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, but its doors are finally about to open. The media got exclusive access on Tuesday.

image La Plaza de Cultura y Artes is located in the exact spot where Los Angeles was founded in 1781. The newly renovated five-story building is now filled with interactive experiences for visitors to explore the lives of the people who make up the city’s history.

La Plaza represents the nation’s premiere center of Mexican American culture. Miguel Angel Corzo, the president and CEO of La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, believes people from all backgrounds will be able to enjoy it.

“I think they will gain a sense of identity and understanding for other people’s identities,” Corzo said. “I think they will also identify whether they are Mexican American or not with the trials and tribulations of migrants and what that brings with everyone coming to this country having to suffer sometimes injustice and success and always in the pursuit of freedom and happiness.”

The inaugural exhibit, L.A. Starts Here, examines the founding of Los Angeles through the eyes of Mexican Americans who first settled here. But it’s more than just an exhibit of artifacts.

“One of the important things here is that we do not collect objects,” Corzo said. “We collect stories and stories are forever.”

In early January, construction for La Plaza was put on hold when workers dug up several dozen bodies dating back to the 1800s.

It turns out the site was formerly a cemetery where more than 450 American Indians were buried. Corzo is working with Native American groups to preserve and re-intern the human remains.

“We are working with all of the parties to find a solution that will satisfy everyone,” Corzo said. “And also to take advantage of educating our visitors about the historic site and the importance of Los Angeles that lies underground.”

Streetcar will possibly help revitalize Los Angeles

Listen to the audio story:


The downtown Los Angeles streetcar effort took a huge leap forward Tuesday. Results from a study show the new project will create thousands of jobs, more than a billion dollars in new development and millions more in revenue from tourism and consumer spending.

Los Angeles city council member Jose Huizar says these revenues will help benefit the city.

“With this streetcar, if you look at the numbers, in this economic time, how could we say no to this small investment that will bring so many jobs, economic development activity and connect all of downtown to make it a tourist destination, and also for Angelinos to enjoy?” Huizar said.

The $125 million project will run along a four-mile system, seven days a week for 18 hours a day. L.A. Live will serve as one of the anchor destinations for the streetcar.

AEG’s Tim Leiweke spoke about the streetcar plan’s overall importance to the city saying that, “this would be a vision that would connect all of downtown and suddenly give us an infrastructure so that we could go after every convention and every major event and bring it to downtown LA.”

The streetcar is expected to be ready for construction within five years.

More stories about public transportation:

Bus riders protest cuts to bus routes and services

Inglewood expands free trolley service

Unemployed call for MTA to speed up transit plans and create jobs

Working families may be eligible for tax credits

Listen to the audio story:

With tax filing in full swing, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa spent his morning helping Angelenos learn how to put money back into their pockets with the help of the Earned Income Tax Credit Program. For millions of low-income working families, the struggle to make ends meet is harder than it has to be. That is the message the Los Angeles mayor brought to the Watts Labor Community Action Committee on Thursday. He encouraged families to file for the federal earned income tax credit.

“Our message today is that there’s help that’s on the way,” said Villaraigosa. ” There are opportunities for you to cash in on your own hard work, to qualify and reap the benefits of the earned income tax credit.”

The United Way of Greater Los Angeles is helping spread awareness about organizations that provide families with free tax assistance. Families with three children who earn less than $48,362 a year can qualify for up to $5,666.

Elise Buik, the President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles said, 15 to 20 percent of families are not accessing money that they’re entitled to.

“We’re leaving that money on the table in Washington,” Buik said. “So $250 million dollars, families are eligible for that. So lets get that money back to Los Angeles and in the pockets of our families and in our local economy. It will make a huge boost.”

For more information and to find one of over 100 free tax preparation sites, visit the partnership’s website at www.EITC-LA.com