Promoting health in the Latino community

Latinos in low-income immigrant communities tend to seek medical attention at the last minute – often, in an emergency room. It’s not because they don’t want to go to the doctor. It’s because they can’t afford it. A lack of health insurance, limited access to low-cost care, cultural factors and language are many times barriers to getting the help they need.

That’s where promotoras come in. They’re health educators, advocates, mentors and outreach workers. They’re effective in their health prevention information efforts because they usually come from the very communities they serve.

In South LA, non-profit organization Esperanza Community Housing has a popular program that since its inception in 1996 has trained and graduated almost 400 men and women promotores.

Juanita Calel is one of those graduates. Originally from Guatemala, she has dedicated her life for the past 12 years to helping others in her community. As a promotora, she gives health classes, goes to health fairs and even does house visits to provide health prevention information all year round.

Like other promotoras, she focuses on breast cancer awareness as the need arises. Calel talks about her passion for health education and the challenges she faces in relaying information about breast cancer among Latinas.

Community garden victory in South LA

imageThe green thumbs at the Raymond Avenue Community Garden are celebrating a big victory. As of Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is the new owner of the land where nearby residents grow their fruits and vegetables.

For the past five years, Angela Lang, the property’s owner, allowed Julie Burleigh to use her abandoned property as a community garden, with the promise that they would leave should she want to sell it. The situation worried Burleigh, who came up with the idea of the community garden, tracked down Lang and negotiated the conditions of use of the land.

Lang owed $100,000 in back taxes and thanks to the generosity of a donor who stepped in, the Land Trust was able to buy the land to convert it into permanent green space in the city before it was auctioned off.

Listen to Burleigh talk about the garden:

Photos of the empty lot and community gardeners courtesy of Julie Burleigh.

Music Man Murray’s holds a collection of records and memories

Murray Gershenz talks to musician son Irv, who helps him with the store.

Murray Gershenz has been a music collector since he was 16. He finally turned his hobby into a professional endeavor in 1962 when he opened his first record store in Hollywood.

As his record collection grew, he needed more space and moved to his current location in the West Adams area in 1986 at 5055 Exposition Boulevard just off La Brea.

Music Man Murray’s collection of 78-rpm discs, 45s, LPs, reel-to-reel, cassette tapes and CDs is now legendary.

He estimates the hundreds of thousands of records he owns are worth between $3 to $4 million dollars. He has been trying to sell his collection for the past two years, but hasn’t been able to get any offers. He’s looking to make at least $500,000.

Gershenz in an episode of “House.”

In recent years, Gershenz has been focusing on a new career: acting. He has landed small roles on movies such as “I Love You, Man” and “The Hangover,” and shows like “House” and “Mad Men.”

But the 90 year-old remains passionate about music and dedicated to his store, hoping a philanthropist will rescue his rare collection and donate it to a university, where his life’s work can be preserved.

Click below to watch an audio/slideshow of Music Man Murray tell his story and share some of his most memorable celebrity moments:

South LA organizations praise court’s health care ruling

St. John’s President & CEO Jim Mangia addresses the crowd during the Thursday morning press conference. (Photos by Andrew Zappin for St. John’s Well Child and Family Center)

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act was a surprise and cause for celebration in South LA, where many low-income uninsured families live.

Shortly after the court’s announcement, a coalition of elected officials and local organizations representing patients, healthcare workers and community clinics held a joint press conference at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center to praise the decision that will extend insurance coverage to millions of additional Americans.

The court’s decision will benefit South LA residents who seek care at St. John’s. Right now, 61 percent of their patients are uninsured and 82 percent fall below the federal poverty level.

“What we can say today with certainty is that the Supreme Court has upheld the right of our government to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare,” said St. John’s Well Child and Family Center President & CEO Jim Mangia. “President Obama staked an incredible amount of political capital and endured harsh attacks by opponents to pass legislation that affirms healthcare is a fundamental human right for everyone. This is a day of celebration.”

The Affordable Care Act will provide billions of dollars in funding to expand Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. The law also includes $12 billion for the expansion of community health centers, which could benefit other South LA community clinics.

image“This is a great day for our President, our country and our local communities. Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholds what we have all known: that a person’s ability to stay healthy should not be a privilege for the few but a right for all,” said Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers. “It also means that LA County’s 2.2 million uninsured residents can breathe a little easier by knowing that they will have access to the care they and their families need.”

The coalition members that attended the press conference included St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers, Congressmember Karen Bass, Senator Curren Price, Senator Kevin DeLeon, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, NAACP Greater Los Angeles Chapter, Special Needs Network, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, and Brotherhood Crusade.

Fremont High School graduates record number of students

imageOver 750 students are graduating from Fremont High School on Wednesday. That’s the largest number of graduates since the school opened its doors in 1924. It’s also a 36 percent increase over the 553 graduates who graduated in 2010.

“This remarkable improvement demonstrates that when you get strong leadership, committed students and teachers, and involve parents and community, you can turnaround a failing school,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President and CEO of Community Coalition. “At Fremont we are showing that real public education reform is possible and within our reach.”

Just two years ago, Ramon Cortines, then Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), spearheaded a restructuring plan that included the removal of teachers and staff at the school to make them to reapply for their positions. That caused an uproar within the teachers union and the community.

Local community organizing organization Community Coalition helped parents and students come together to insure that they played a role in the school reform. They held a townhall with Superintendent Cortines, who listened to the concerns of students and parents.

The school’s restructuring brought in a new wave of resources and programming designed to transform what at the time was considered to be a failing urban school.

Graduation ceremonies for Fremont will take place on Wednesday, June 27, 5:00pm, at Home Depot Tennis Stadium, 18400 Avalon Boulevard, Carson CA 90746.

Buckingham Place senior apartments finally open

The Buckingham Place Senior Apartments in Marlton Square is no longer an abandoned and vacant building. After more than 10 years of delays, South LA seniors were finally able to move in to the updated and brand new complex.

The affordable housing project for seniors in South Los Angeles, which originally broke ground in 2002, was finally recently completed and tenants have moved in to the community. The four-story building has 70 one and two-bedroom apartments, a community room and a courtyard area with benches and outside barbeques. The units are for low to moderate income seniors.

The opening of the Buckingham Place Senior Apartments is a milestone for Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, who for years tried to push forward the Marlton Square redevelopment project on the site of the old Santa Barbara Plaza. For Parks, the grand opening “brings to a conclusion a ten-year project that makes a very positive impact on housing for seniors within the local community.”

Just three weeks ago, Parks announced that Kaiser Permanente would become the anchor tenant for the long-awaited Marlton Square Redevelopment Project.

“This accomplishment, along with recently securing Kaiser Permanente as a neighboring tenant in Marlton Square, is a positive sign for future development in the surrounding area,” said Parks.

Bids for the sale of the remaining acres of Marlton Square are currently under review and Parks’ office says a developer will be chosen soon.

South LA pays tribute to Rodney King

Radio hosts Carl Nelson and Dominique DiPrima posed with Rodney King on Monday, April 30, 2012. (Photo courtesy of KJLH-FM)

Twenty years after the LA riots, Rodney King published a book telling his story: “The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.”

He had been doing media rounds in April. He spoke about being a victim of one of the most brutal police beatings ever caught on video, the acquittal of the officers that led to the eruption of violence in Los Angeles and his struggles in dealing with the aftermath.

Just two months later, he was found dead – apparently drowned – in the pool of his Rialto home.

This morning, KJLA’s “Front Page” dedicated its morning show to remembering King.

And tonight, a community tirubute will be held in Leimert Park to honor the man who became a symbol for needed change in the Los Angeles Police Department and its treatment of minorities in South LA.

You can read about his conversation with KPCC’s Patt Morrison during a panel held on Saturday, April 21 during the LA Times Festival of Books here.

Please visit our special 20th riot anniversary site,, for more coverage on the event that changed the history of Los Angeles.

Perry applauds immigration directive that will cease undocumented student deportations

imageThe United We Dream Network had scheduled a “Right to Dream” community mobilization for 8:30 on Friday, but organizers awoke to learn that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would cease deportations of eligible undocumented student immigrants and even grant them the opportunity to apply for work authorization.

“We’re very excited, but we’re concerned about the implementation of the entire program,” said Justino Mora, a UCLA political science student and leader of the California Dream Network. “We know this is only temporary and just one step in the right direction. We need to put more pressure on Congress to do something more comprehensive. We want them to see this as a civil and human rights issue.”

Mora pointed out the group had picked Friday, June 15 for their protest because it was the 30th year anniversary of the Plyler v Doe Supreme Court decision, which “struck down a California statute denying undocumented immigrants the right to an affordable K-12 education.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who’s district has a large immigrant and undocumented population, immediately issued a statement on the immigration policy change:

“For far too long our outdated immigration laws have divided families and punished young people by ripping them away from the country, family, and community that they have grown up with and loved.” Perry stated the “announcement is an incredible step in the right direction and I applaud our President for moving us forward on immigration reform.”

The action is not a new law. It’s an immigration policy change that implements an existing provision of immigration law called “deferred action” through prosecutorial discretion. This basically means that DHS will evaluate each case and determine whether a person is eligible, under the established guidelines, to remain in the country for a period of two years, suspending deportation proceedings.

“This is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people,” said President Obama shortly after the DHS announced the immigration policy change.

Not all undocumented students will benefit. In order to be eligible for deferred action, the person must:

Have come to the United States before the age of 16;

Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years before June 15, 2012 and currently live in the country;

Be currently in school, have graduated from high school, gotten a GED, or have been honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

Not be above the age of 30.

Reward offered in 1989 hit and run that killed 3 year-old

The Los Angeles Police Department and Crime Stoppers Los Angeles have reopened a 23 year-old cold case with the hopes of finding the person responsible for the hit and run death of 3 year-old D’Ancee Nathanial Barnes. The boy was the son of Carson Councilmember Mike Gipson and wife LeCresha who say they want justice for the death of D’Ancee.

“Even though it’s been 23 years, for us as a family, it’s like it happened yesterday,” says Gipson. “A part of our family is missing and gone forever and we just want justice for D’Ance.”

Carson Councilmember Mike Gipson and wife LeCresha make an emotional plea for anyone who has information on the hit and run driver responsible for the death their son D’Ancee to come forward.

On Saturday, Councilmember Bernard Parks announced a $50,000 reward at the South Los Angeles intersection of Van Ness and 65th Place, where the little boy was struck by a hit and run driver at approximately 8:55 p.m. on March 18, 1989.

According to the LAPD, a driver in a 1974-1985 white or light brown 2-door Cadillac was travelling north on Van Ness Avenue towards Gage Avenue when she hit the small boy as he ran into the roadway.

The driver is described as a 32-34 year old Black female with black hair, approximately 5’6” tall and weighing 110-120 pounds. She stopped briefly after the impact before continuing northbound on Van Ness Avenue. She has never been identified.

The reward was initiated by Los Angeles City Councilman Parks and supported in the council by a vote of 13-0, for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspected driver.

To help bring attention to the 23-year-old crime, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor has donated billboards that will be erected near the intersection where the accident took place. Also, on June 30 at 11:30 p.m. KCAL 9’s Crime Stoppers Case Files will air a re-enactment of the crime.

The L.A.P.D. South Traffic Division is asking that anyone with information regarding this incident to please call Detective S. Smith or Investigator R. Mendoza at (323) 421-2500 or (877) LAPD-24-7.

Lacey takes lead in DA race

imageTuesday night’s election gave Leimert Park native and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey the lead in the race for Los Angeles District Attorney. She will be facing Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson in the November runoff to replace Steve Cooley when he retires.

Lacey got 203,889 votes or 31.9 per cent of the votes, while Jackson picked up 151,199 votes — 23.6 per cent.

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who had the most name recognition and had raised the most money – more than $1.1 million in campaign funds – came in third with 142,576 votes, or 22.3 percent, so he’s out of the race.

Lacey was one of five current county prosecutors running to replace Cooley, but she was the only one with his endorsement. She was also endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Bernard Parks.

This morning on her Facebook election page her message was simply “WE DID IT,” along with a graph showing her in the lead.

In a statement, Jackson called the election results a victory over Trutanich, “a politician who was more concerned about winning the next office instead of winning the next case. We were outraised, outspent and outsized by the City Attorney, yet we prevailed because voters clearly want a modern prosecutor not a politician. We look forward to November where voters will once again have a choice to elect a modern prosecutor to lead the District Attorney’s office.”