Mexicano restaurant opens in South LA

Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo (from left to right) | Photo courtesy of Mexicano restaurant.

Chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo (from left to right) | Photo courtesy of Mexicano restaurant.

With the opening of their new restaurant, Mexicano, located in Baldwin Hills, chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu hope to immerse customers in Mexican culture, one burst of flavor at a time. The eatery has been in its soft opening since Feb. 27.

Colorful Mexican floor tiles lead patrons to the restaurant’s focal point: the kitchen. There is no partition between the kitchen and the dining room, so diners can observe the preparation of authentic dishes while surrounded by décor from the Mexican state of Jalisco.

“With the kitchen open, you are in contact with customers and they become a part of the preparation experience,” Arvizu said. “We try to get their five senses going. The smell, the sight of the ingredients, the touch and hearing. All of these are incorporated and bring you closer to the meal.”

[Read more…]

Despite odds, a boost in heart health for South LA

By Belinda Cai, Diana Crandall, Bentley Curtis, Taylor Haney, Daniel Jimenez, Kevin Mallory, Ken Mashinchi, Jonathan Tolliver and Yingzhi Yang

Zumba class at the Baldwin Hills Mall. | Daniel Jimenez

Zumba class at the Baldwin Hills Mall. | Daniel Jimenez

The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw community is changing shape.

The South L.A. neighborhood has received various grants within the past several years to start programs aimed at reducing its relatively high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity while improving access to nutrition and basic health services.

For many people, these efforts have worked. Take Debra Finley, who signed up for free Zumba classes through the BFit program at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

“I was 195 pounds,” said Finley. “Now I’m 145.”

It is still unclear whether overall health outcomes are improving in the area. Many of these programs are less than a decade old, and are being pushed into neighborhoods that remain swamped with fast food restaurants and liquor stores. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 8 percent of area food retailers in the area are considered healthy.

Yet, many positive trends are emerging. [Read more…]

South LA loses trees in Crenshaw/LAX Metro line construction

Construction for the new metro rail line on Crenshaw blvd.

Construction for the new metro rail line on Crenshaw blvd.

The new 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX light rail line could change the look of South L.A. by bringing an influx of businesses and pedestrian traffic. It could change the South L.A. landscape in another way, too: By cutting down about 100 trees along a two mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition and 48th street to make room for the train.

Romell Pace, a local who sells shirts at the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson Boulevards, said the trees need to stay.

“Once the trees are removed… it’s going to be slow on business,” he said. “I believe that the trees should stay there because they are landmarks.” [Read more…]

My Neighborhood: Baldwin Hills

Participants in Reporter Corps, a USC Annenberg program to train young adults from South LA to report on their own communities, created audiovisual introductions to their neighborhoods this summer. Ryan Johnson takes us to where she grew up, Baldwin Hills, and talks with residents about problems with schools, diversity, and transportation challenges.

Ryan Johnson, 19, Immaculate Heart graduate, Loyola Marymount University student 

Three generations of my family have lived in South Los Angeles, and I have lived in the Baldwin Hills section my entire life. Although that area of South L.A. has gained the reputation of being a predominantly middle-class, African-American neighborhood and is often referred to as “the black Beverly Hills,” that is not the whole story. Not all of Baldwin Hills is wealthy, and the media neglects covering the poverty and lack of resources that also exist. While living in my neighborhood, I have always felt that I needed to travel to other parts of L.A. to gain better resources, an education, and entertainment. Unfortunately, my neighborhood has never felt safe enough to walk to various places in comparison to other regions of L.A. I have attended school both in my immediate community as well as in the greater Los Angeles area. As a result of the positive and negative experiences I’ve had in my neighborhood, I have always been interested in learning the ways in which I can give back and improve conditions in the southern Los Angeles region.  I am a sociology major at Loyola Marymount University and I had the privilege of taking a community organizing course this past semester.


Crenshaw High’s magnet conversion and Baldwin Hills families

Crenshaw High underwent a magnet conversion this fall.

Crenshaw High underwent a magnet conversion this fall | Photo by Jazmin Garcia

As a child, my predominantly African-American enclave in South Los Angeles seemed perfect with its hilly landscape, the view of the city, and the close relationships I had with my neighbors. But in my teens, reality set in and my perspective began to change.

Weekends became my only chance to spend time with other kids like me. We all lived in the same middle-class neighborhood, yet we traveled all over the city for a good education. “Have car, will travel,” became my mother’s refrain. I would attend meetings of Jack and Jill—an African-American community service-based organization— and compare stories with my peers about balancing one-hour commutes with homework and extracurricular activities, and what it’s like to attend schools where there were very few people of color. [Read more…]

Update: Fracking controversy in Inglewood

The oil fracking method that is being used in the Inglewood oil field has been the source of controversy for the past few years.

South L.A. residents are finally seeing some government response to their concerns over fracking in Inglewood.

The oil fracking method that is being used in the Inglewood oil field has been the source of controversy for the past few years. Hydraulic Fracturing, or better known simply as fracking, is a drilling practice involving the pumping of immense quantities of water, chemicals and sand into the ground at very high pressure to break or fissure rock formations in the hope to access hidden pockets of oil and gas.  The Inglewood Oil Field sits between Culver City, Inglewood and Baldwin Hills — a community of 300,000 people — and at 1,100 acres it is the largest urban oil field in the country. [Read more…]

South L.A. teenager finds home in poetry

On a chilly night in South L.A., over a hundred young people have packed into a small theatre for an open-mic poetry reading.

Kenzie Givens

Kenzie Givens, poet, and high school student.

Seventeen-year-old Kenzie Givens is an African American poet and tonight is her first time performing at the venue.

On stage, Givens looks tough. She’s dressed in a leather jacket, mini-skirt and combat boots and her hair is done up in dreads.

Despite her apparent confidence, Givens doesn’t always fit in with her peers. She writes poetry because she often can’t connect with students her age.

“When I’m at school, I’m usually pretty shy,” said Givens. “I have this little place where I sit off. It’s actually behind this little shrubbery thing, and that’s usually where I go and eat my lunch. If people are around me my head tends to be in a book.”

Givens lives in Baldwin Hills, but doesn’t go to school in the predominately African American neighborhood, which features signs reading “Black Owned” and “Support the Hood.”

In the third grade, her parents, Darren and Caroline, chose to send her to charter schools in mostly white, wealthy neighborhoods.

“As one of the only African American students, I definitely felt like an outsider. I tried to make friends with people and tried to ingratiate myself into different groups and stuff, but I found out that in order to do that I’d have to be someone that I was not, and that didn’t appeal to me. So I just kind of decided to be stubborn, and stick it out alone,” she said.

Her father felt it was important to raise his children close to their family roots.

“It was important for them to be in an environment where one, they would be safe, but they’d be around their own people as well, able to go outside and play, drive around, participate in the neighborhood, go to their own stores, and different things,” said Darren.

Kenzie Givens (right) and her father.

Kenzie Givens (right) and her father.

Givens’ mother is a teacher in South Central, and admits that it was important to send Kenzie to a school that would prepare her for university, even though it was difficult to send her away.

“I would have liked her to have more African American friends, which I think she doesn’t have as many. Does she have any? I don’t think she has any African American friends,” said Caroline.

“I’m certain there’s someone at my school that I could have really great conversations with but I’m so focused on my books and exploring topics on my own, I never get to talk about it with anyone. Like, I’ve never had a boyfriend, or maybe my boyfriend is a book, I’m not sure,” said Givens.

While the final days of high school tick away, Givens has found a way to connect with other poets.

Recently, she started a poetry club at her high school. It isn’t popular, but the members are dedicated to their craft.

During a drizzly lunch period, four teenagers assembled in a classroom to read their poems. There were no notebooks or scribbled-in journals.

The students wrote and read their poems off their cell phones – their fingers scrolling over the words.

Poetry club members, Edwin, Sophie and Daniel, all agreed that poetry was misunderstood at their school.

“When you tell people you’re a poet, they think you’re all sad and depressed, when it really isn’t like that,” said Daniel.

For Givens, poetry is important.

“I write what feels most real at any moment. It can be any experience that is so moving that it demands to be written down. I think my biggest fear is probably a very common one, and that is of disappearing entirely. I‘d like to know that I mattered,” she said.

On the night of her first reading, Givens’ nervousness melted away. She appeared grounded and confident about her future.

Next year, she is heading to Reed College in Portland, where she secured an early admission and a scholarship. She is certain that the open environment at Reed will be accepting of her poetry and her identity.

Meanwhile, in the crowded South L.A. theatre full of poets and performing artists, she’s no outsider. As she reads her poem, the crowd snaps and applauds – expressing their approval.

On stage, Kenzie Givens is at home.

Listen to an audio version from Annenberg Radio News