Opinion: A personal holiday story

Shanice Joseph | June 2013

Shanice Joseph | June 2013

Shanice Joseph is a resident of Watts and a former member of the Intersections South LA Reporter Corps.

When I asked my little brother what he wanted for Christmas, I was surprised when he replied, “nothing.” In the history of my twenty-four years of living, I have never heard a child, especially one under ten years of age, say that they wanted “nothing” for Christmas. As much as I wanted to inquire more about what appeared to be a nonchalant and defeatist attitude toward Christmas, I had to start getting ready for work, so it would have to wait until later.

I have been a airplane cleaner for American Airlines at LAX for two years. Although my job is stressful at times, it financially supports me, my family and my education. I usually dread going to work and wanted to call off today, but I needed all the hours that I could get so I could buy everyone something for Christmas….or at least that was the goal until my brother declined the gesture.

I got into my mother’s car and sat in between my younger brother and younger sister for the ride to my job. As I looked outside, it appeared it was going to rain. “I don’t want to go to work,” I sighed for the four millionth time. I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning up international throw-up and picking up blankets that people threw everywhere onboard the plane. The thought of calling off again played with my head until my mom pointed out a homeless woman.

“You have to admire her dedication. Rain, snow or heatwave, she’s out here hustling,” said my mom.

My heart sunk in my chest knowing that my mother wasn’t exaggerating. This homeless woman really did stand all day, at this busy intersection (on a small island divider) for long hours holding up a sign, asking for change for survival.

“Yesterday when I saw her, it was pouring rain but something else caught my attention,” said my mom. “I was driving down the street when I saw this man and woman both pushing a stroller each, with a young girl walking behind them.”

“Wait this street?” I asked, looking out the window and frowning. It was a wide and busy street. There were not many lights. There were no sidewalks, but there was a bike lane that the family must have been walking on, and the speed limit was 40 mph. There was no way I was going to walk down this particular street, especially not in the rain or with three small children. The slightest turn of the wheel could seriously injure a pedestrian.

“Yes,” my mother continued. “At first, I wasn’t going to stop but it was raining hard, it was Sunday [meaning that the Metro bus was going to take forever], they had kids with them and none of them had on a jacket. They all had on light cotton sweaters or long sleeve shirts, but nothing rainproof. So, I yelled out my window, ‘do you want a ride?’ They hesitated to answer, but I pulled over anyway and they all eventually got in”

Now, here was something that wasn’t surprising at all. I love that my mother is so helpful, but I worry about her. She is always giving a stranger a ride somewhere. She has been doing this for as long as I could remember.

“They all got in. They were soaking wet like they had been walking in the rain for a while,” continued my mom. “At first they were quiet, but I start talking so the mother replied back. She explained that they had seen a flyer that said this building was giving away Christmas toys, and they went. It was a long line that went down the street. They stood in that line for hours and then it started raining. She said they tried to stand there as long as they could to get their kids some gifts, but the rain just got worse, so they had to leave.”

I shook my head. That was so unfortunate, but something told me my mom wasn’t done.

She saw my facial expression and continued, “I felt so bad for them that I start looking for things in the car to give them, because I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have anything in the car to give. I looked at the father and he was just so distant and maybe even disappointed in himself. So I asked them where were they going and it got awkwardly quiet, so I thought I said something wrong. I asked again and the father spoke for the first time since he been in the car. He said, ‘Western and Lomita,'” I frowned again.

My mother knew exactly why I was frowning and nodded her head slowly. “Yes they are homeless” she said, confirming my thoughts. Although, according to a recent article published in The Los Angeles Times, “13, 000, people fall into homelessness each month,” it still bothers me to hear such stories, especially when certain factors like children and the holidays are involved. Unfortunately, their situation is nothing new or uncommon. California has one of the highest number of homeless individuals in the country (over 20% of the state’s population is homeless,) and the numbers are increasing, forcing the state declare it as an emergency situation. It’s so upsetting that I would give up a lifetime worth of Christmas presents to solve the problem.

For some people, the holidays are the best time of the year, meanwhile for others it’s a heartbreaking reminder of how they have struggled financially throughout the year. Also, a lot guilt and stress falls upon the parents, especially homeless ones, for not being able to provide the necessities, let alone toys. I have witnessed the stress pass down from the parents to the children, which causes children to be selfless and either not expect anything for Christmas or not want anything for Christmas. I looked over at my younger brother and wondered if this was the case for him.

“Yeah, I felt so bad. The dad probably felt worse; he was probably beating himself up for standing in the rain and still not being able to get anything. To add insult to injury, no one wanted to pick them up and drop them off,” my mother continued.

“They are residing at a broken down motel which is in walking distance of Palos Verdes, one of the richest neighborhoods. All of these nice warm cars passing them by and not doing anything….but that’s another story. I just told you that to remind you of how blessed you are and how thankful you should be. The next time you feel like calling off work, don’t.  Some people have the hardest time finding a job or financially supporting their families, and you are complaining about the one job you do have,” she said.  My mom was absolutely right, I had no right to complain.

When we arrived at my job, I managed to change my attitude and turned to my younger brother once more. I asked again what would he like for Christmas and he paused as if he was thinking. My mom looked at me through her rear view mirror and said, “I heard someone say, as we get older our Christmas list get shorter because what we want, money can’t buy.”  It was an interesting concept. However, my brother smiled as if a light bulb had clicked over his head.

“I want some Pokemon cards, and you have to play Pokemon with me,” he laughed. I smiled back at him, “Sure, we can do that.”

It wasn’t much, but sometimes the bare minimum, be playing cards or a kind gesture like giving a family a ride out the rain, was something people greatly appreciate.


Fatal police interactions spark ‘Know Your Rights’ panel in Compton

LA protests Ferguson grand jury decision | Charlie Magovern (Neon Tommy)

In response to recent alleged incidents of police brutality, panelists talked about how citizens should interact with the police.   | Charlie Magovern (Neon Tommy)

Educating residents on how to interact with law enforcement was at the top of the agenda for the “Know Your Rights” panel recently held in Compton. The event, held in the wake of the deaths of African Americans Sandra Bland and Sam DuBose, which involved police interactions that began as traffic stops that escalated in both cases. Panelists, pointing to these national headlines, stressed the importance of the black community knowing their civil rights in such situations.

[Read more…]

Additional neighborhood safety comes with Price

Councilman Curren Price looks up at the new traffic signal on the corner of Figueroa Avenue and 56th Street.

Councilman Curren Price looks up at the new traffic light on Figueroa Avenue and 56th Street. | Photo by Marisa Zocco


Alysia Busher did not notice the new traffic signal near her daughter’s daycare as she navigated the pair’s way from the bus stop at Figueroa Avenue and 56th Street, having to cross the busy six-lane intersection.

The struggle to cross the street had become so routine that Busher dropped her daughter off before noticing Councilman Curren D. Price standing on the corner July 22 poised to speak to a dozen community members gathered to celebrate the new safety measure.

[Read more…]

Why the fast food ban failed in South LA + Pot shops thrive in South LA

Image by _skynet on Flickr.com

Image by _skynet on Flickr.com

Why the fast food ban failed: A recent study by the Rand Corporation shows that the 2008 ban that prohibited fast food chains from opening new locations in South L.A. was unsuccessful in curbing obesity rates. (The Atlantic)

Marijuana dispensaries flourish: L.A. dispensaries are shifting from the San Fernando Valley and East L.A. to the South L.A. and San Pedro, according to a study by the UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team. (L.A. Weekly)

Sheriff’s deputies shoot, kill man; woman found dead: Sheriff’d deputies shot and killed a man Wednesday when responding to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon. A woman was also found dead at the scene. (KTLA)

Baby born in alley: A baby girl was born in a homeless encampment behind a South L.A. church Monday. The baby and mother were transported to the hospital. (Daily News)

Killer at large: More than four years ago, Brandon Shorts died on Christmas from injuries from a shooting on Nov. 18. Police still have not found the shooter. (L.A. Times)




Elections offer hope and help for South LA + ‘Ghettoside’ shows life and death in South LA


District 8 map | The City Project (Flickr Creative Commons)

District 8 map | The City Project (Flickr Creative Commons)

Elections offer hope and help: District 8 candidates are forced to conquer issues of unemployment, economic development and lack of resources. (KPCC)

Life and death in South LA: In an excerpt from her book Ghettoside, Jill Leovy tells the story of the murder of the son of LAPD detective to show how violence affects South L.A. (The Guardian)

The taco evolves: South L.A. puts its own twist on the traditional taco by adding deep-fried chicken, turkey or barbecue sauce. (LAist)

Three Asian Americans running for city council: Only one Asian American has served on L.A. City Council. Three candidates, including Grace Yoo running for 10th District, could change this. (The Rafu Shimpo)

Man charged with murder: Suspected robber Travell Mossett was charged with one count of murder Wednesday for the fatal stabbing of a doughnut shop worker in South L.A. (KTLA)

Suspect identified in killing of transgender woman: Robert James Spells, 30, of Inglewood was identified as the primary suspect in the murder of transgender woman Deshawnda “Ta-Ta” Sanchez through a 911 call made by Sanchez in the last moments of her life. (L.A. Times)


South LA foul-mouthed cooking sensation Auntie Fee offers culinary advice + Inglewood celebrates NFL stadium decision

Photo by Skylar Myers

Photo by Skylar Myers

Cooking sensation Auntie Fee: South L.A.’s Auntie Fee became a YouTube sensation when her son uploaded a candid video of her cooking. She has since been featured on talk shows with Steve Harvey and Jimmy Kimmel. (L.A. Times)

NFL stadium in Inglewood: Some Inglewood residents celebrated after the city council approved an NFL stadium plan on Tuesday. (L.A. Times)

Officers shoot man in self-defense: LAPD officers shot a man who fired on them in Vermont Square on Monday. (KTLA)

LAPD search for gunman: Police are investigating a South L.A. shooting that occurred Tuesday near 115th and Main streets and left one injured. (CBS)

Los Ryderz Founder: Javier “JP” Partida, founder of Los Ryderz Bike Club in Watts, will discuss his outreach with other panelists at South L.A. Visions and Voices event this Thursday. (Streetsblog LA)

Mapping L.A. rent prices: A Zumper heat map shows the most expensive and most affordable housing options throughout the city. (Curbed Los Angeles)

Urban gardening movement: South L.A. native Ron Finley has remained dedicated to his movement for food justice in urban communities, even when the city issued an arrest warrant for planting carrots in unused city space. (Fortune)

Tales of the Grim Sleeper: British documentarian Nick Broomfield explains the complex relationship between LAPD and the community in South Central that piqued his interest in the Grim Sleeper case. (Indie Wire)


Voices of South L.A.: Civic Action and Community Voice

07_SlideShow_VoicesofSouthLAVoices of South L.A.: Civic Action and Community Voice – A recap

Visions and Voices brought to the University of Southern California on Oct. 9 a “Voices of South L.A.” panel featuring long-time South L.A. observers (some of them residents) with unique, compelling perspectives. Along with audience members, they discussed South L.A.’s past and where it could be headed next, especially in light of development surrounding the school at University Village and in Downtown L.A.


The speakers included journalist and columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan; South L.A. policy advisor for the City of L.A.’s Human Relation Commission, Francisco Ortega; Executive Vice President of Community Coalition, Alberto Retana; and Streetsblog L.A.’s Communities Editor for Boyle Heights and South L.A., Sahra Sulaiman.

Stay tuned for similar panel discussions in the spring, and a walking tour of South L.A. For now, get a glimpse of the event in video, photography and Tweets…


Video recap

People’s voices: My South LA is

Created with flickr slideshow.

Put together by Sinduja Rangarajan

Photo slideshow

Photos by Jenna Pittaway

To know more about the series, click here.


Historic Watts Coffee House hopes for revival + Leimert Park’s People Plaza set to open


Watts Coffee House | Photo by The Javelina (Flickr Creative Commons)

Watts Coffee House | Photo by The Javelina (Flickr Creative Commons)

Historic Watts Coffee House hopes for revival: Watts Happening Coffee House, which began as a gathering space for artists after the Watts Riots, wants to once again serve as an outlet for creativity. (L.A. Weekly)

See also by Katherine Davis-Young for Intersections: South L.A. corner stores try to get healthy + Q&A: Donald Jolly on ‘Riot/Rebellion’

Leimert Park People St. Plaza soft opening in December:  Community organizers for Leimert Park’s people street plaza are promptly finalizing plans in order to have the space ready to open at CicLAvia. (South L.A. Streetsblog)

See also: Plaza aims to boost Leimert Park community

Mother, 2 children injured when car plows into bus stop: A mother and two young children were seriously injured on Monday when a car ran into a bus stop near USC. (L.A. Times)

Residents push to transform railway into green space: Metropolitan Transit Authority approved a $2.8 million plan to turn 8 miles on Slauson Avenue to greenway. (KPCC)

Videotaped hit-and-run in South L.A.: Police seek a couple in a videotaped hit-and-run Monday near the 4200 block of Vermont Avenue. (L.A. Times)

Man shot in the face: A man shot in the face Monday night survived the gun battle with another man in South Los Angeles. (Daily News)

Man killed in gang-related shooting identified: A 30-year-old man killed on Saturday at 88th Place and Wall Street was identified as Londale McNeil. (My News L.A.)

Boy killed by ice-cream truck + South LA grandmother starts “Gang Talk” radio show


Christian Brown | ATVN

Memorial in honor of 7-year-old killed by ice cream truck in South LA | Christian Brown (ATVN)

Family disputes police account of ice-cream truck death: Grieving family of 7-year-old killed by an ice-cream truck on Wednesday dispute the police account that he was holding onto the truck while riding his bike and slipped and fell. (L.A. Times)

Woman stabbed to death over parking space: A man and woman from South L.A. have been arrested for stabbing a woman to death over a parking space at a swap meet. (L.A. Times)

Radio Show ‘Gang Talk’ takes on violence in South L.A.: Lita Herron, a grandmother in South L.A., has started a talk show to deal with gang violence in the community. (L.A. Times)

Young Black men in Crenshaw discuss racial profiling with Attorney General: A dozen young men shared their stories of racial profiling with Attorney General Eric Holder at the Brotherhood Crusade Youth Source Center in Crenshaw. (L.A. Times)

Saturday Garden event will promote health and food security: On Saturday October 25, community members and celebrity guests will celebrate a new community garden and athletic facility at a school in South L.A. (Business Wire)

Flaw in Jefferson High scheduling plan: Attorneys claim the plan to fix the scheduling fiasco at Jefferson High does not properly address why so many students were given two or more non-academic classes. (KPCC)



104-year-old celebrates birthday in South LA + Taste of Soul Festival takes over Crenshaw


The Taste of Soul street festival celebrates all things "soulful" and has been a South LA tradition for 8 years.

The Taste of Soul street festival celebrates all things “soulful” and has been a South LA tradition for 9 years.

104-year-old woman celebrates birthday: First AME church member Rosie Tilles turned 104 at the Saint John of God Retirement and Care Center in South L.A. (CBS)

Taste of Soul takes over Crenshaw: The 9th annual arts street festival filled the Crenshaw district with more than 350,000 people. (CBS)

South LA barber turns life around through Islam: Ron Walker, barber to Tupac and Suge Knight, had a hard life until he found Islam. (L.A. Times)

Newcomer Wood challenges Waters in 43rd District: John Wood Jr., a 27-year-old writer, jazz musician and digital marketing sales representative is challenging Maxine Waters in the South L.A. district she has represented for 24 years. (Daily Breeze)

Woman killed near USC: A 35-year-old woman was stabbed to death Friday night near the intersection of Budlong Avenue and 36th Place. (Daily Breeze)

Free pet vaccines provided: The American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals offered free pet vaccinations at Green Meadows Park on Saturday. (CBS)