Black History in LA webcast

The Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) have teamed up to present on February 8, 2013 a free interactive webcast with civic leaders who will share insight on Black History in LA. The “There is Black History in LA” webcast will take place from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PT and will feature new LAUL CEO and President Nolan V. Rollins, Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray and community activists “Sweet Alice” Harris and John W. Mack.
The webcast (which can be accessed at offers an opportunity for the LA community to interact with the aforementioned individuals and host Josefa Salinas of KTLK am 1150 and HOT 92.3, and learn more about the history of civil rights in LA. It builds on an exhibit – “The 90 That Built LA” – at the Museum of African American Art (MAAA which opened on December 12, 2012 and celebrated LAUL’s 91 years of existence by honoring 90 individuals who have fought for civil rights and equality. In addition to the webcast and other Black History Month events (see Facebook post), LAUL will co-present a panel featuring USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, Mack and USC Dornsife African Studies Director Francille Rusan Wilson, who will discuss the PBS special “The PowerBroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” after it is screened at the USC Annenberg Auditorium on February 11. (

LAUL VP of Marketing & Communications Chris Strudwick-Turner said her team had the vision for the exhibit, which features the tagline “We Built LA” to assert the contributions of Blacks and other minorities to LA’s development, several years ago and was able to turn it into reality thanks to TWC. “Like us, they saw the vision of what this exhibit could be and they have been with us every step of the way as a presenting sponsor to put this exhibit together for the community,” said Strudwick-Turner in a December statement to the press.
Members of the TWC Diversity and Inclusion team recently visited the exhibit–located near Leimert Park at the MAAA’s space at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall’s Macy’s third floor–on February 1, 2013 to commemorate 15 months of partnership between LAUL and TWC and promote the aforementioned webcast. TWC Regional VP of Operations Debi Picciolo said in a press statement her company was “proud of our long term partnership with the Los Angeles Urban League, and delighted we could help bring this exhibit to the community.”

One of the most notable aspects of the webcast and exhibit is the rare opportunity for young people in LA to delve deep into Black history in the city thanks to the presence of individuals like Reverend Chip Murray. Murray, who grew up in the South during segregation and whose insight on civil rights movement like the 1992 LA uprising was featured in a 2012 Intersections South LA story (, will answer questions from webcast attendees and discuss the struggle that made equality possible. Murray and his fellow panelists plan to highlight trailblazers from the distant past such as Biddy Mason–a slave that walked several hundreds of miles to LA to gain her freedom–in addition to former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, who made history in LA as the first Black mayor of a major American city.
imageAngelenos can discover historic art and photos commemorating LA trailblazers in fields such as cinema, civil rights, music and media; Sir Sidney Poitier, Cesar Chavez, Ella Fitzgerald and Paula Madison, respectively, at “The 90 that Built LA” exhibit through March 7, 2013.

Elias Kamal Jabbe is the Founding Editor of (

Los Angeles Urban League to honor Villaraigosa, others

imageAs Black History Month draws to a close, one group in South Los Angeles is just starting a celebration of the future of African Americans.

At a private event kick-off to be held Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Urban League will announce four community leaders who will be honored as “Enduring Legacies” for their contribution to African Americans and other minority groups in Los Angeles.

“Months like Black History Month are really important to preserve heritage as we come together in a melting pot society,” said Dannete Wilkerson, event director for the LAUL. “The freedom we have in America is very extensive … but there are still some imbalances that we need to pay attention to.”

The Urban League aims to honor individuals that it feels give proper focus to those imbalances.

This year’s honorees include Virgil Roberts, an entertainment lawyer and education advocate, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Robert Billingslea, corporate director of urban affairs at Walt Disney Co., and Luis Lainer, co-founder of Bet Tzedek, a nonprofit organization offering legal services to low-income people.

“Each of them are being honored to signify that they stand for the epitome of what we try to do at the league,” Wilkerson said. “They represent community leadership and continued effort in honoring the culture and community of the groups they represent.”

Whitney M. Young (far left) during a civil rights march in D.C.

The recognitions will be formally handed out at an annual celebration on April 25, honoring Whitney M. Young, Jr., an American civil-rights activist who played a large role in the foundation of the Los Angeles Urban League.

“(Young) really leveled the playing field for African Americans in Los Angeles,” Wilkerson said. “We try to honor people who share the same spirit and hope for equality.”

The LAUL will also be announcing an exhibit honoring 90 different organizations and community leaders in Los Angeles that have impacted the African American community, called “The 90 That Built LA.”

The exhibit will be held at the Museum of African American Art located on the third floor of the Macy’s department store at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and will open in the fall.

“The African American community, and these organizations in particular, have made significant contributions to the city of Los Angeles and we want to honor that,” Wilkerson said.

The 90 exhibit subjects were selected by the league and voted on by community members. They will be announced during the summer.

William Grant Still Arts Center commemorates Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

imageTo raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, the William Grant Still Arts Center held a doll-making workshop and offered free HIV/AIDS testing on Saturday. National Black Awareness Day is Monday, Feb. 7.

The event coordinated with the center’s Black Doll Exhibit.

HIV/AIDS infects 56,000 new Americans every year. Infection rates are especially high in the African Americans.

Estimates say 15,000 people in Los Angeles are infected with the virus and don’t know it. These people will be responsible for 50 percent of the new HIV/AIDS cases.

Dolls of Hope

When Cynthia Davis traveled in Sub-Saharan Africa and visited orphans from HIV/AIDS, she was surprised to see that they didn’t have any toys.

“They were playing with rock and pieces of tree bark and old tires,” said Davis. “I thought having a doll would be something that would comfort them.”

A doll collector herself, the assistant professor at Drew University of Medicine and Science and HIV/AIDS advocate started a new group. She called is Dolls of Hope. It aims to bring dolls to orphans from HIV across the world.

Davis taught a doll-making workshop at the arts center. A group of volunteers, primarily children from the neighborhood, gathered to stuff and sow cloth dolls. These dolls will now be sent across seas.

“Everybody loves dolls, especially children,” said Davis. “The doll represents life, it represents children, it represents unconditional love.”

To date, Davis has given out over 6,000 dolls.

imageDolls of Hope have been meeting at the center for the last three years for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The organization also has workshops all over the world, with the first during 1998 world AIDS Days.

Before the workshop began, Davis spoke to the group about HIV/AIDS and the impact on the African American community. Working in the black community for almost three decades, Davis has found there’s still a lot of stigma and fear surrounding AIDS.

“People who are infected, they need love and care and support,” Davis said.

The Van

In front of the center, a medical van offered anonymous and free HIV tests. The van is part of another of Davis’ project she started at Drew University.

“In the hood, it’s known as the AIDSmobile,” laughed Albert Washington, one of the technicians on the van.

Davis got funding for the van 1991. At the time, it was the first mobile testing van in Los Angeles. Today vans like this are standard as outreach to at-risk communities.

The van is the size of a trailer home. Steep steps lead to a little reception, with an exam room on either side. The test is just an oral swab and results come back in 20 minutes – a vast improvement to the method of drawing blood from yesteryear. Back then, tests were done off site and results took 5-7 days.

This van is the only unit to patrols South Los Angeles, which has one of the highest concentrations of infection in the county. Washington says he usually finds two to three positive cases a week.
Washington says administrating the test is a small part of the job. The harder part is telling people they have a life-changing disease.

“It becomes part of you, because you get used to doing it,” said Washington. “You can see the pouring of expression from their faces. You can see the face of betrayal. These faces never leave you.”

If someone tests positive, the van is prepared to tell him or her what to do next. They try to make is as easy as possible to take the next steps. Otherwise, Washington says, they could be out infecting more people.

“We cross the T’s and dot the I’s,” said Washington. “We will make the appointments, we will get them a contact person, we give them literature.”

Like many organizations with a free service, the van is always fighting for funding. Davis is worried they may not be able to stay open. They ironically didn’t have the money to remove their sponsors’ names on the side of the van after those sponsors dropped them.

Remember, Recycle and Revive

Davis’ doll workshop coincided with the center’s Black Doll exhibit. The exhibit opened Jan. 8 and will close Feb. 19.

Cheryl Williams, the show’s curator, explained that the name of the show, Remember, Recycle and Revive, is based on remembering black heritage, making dolls from recycled materials, and celebrating the revival of black culture.

Photographs from Black Doll Exhibit:

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BLOG: Racially charged incidents continue

Black History Month proved controversial this year.

After students from the University of California, San Diego allegedly encouraged others to mock blacks at an off-campus party, someone discovered a noose dangling from a light fixture at the campus library. Days later, Santa Cruz officials found an image of a noose on the inside of a bathroom door with the words “San Diego” and “lynch” written on either side of the picture. Then, someone discovered a KKK-style hood placed on a statue outside the UCSD library.

But these racially and ethnically charged incidents did not only occur on university campuses. Instead, the events spread to a South Los Angeles elementary school.

Three white male teachers from Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School decided to “honor” Black History Month by allegedly encouraging students to celebrate an accused murderer, a notorious drag queen and an NBA bad boy. First-, second- and fourth-grade students supposedly carried pictures of OJ Simpson, RuPaul and Dennis Rodman at a parade on the school’s playground. But children from other classes at the school displayed pictures of Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and President Barack Obama, AP reported.

The teachers responsible for the incident have since been suspended. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped up and expressed his “shock and outrage.” He said the teachers “undermined the school’s well-intentioned celebration at the expense of elementary school students,” Los Angeles Times reported. Los Angeles Times also noted the principal’s apology “for these errors in judgment.”

What do you think?

Do the teachers’ choices make a mockery of black history and reinforce racial stereotypes? Or is this a reminder to children that even once successful football players, singer-songwriters and basketball players are not perfect? Can the three teachers argue that, despite what some think or feel, those individuals still made history?

Panel discusses idea of post-racial society

imageSouth Los Angeles community members gathered Thursday for a home-cooked meal and a thought-provoking discussion to debunk the myth of a post-racial society after the election of Barack Obama.

The Freedom Socialist Party, a revolutionary feminist organization, hosted the event for the group’s annual Black History Month celebration.

Muffy Sunde, 60, the local organizer of the party, said the party considers issues of race and racism of primary importance. She thought a public discussion on post-racial society would be relevant.

“It seemed like the myth of a post-racial society is a no brainer. Because everyone is saying we have a black president, [they] say it’s not an issue anymore,” Sunde said.

Sunde asked a panel of speakers who have all actively fought racism to speak on the subject. Panelists included Linda Guthrie, a middle school teacher and former officer of United Teachers Los Angeles, Ray Boudreaux a former Black Panther party member, and Beatrice Paez, an active member of Radical Women.

Each speaker talked for 15 minutes. The speakers were followed by a public discussion.

Among about 40 members of the audience were Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, college students, community members, Freedom Socialist Party members, and Radical Women party members. 

“We celebrate Black History month not only to recognize the political and social games won, the cultural attributes and the leadership shown by African Americans, but we also do it every year since the early sixties because we are Marxists, feminists and revolutionaries,” said Yolanda Alanoz, the event’s moderator.

“We realize in order for full equality for blacks and others oppressed by the system, we have to institute a new democratic socialist society.”

The speakers all voiced concern that there is no such thing as a post-racial society, even after the election of Barack Obama.

The struggles and rhetoric of black people have been the same throughout history, said Boudreaux.

Guthrie furthered this point by arguing issues of race are still invisible.

“Post-racial is another series of politically correct terms in which America acknowledges the difficult issue but instead chooses to continue to ignore them,” Guthrie said.

Some speakers argued the only way to achieve a post-racial society is to overthrow capitalism and the oppressive ruling class that continues to exploit Black labor and to practice classism. 

”Is it any wonder why the ruling class promotes color blindness and the lid of a post-racial society in the mass media after Obama’s election, who needs Black History month then?” Paez said. 

The speakers placed particular emphasis on the public education gap between children of color and Caucasian children, sexism, media portrayals of colored people, the tendency of people to identify blacks as one monolithic group, uneven racial divides in incarceration systems, and even teaching about racism and history in schools. All were used as examples of why the speakers believe there is no such thing as a post-racial society. 

Some even said that American angst and displeasure with the Obama administration is not about the policies he is implementing but rather the color of his skin.

“We have to support him…It’s important to make people confront why they are attacking him, and that’s the myth we have to go after,” Guthrie said.

”It’s not about policy, it’s not about philosophy. It’s about what he looks like.”

Julia Wallace, 28, an audience member who spoke up about the current problem of inter-racism specified how she thinks race and the Obama administration collide. Wallace saw this collision in the war in the Middle East and Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops over.

“I have problems with the Obama administration going to war in Afghanistan because he’s sending black and brown people to war…It’s not rich people going to war in Afghanistan…it’s not policy.”

Audience member, Erma Elzy, 58, said that Obama, who is trying to please different factions, would want the group to do “just what [they] are doing right now” and “stand up for activism.”

But regardless of talk about activism and how to really make a change in society, Guthrie said she did not care to look forward to the future if society cannot appreciate her for who she is already.

“I’m not interested in a post-racial society because race defines who I am,” she said. “If you cannot see my race, then you cannot see me. And if you do not have the respect for the experience that led up to me being me, then you can never know me.”

BLOG: University event sparks controversy

Students and faculty at the University of California at San Diego continue to feel the aftermath of a week-old, off-campus party dubbed the “Compton Cookout.”

Members of Pi Kappa Alpha, a fraternity at the university, allegedly hosted the event and urged male attendees to “wear chains, don cheap clothes and speak loudly,” as reported by NBC San Diego. Other members of the fraternity encouraged female participants to “purchase gold teeth, start fights and wear purple weaves.” The Facebook invitation, complete with references to fried chicken and watermelon, said Black History Month inspired the event. Students at UCSD’s student-run television station defended the off-campus party.

Meanwhile, the university seemed to separate itself from all media attention, reminding everyone it did not authorize the event. But as NBC San Diego reported, Campus Chancellor Marye Anne Fox called the event offensive in an e-mail to 29,000 students and 26,000 staff members. The Black Student Union agreed.

At a packed forum Friday, the union requested “mandatory diversity sensitivity classes and increased African American enrollment in students.” Los Angeles Times also reported only about 2 percent of UCSD undergraduates are African American.

What do you think?

Who will this party affect the most in the long run – the students who organized the event or the people who took offense to the racial epithets? Would the “Compton Cookout” be any less offensive or racist if an African American man or woman planned the event? Can the students at the university argue free speech? Or will the event fall into the category of fraternity boys behaving like other fraternity boys?