Mayor-elect Garcetti holds South Los Angeles town hall

South L.A. Town hall

Breakout session aimed at tackling problems in the city. Photo by Susan Fitzpatrick.

By Susan Fitzpatrick

About 150 people gathered at the Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles on Saturday to strategize on how to improve the city as it welcomes in a new mayor.

The town hall started at 3:00 pm with roughly 10 breakout groups of 15 – 20 people each addressing the broad topics of:  “neighborhoods, economic development, and making city hall work.”  All of the participants were supposed to identify a problem related to these topics and offer a specific solution.

The discussions lasted about an hour with two moderators for each group collecting yellow stickies with abbreviated responses and giving all members of each group an opportunity to explain their problem and solution. [Read more…]

Remembering Raymond L. Johnson, Sr.

By Michael Katz

imageIn the same pulpit that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood at nearly 43 years earlier, Reverend Henry Masters delivered the departing words for lawyer Raymond L. Johnson, Sr. Thursday morning. Although Johnson never received the acclaim that King did, it was clear from the moment the service began that Johnson touched the lives of nearly everyone sitting in the sanctuary at the Holman United Methodist Church.

Johnson was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 31, 1922. His father was a boxer and businessman and taught his son about the importance of hard work at an early age. Johnson Sr.’s accomplishments are numerous. He received his Juris Doctorate from Howard University and served as the Vice President at the Los Angeles NAACP chapter.

He worked on the “Brown vs. Board of Education” case with Thurgood Marshall and with Dr. King when he came to Los Angeles to speak in the very room his family sat in Thursday during his memorial service. He was given the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007.

But it is not his accomplishments that mourners such as Wilma Pinder, who practiced law with Johnson, remember him for. Rather, it was his strength and friendly nature that she is grateful for.

“[Johnson] was one of those kind enough to pat me on the back and offer to be a mentor to me,” Pinder says. “He just went about his business, and he tried to be helpful to not only the community at large, but one-on-one to individual lawyers.”

The room that the proceedings took place in was large, white, and featured a massive cross. Other than that, the setting was simple; there was little decoration, no choir in the background. It was humble, much in the way that Johnson was described throughout his 89 years.

Ruby Brown, who attended Johnson’s alma mater, says she had no idea he had been a part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen for black pilots until it was brought up at a ceremony. “I recall several years back our alumni club honored the Tuskegee Airmen, and that was the first time I learned he was [part of the group],” Brown says. “[He was] very unassuming.”

Johnson Sr. is survived by his wife of 61 years, Evelyn, and three children. Evelyn Johnson says her husband was defined by far more than his accomplishments; he touched lives.

“He always had a cause … it wasn’t about monetary gains,” says Evelyn Johnson. “He derived a great deal of pleasure just doing things to help other people.”

Raymond Sr.’s son, Raymond Jr., said that his defining memory of his father was working at his law firm after graduation from law school.

“I had the unique experience … [of] going to work for my father and his firm … [and learning] from him the tricks of the trade,” says Raymond Johnson Jr. “Those were the things that I would probably say [were defining] that I will always remember.”

While Johnson was remembered for his tenderness, his son says his father’s gift to the world lay in his courage. He says his father was a man of achievement and attaining goals. He smiled when describing his father’s way of asking him to do things as a child.

“When he asked you to do something, it wasn’t with a ‘please’ … it was ‘get your homework done,’” Johnson Jr. laughs. “Sometimes you just can’t be polite … and you just hope that the people you deal with … are gonna understand that when it comes time for business, you say what you have to say.”