The Father of Leimert Park, or the Octopus


Caldwell at a community meeting at Leimert Park | Sinduja Rangarajan

Ben Caldwell stopped in the middle of 43rd Street in Leimert Park, bent down, lunged forward, clicked a photograph and disappeared into the crowded street within seconds.

Something on the other side of the road had caught his attention.

This article was also published on KCET Departuresan online documentary series mapping LA neighborhoods through interactive portraits.

Perhaps it was the colorful quilted skirts swaying in the breeze in a makeshift clothing store, one of the many stands set up during Leimert Park’s monthly art walk. Perhaps it was the kids playing jump rope across the street. Or maybe it was one of the drummers tapping furiously in the drum circle by the fountain.

Caldwell never leaves home without his Canon DSLR camera, whether he’s going to a community meeting, a high-end innovation event at a private school or simply strolling across the familiar Leimert Park streets.

 “He documents everything, knowing things will have more value in the future,” said his daughter, Dara Marama Caldwell-Ross. “The value is not just monetary, it’s symbolic.”

Caldwell captures the world around him from behind the camera, but moves so quickly and quietly that he’s almost invisible. His customary faded black t-shirt and loose jeans don’t help him stand out either. But this low-profile artist is the tour de force of Leimert Park, a constant in this ever-changing community.

“He won’t like it if I say this, but he is like the father of Leimert Park,” said Maria Elena Cruz, an artist and teacher.

He calls himself an “octopus” with every tentacle working on a different assignment. In the last 33 years, he’s been a filmmaker, entrepreneur, ethnographer, documentarian, educator and community activist.  [Read more…]

McCormick Foundation awards Intersections grant for media-mentoring in South Los Angeles

McCormick Foundation awards Intersections $95,000 to continue news and media-mentoring program in South L.A.

The McCormick Foundation announced it will award a $95,000 grant to Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report, a program of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

The award will be used to continue the news and media-mentoring program in South Los Angeles high schools—Dorsey, Crenshaw, Fremont and Manual Arts—during the next two years. The grant supports the efforts of publications such as Intersections that align with its non-profit mission of being committed to the progression of honest and democratized news media.

“These active mentoring programs at South Los Angeles area high schools increase the number of students who are knowledgeable about how news media works and how they can shape and create the news from a diverse perspective within their communities,” said Willa Seidenberg, associate journalism professor and director of Intersections. “The USC mentors partner with local young people to foster future citizens who know they can have a voice in how their communities are portrayed in the news media.”

Funding from the McCormick Foundation also helped launch the Youth Media Los Angeles Collaborative, which promotes the field of youth journalism in the Southland.

“The Intersections program is one of the shining lights in the collaborative,” said Clark Bell, journalism program director at the McCormick Foundation. “Willa and her Intersections team have built a national model for combining talented high school and USC student journalists to cover community news.”

About Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report:
Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report is a community news website dedicated to covering South Los Angeles and surrounding areas, with contributions from residents, high school students and journalism students from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Intersections represents a new approach to journalism and news coverage. Community residents are encouraged to be active contributors in shaping news content, providing news items in a variety of forms, from video, photographs, opinion pieces, on-the-ground reporting, and entries to our community calendar. Our goal is to create a two-way conversation between residents living in South LA, Inglewood, Watts, Compton and other communities south of downtown Los Angeles and the journalists covering these neighborhoods. For more information, please visit

About the McCormick Foundation:
The McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening our nation’s civic health by creating educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through its grantmaking programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, and museums, the Foundation helps build citizen leaders and make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest charities, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit