Reporter Corps on KPCC: Touring South LA’s Manchester Square

"Touring Manchester Square" | Skylar Endsley Myers

“Touring Manchester Square” | Skylar Endsley Myers

Public radio station KPCC teamed with Intersections this week to present “Touring South LA’s Manchester Square,” an audio slideshow by Skylar Endsley Myers about the neighborhood where she grew up. Myers created the project as part of Reporter Corps South LA, our program that trains young adults to cover their South LA communities using multimedia journalism. KPCC will broadcast and publish online more Reporter Corps “neighborhood tours” over the coming months.

Check out the piece on KPCC’s Take Two page. And thanks, Curbed L.A., for the shout-out.


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StoryCorps records South LA’s diverse stories

StoryCorps kicked off its national mobile tour on Oct. 23 with mariachis, celebrities, and public officials at South L.A.’s California African American Museum. From now until Nov. 16, the StoryCorps mobile booth will be set up in front of the museum waiting to record and share the many stories upon which the vitality of South L.A. is built.

Actors Cheech Marin & Art Evans were in attendance

Actors Cheech Marin & Art Evans were in attendance

StoryCorps is no stranger to South L.A. This is its seventh year visiting greater Los Angeles, and its third time at the California African American Museum. It is also partnering with Pasadena-based radio station KPCC to broadcast some of the stories collected.

“We really love the partnership with CAAM and also KPCC,” Mobile Tour Manager Dina Zempsky said. “These organizations embrace our mission to retain diverse stories. We are back over and over again.” [Read more…]

Preserving democracy with both broadcast and Social Media

By Anjuli Kronheim, Los Angeles Organizer, Southern California Democracy Matters Coordinator, California Common Cause

I am one those Millenials that broadcast media seems to be scared of.  These days, with the digital shakeup of our media landscape, no one is quite sure what the future holds. Everyone looks to my generation for answers. Where do we get our news and information (if at all)?

With all this in mind, I recently attended the Los Angeles Media Reform Summit and came away hopeful about the future. As one of the organizers, I knew that we wanted to move beyond “kvetching”, complaining about how times have changed without figuring out what alternatives could be.  In such a critical year, one that could alter the balance of power in Congress and provide a referendum on President Barack Obama, I clearly see the need for reliable, relevant information so that I as voter can make informed decisions.

As most everyone knows, newspapers, television and radio broadcasters across the nation are cutting staff and shrinking news coverage. As speakers at the Summit pointed out, most of what we read, see and hear in the mainstream media is controlled by only a handful of corporations. The Internet has experienced an explosion of blogs and Web-only publications. They are competing with traditional media, breaking stories and doggedly calling out mainstream media’s mistakes and biases. Some say the lack of content gatekeepers on the Internet compromises its legitimacy. Others say traditional media is compromised due to corporate ownership, and should be held accountable.

As Tapia Martinez Russ, another LA Media Reform Group member, said on Saturday, “New Media or old, the democracy depends on the flow of factual information.  Making certain that real journalism survives is priority one.”

Brad Friedman, Keynote Address at ‘L.A. Media Reform Summit’, 3/27/10

This is the third annual media summit they have organized but my first one. I was reassured to see so many people give up their Saturday and learn about media and democracy and future actions. Brad Friedman, election protection advocate and blogger for the Brad Blog opened the day with stories about the lack of coverage on ACORN’s side in the recent prostitution scandal. Another organizer Dick Price liked the rallying cry. “Brad Friedman gave a passionate come-to-Jesus speech on holding the citizenry itself accountable for holding corporate media and America accountable. It was a little stunning to hear him say ‘I blame you, if you don’t (take action),’ but it was definitely a motivating moment.”

imageThis was followed by a panel discussion with Steven Cuevas, reporter for KPCC; Brad Parker, activist, author and blogger for The Huffington Post; and Sue Wilson, director of the award-winning documentary, Broadcast Blues. Ian Masters, host of Background Briefing and The Daily Briefing on KPFK moderates. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas expressed a deep concern about the affect the Internet will have on the ability of trained journalists to do real reporting. He remarked that newsrooms have been hard hit in recent years, both by the switch in reading habits online and by our economic collapse. He sees public radio station news operations affected as well, though he thinks KPCC’s will rebound when the economy recovers.

The afternoon was filled with workshops from topics such as lobbying on hate speech to citizen journalism. The citizen journalism workshops were overflowing with participants and the Net Neutrality workshop organized volunteers to attend a day of action planned on Tuesday, April 6 to lobby Rep. Joe Baca and Rep. Loretta Sanchez on their Net Neutrality positions. 

“By breaking the workshops into two sessions, facilitators were able to glean and share information with like-minded activists, which seemed to kick up the discussions a notch,” said LA Media Reform group member, Sharon Kyle. The day closed with Anthony Samad, Ph.D, Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at East Los Angeles College. Sharon continued, “It was refreshing to hear Anthony Samad recount how the media played such a central role in the civil rights movement. Indeed, newspaper descriptions and photographs of blacks being attacked by dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, for instance, galvanized public opinion across the country and around the world. That’s something to remember as we work to remake media.” 

To follow what was said throughout the day, search #lamrs on Twitter. Everyone’s combined comments put the day in perspective for those who weren’t there and educates non-attendees on these vital democratic issues. 

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Thousands visit Vernon psychic’s shop

Psychic Brings in the Money from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

Psychic José Ledesma says he’ll get famous on his merits, not just the numbers of people who visit his shop, which he says number in the thousands.

He reads tarot cards, makes potions, creates talismans and just plain talks to people. All from a closet-sized space at the back of his botánica on Central Avenue in Vernon. His shop is called Esoterica, and he’s had it for a little over a year.

“I try to help people,” he says.

He listens to complaints ranging from bounced checks to phlegm-filled lungs to a spouse’s infidelity. And he tries to fix the situations. “I’m going to be famous because what I know needs to be known.”

What needs to be known from Ledesma comes from a long lineage of people he calls “seers.”

“My aunt, my grandma, my great grandma, my great great grandma all did this,” he says. To make some potions work, he says he calls on his ancestors, in Spanish, in West African dialects and, sometimes, in Sanskrit. He asks them to help make a tincture to clear away headaches, a hex to scare away mistresses.

Botánicas, which seem to be popping up all over Los Angeles, are a one-stop-shop for spirituality, religious supplies, health care and therapy.

While they’re generally associated with “folk Catholicism and other Latin American religious traditions,” these shops can appeal to a broad client base.

Back at his shop, Ledesma focuses on helping his clients become financially stable. He says people fly in from Australia, Africa and Europe to hear what he has to say. They also walk to his shop from down the street in Central Los Angeles.

He tells them that the best way to awaken the spirits that hold the cash is to buy a specially formulated talisman.

“I’m so sure that whenever you possess one of those, you will be wealthy and you will be prosperous,” he says. “Your economic situation will grow and grow and grow, as long as you possess the talisman. You will have food, you will have money, you will have everything. Then, you will not lack of anything. You will have a comfortable life.”

In the little shop in Vernon and across the world, a lot of people buy that.

This story is part of a collaboration between and Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report.

Photo credit: Jake de Grazia

Happy pigs adorn pork-packing plant that makes Dodger Dogs

Profile of the Farmer John pork packing plant in Vernon, Calif. from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

The Vernon-based Farmer John pork-packing plant is the second-largest employer in the industrial city of Vernon.

Last baseball season, you may have heard a new ad campaign pushing old-fashioned Dodger Dogs.

Maybe you even got a free one at a baseball game.

You know, those hot dogs people slather with relish, ketchup and mustard at Dodger Stadium? Those commercials came from Vernon-based Farmer John pork-packing plant, the second largest employer in the industrial city.

The exterior of the pork-packing is 30,000 square feet of painted pigs.

According to the company’s Web site, brothers Francis and Bernard Clougherty started Farmer John’s parent company Clougherty Packing in 1931.

This is the plant that makes Dodger Dogs.

The mural wasn’t painted until 1957 when Bernard “Barney” Clougherty commissioned artist Les Grimes to fill the empty walls with pastoral pigs. Grimes ended up spending 11 years working on the project until he died on the job. He fell off the scaffolding he was using to paint the blue sky.

After Grimes died, the mural legacy continued with Arno Jordan. More artists have helped up keep the pastoral scenes. These include Philip Slagter and Alex Garcia.

While the pigs on the outside of the slaughterhouse seem happy enough, besotted with their bucolic scene, there are some hints of darkness, like the signs pointing the way to the slaughterhouse entrance and the smoke rising up from the plant. But, these aren’t the piggies who have to worry.

Despite the bizarre contrast between happy farm animals and the smell of smoked sausage, it’s still worth a look. Just for the spectacle of an industrial complex that has incorporated art into its facade.

This story is part of a collaboration between and Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report.

Photo credit: Jake de Grazia

Six fitness zones designated in South LA

imageOn a clear morning, Esthela Jimenez brought her family to the park.

It was a warm day, but despite the glaring sun, they settled in the area of the park that was the most exposed.

Situated in a 1,200 square foot zone, nine pieces of exercise equipment stood on decomposed, golden granite.

Jimenez’s son struggled to maneuver on an aerobic machine meant for those several years older, her husband worked up a sweat on the zone’s elliptical, and Jimenez walked between the nine machines, testing each one briefly.

For Jimenez, trips to the parks have become part of her daily schedule thanks to the “fitness zone.”

“Two weeks ago, I walked around and I saw these machines,” she said. “I think, ‘I’m going to come,’ and I’m here almost every day, twice a day.”

Jimenez is not alone.

On Jan. 16, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry dedicated the first of six fitness zones in South Los Angeles.

The fitness zones include weather-resistant exercise equipment for strength training and aerobic exercise.

The Trust for Public Land received funding from Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating, Active Living grants of $900,000 to be spent over three years for this equipment, as part of a park revitalization project.

The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles also provided funding.

imageFrom their inception, these zones have made a splash in the community.

“[People are] on them the second the crew is done installing them,” said Pascaline Derrick, a project manager at the Trust for Public Land. “There’s usually people standing around waiting for their completion.”

And their popularity has not waned.

“I have personally come by here twice since we’ve had them up and operating early in the morning, and I’ve seen 20, 30, 40 people at a time,” said Mark Mariscal, the superintendent for the Pacific Region of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

George Zimmerman works out at a fitness zone three to four times a week. The 76-year-old South Los Angeles resident uses the equipment to strengthen his legs.

“With the kind of equipment they have here, I don’t have to go and get a membership at some club,” Zimmerman said. “You catch a lot of people who are overweight, need the exercise and can’t afford to go to a gym, so this is a convenience that we all need really.”

Mariscal estimated that the park usage has increased 300 to 400 percent since the zone’s installation and predicted that it will continue to grow.

Perry credited this overwhelming usage to the zones’ accessibility.

“They are easy to use, and anyone of any ability can get on there,” Perry said. “You don’t have to be in shape to get in shape.

“And they are actually fun.”

This ease of use is due to the isometric weight resistance of the machines. The equipment employs its users’ body weight to engage nine muscle groups.

But the zones’ accessibility extends beyond the equipment.

The Trust for Public Land chose the locations of the fitness zones because of their accessibility to parking and park resources.

In several parks, the zones reside next to playgrounds, encouraging parents to exercise while their children play.

“The parent and the child are both outdoors, exercising, really getting out of the chair, not watching TV… and they’re out doing physical activity which is great,” said Mariscal.

Many zones are placed within sight of the park administrative offices to address safety concerns.

Michael Goran, a professor in preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine’s Center for Childhood Obesity, said safety is a key consideration when assessing the success of the fitness zones.

“If they are in areas that are perceived to be safe, this could be a great help [in combating obesity],” Goran said. “You’d have to increase physical activity quite a bit to get any effects … you need to design the resource to make it more accessible to the public.”

imageOne of the effects to which Goran referred is a decrease in the obesity rates in the area.

Goran said the obesity rate is between 50 and 60 percent in communities of color. He estimated that rate is even higher in South Los Angeles.

In South Los Angeles’s 90007 and 90011 zip codes, up to 37 percent of children are overweight. That percentage soars to 54 percent when it comes to children who are not physically fit, according to the Healthy Eating Active Communities project.

Mariscal said these childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 20 years.

“We see it at our rec centers, where we see a lot of inactivity from kids,” Mariscal said. He noted that some children are not able to complete the walk from school to the recreation centers without “huffing and puffing.”

“We’ve placed [the fitness zones] in places of high need where we have a big population of residents who are obese and who have diabetes and hypertension,” Derrick said.

The Trust for Public Land’s consideration of South Los Angeles proves a great resource for the area, said Perry.

“We are battling disproportionate statistics on obesity,” Perry said. “But this is an opportunity for South L.A. to address these issues in an upbeat and positive way and as a family.”

This story is part of a collaboration between and Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report.

Photo credit: Christine Trang