Nonprofit Spotlight: Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL)

Hands Across Crenshaw High | Los Angeles Urban League

Hands Across Crenshaw High | Los Angeles Urban League

Intersections’ Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A. _________________________________________________________________________

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Urban League Facebook Page

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Urban League Facebook Page

What is the the Los Angeles Urban League’s purpose? To enable African-Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights through advocacy activities and the provision of programs and services in our uniquely diversified city and region.

When was the Los Angeles Urban League’s founded? 1921.

Which areas does the Los Angeles Urban League’s serve? A 70-block-area within Park Mesa Heights and its outskirts.

What services does the Los Angeles Urban League’s provide?  

Video Courtesy of the laurbanleague youtube channel

What does the LA Urban League consider as…

…top safety issues in South L.A.? Community residents are coming together to build a safe haven for kids to reach school. There have been safety improvements to structures around schools in the Crenshaw District.

…top education issues in South L.A.?  Suspension and expulsion rates need improvement. Also, student skills need to reach the appropriate academic levels for reading and math.

…top housing issues in South L.A.? Lack of education in home ownership needs to be improved. Some educational services have been provided, such as LAUL’s designated go-to person for Housing Solutions.  

What are the Los Angeles Urban League’s affiliated programs? iMatter2 Campaign and the Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative.


Social Media: Facebook, Twitter

Contact info: Jeffery Wallace, [email protected]

OpEd: It’s Time. Let’s Take Responsibility for Educating Our Children. NOW!

By Dr. Pat Phipps

The children of South Los Angeles are failing tragically and what are we doing about it? Has the village turned its back on our children? At the Los Angeles Urban League, we are alarmed by what is happening to the youth in our community. There is a serious achievement gap eroding academic success. Did you know?

· In California, 70% of African American third graders are not proficient in math and 60% are not proficient in language arts;
· Only 5% of African American children in California are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program;
· By the time low-income children reach 4 years of age, many are already two to three years behind their higher income peers;
· Children who do not learn to read by the end of the 3rd grade cannot “read to learn” in 4th grade and beyond;
· States determine how many prison beds they will need 10 years in the future based on 3rd grade test scores?

Sadly, all of the above statements are true. The statistics for young African American male students are even worse.

It has been proven without doubt that children who participate in high-quality early education programs develop better language and school readiness skills and have fewer behavioral problems. High quality early childhood programs also yield substantial long-term benefits including higher graduation rates, fewer school dropouts, decreased need for special education and less crime.

The time has come for the community village to take responsibility for educating our children. We can no longer wait on politicians and policy makers to solve systemic educational issues. And waiting until high school to address the problems does not work. We have to start much early in the education pipeline. Systemic and sustainable change in student achievement requires a strong focus on early education.

The Los Angeles Urban League is making the investment to change the face of education with early intervention and innovative initiatives, including:

· Community Parent Academy: Providing free training and resources for parents to help engage them in their children’s education and to learn how to advocate for their children,
· Teachers’ Coaching Program: Focusing on the young African American male by changing teachers’ stereotypical thinking about young African American males from a deficit perspective to a positive one; changing teachers’ instructional methods and teaching practices to be culturally relevant; and by providing a Summer Academy for African American males including educational and cultural enrichment programs for students entering into 9th grade.
· Early Literacy Program: For children and parents enrolled in the League’s State Preschool Program.

Success for children in our schools is not an option. But we cannot do it alone. As a community, it is critical that we take responsibility now. The village needs to reassemble and take leadership. If we do not, the future is bleak. If we do not collectively step up, another generation will be lost to extreme dropout rates, unemployment, violence, crime and the prison system.

Strong partnerships are needed in our community. Everyone can partner in this effort. It does not matter how much money you have, whether you own a business, or where you live. All you need is a commitment and willingness to help. Every single person in our community has a role in the village. If our children matter to you, if the teachers in our community matter to you, if the parents in our community matter to you, and if our community matters to you, then please help save our children by acting early. Success through education is a right not a privilege.

For more information on how you can help, contact Dr. Pat at the Los Angeles Urban League: [email protected] or 323-299-9660, ext. 2257 or ext. 2208.

imageDr. Pat Phipps is the Vice President for Early Education and Development at the Los Angeles Urban League. She was the first Executive Director the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC). She is a former board member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Op Ed - MTA Vote: Is Our City Stuck on Stupid?

By Blair H. Taylor

This week the MTA of Los Angeles voted 8 to 1 to award $1Billion in transportation funds to purchase new light rail cars to a Japanese company, Kinkisharyo International LLC. To be fair, there was no opportunity to really “buy American” since all three companies in final consideration were foreign. However, there were some enormous gaps in what the three vendors would do for Los Angeles and our desperately underserved regions.

All three companies are roughly the same in terms of technical competency and expertise, with marginal differences. All have successfully delivered projects of this magnitude in the United States over the past few decades. But only one, Siemens, offered a commitment to local and domestic jobs and a further commitment to localized training with Los Angeles-based facilities and partners. The Siemens proposal would have brought hundreds of more jobs to South Los Angeles than the plan by the next best competitor. However, the MTA decided it would rather ship those jobs over to Japan.

There is something happening at the MTA requiring critical attention. Enormous financial decisions are being made with scant regard to the impact on the neediest populations of the city.

At the MTA Board meeting, one woman brought police criminal tape and actually attempted to cordon-off the area where the MTA Board was seated, claiming it was a “crime scene.” Candidly, she had a very good point. As a result of the MTA decision, 500 good, and living-wage jobs – jobs paid for by the taxpayers of this region – are now going to go overseas, because the MTA totally undervalued domestic job creation as part of the bid evaluation process. And in that devaluation, the MTA devalued us all. Make no mistake, the impact and implications of the MTA vote will be staggering in the years ahead.

It is unfathomable how anyone, save a resident of Tokyo, could ship 500 jobs overseas when this country is still in the midst of the worst economic malaise since the Great Depression. The jobs would have been based in South LA, an area where unemployment rates for young African American males exceeds 35 percent and where African American and Latino households lost more than 50 percent of their net worth during the recession.

The 500 positions would not have gone to nameless and faceless people but to qualified residents we know who have been seeking gainful employment for months, some for over a year. 500 families may now unnecessarily lose homes or be unable to send children to college for lack of a steady income. And significantly, they will be unable to spend the earned money in their neighborhoods to stimulate business growth. The lost multiplier effect of their local wages could have sustained businesses, created more jobs, and launched new entrepreneurs in a way that would have increased their own direct expenditures by 10 to20 fold.

For far too long, South Los Angeles has been excluded economically and at times systemically and this is not the first time the MTA has shown a callous disregard for South Los Angeles. The recent decision to run the Crenshaw line at street level right past Crenshaw and View Park High Schools and an earlier decision to run the Expo line (also at grade) right past Dorsey High, must be contrasted with the current discussions as to whether 50, 60 or 70 feet below ground is sufficient clearance to run a train UNDER Beverly Hills High School.. Such exclusion has caused significant tangible economic disparities.

But come on now! It is simply unconscionable for the leaders overseeing the largest expenditure of public sector taxpayer dollars to ever potentially hit South Los Angeles, to knowingly send 500 high quality jobs and resources to Japan in this economic environment.

Blair H. Taylor is the President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League

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.

Starbucks shares profits with Los Angeles Urban League

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageA Starbucks on Crenshaw Boulevard will share $100,000 with the Los Angeles Urban League this year as part of a pilot profit-sharing program.

The coffee giant’s charity grew out of the community after another local Starbucks was closed. Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications at the Urban League, says the closure sparked a conversation between the community and Starbucks.

“To [Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz’ credit, he listened,” Strudwick-Turner say. “The decision was not reversed to reopen the store [but they did] really come in a positive big way in the community to say, we hear you. What are the needs? How can I help?”

Starbucks wasn’t immune from criticism when it closed 600 stores a few years ago. Some complained that the closures were made in neighborhoods that most needed the boost from business.

The Crenshaw Boulevard Starbucks is one of a handful of locations in South LA. In other neighborhoods, the coffee shop can be found every few blocks.

Still, Strudwick-Turner says Schultz has shown a personal commitment to Crenshaw. “I think that Mr. Schultz really has a game plan about creating jobs,” she says. “The genuineness about the needs of this community is not in question.”

The announcement of the profit-sharing initiative comes a day after Schultz announced the new “Create Jobs for USA” initiative, which will help small business secure loans. Schultz has also urged other business leaders to step up hiring.

“The focus will be on how can this store and how can Starbucks better serve park mesa heights and be a part of the community and not just be in the community,” Strudwick-Turner says. “If other corporations…do the same thing, it could be a real win-win for the community.”

The Urban League plans to use the funds for education and youth programming at Crenshaw High School. Strudwick-Turner hopes the profit sharing initiative will be the beginning of partnership.

Los Angeles Urban League hosts spring symposium

imageThe theme for the Los Angeles Urban League’s Spring Symposium was “Place-Based Neighborhood Change: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities” which focused on how lives can be improved one neighborhood at a time. Held on Monday at the California African American Museum, this event brought together some of the most experienced and dedicated community activists and organizations.

Blair Taylor, President of the Los Angeles Urban League, spoke about the importance of coming together to share ideas and not losing sight of the task of improving the lives of underserved communities.

Ed Dandridge led the first plenary session entitled “2011 State of Black Los Angeles Report and the Healthy Neighborhood Index.” Dandridge is the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for The Nielsen Company. He discussed how some data collected by Nielsen could help organizations target specific neighborhoods, which could help close the technology gap for lower-income families.

According to the report, Black Angelenos have made some progress. Over the last five years, both the Education and Health Indexes increased by five percentage points. The Employment Index also rose by four points. There was no change in the Criminal Justice Index, which remained at 70 percent. Still, the overall index shows that results for Black residents are only 71 percent of White residents. It concluded that even with increased funding to South Los Angeles, Black residents still face grave challenges in the work force, criminal justice system, housing and education. The Report also predicted that if index gains continue at their current rate, it will take 100 years to close the equality gap between African-American Angelenos and other races.

Place-based neighborhood change was the focus of the second session, led by Don Howard of the Bridgespan Group. They played videos that highlighted how neighborhood transformation can be achieved.

L.A. Urban League was noted for its involvement at Crenshaw High School and the 70 blocks surrounding the school. In the last three years, LAUL says crime in the neighborhood decreased by 25 percent and Crenshaw’s graduation increased by 58 percent.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa introduced Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the keynote speaker. Johnson spoke of the work he is doing in Sacramento, saying he uses Los Angeles as a model.

Johnson made a plea for encouraging this generation of children, saying they are struggling due to lack of encouragement, support or guidance. He challenged the attendees to help others and be willing to make sacrifices, like those of the Civil Rights era.

In the afternoon, the group divided into breakout sessions focusing on education, health, safety, workforce and economic development and collaborative partnerships. Each session had a panel of experts who spoke of the work they were doing and discussed strategies and challenges they faced.

The event was sponsored by The California Endowment, the Weingart Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, The Nielsen Company, FedEx and the Los Angeles Urban League.

Local organization continues its search for the next entrepreneur star

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Three small business hopefuls faced the last round in a competition Thursday to jump-start their businesses. The Los Angeles Urban League and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza have teamed up to give away a six-month kiosk lease to the winner.

Blair Taylor is the president of Los Angeles Urban League. He judged the contestants.

“I’m really looking for entrepreneurs who’ve done their homework and understand a little about the market – a little bit about the dynamics of the market – and are thinking for the long term about how their business might survive over multiple years opposed to just the immediate launch,” Taylor said.

Think of the contest like American Idol, but without the reality television. It’s fierce, but Barbara Lawson, who is selling hand-painted glassware in the competition, said all the contestants have developed a bond.

“It’s really not about necessarily who wins because obviously for the top three to get there they have a viable product, a viable business, and everyone is going to do great,” Lawson said.

Ronald Jackson, another contestant, has hand crafted jewelry for 17 years. He hopes this will be his ticket to success.

“It’s been interesting, and it’s harder when you see so many people with so many great ideas,” Jackson said. “So it’s been challenging because they’re cool people, but at the same time, I have to keep my focus on me.”

They’ve all come a long way. Originally, 60 people signed up for the opportunity. Today, just three remain. The winner will be announced at a dinner held in early April.

Crenshaw parents and residents respond to shooting outside of local school

Listen to the audio story here:

After a shooting occurred outside of Crenshaw High School Thursday, parents remained wary when walking their children to class. Two teenagers shot each other near the campus Wednesday afternoon, and one is still in serious condition.

Donna Brown lives about six houses away from where the shooting occurred. The students involved were not from Crenshaw High School, but the occurrence left Brown unsettled.

“Quite frankly, I’m really kind of shocked because I thought all of this stuff was under control,” Brown said.

Police believe the shooting that involved a 17- and 19-year-old was gang related. It occurred around 1:30 p.m., when students were still in class.

Armando Farriez, a police lieutenant, partnered with the Los Angeles Urban League for the “safe passage” program. The program encourages police presence around the high school. But today, Farriez sent even more officers to the school.

“We spoke to a few parents, and they’re always concerned, but they feel a sense of relief when they see us here,” Farriez said.

But even though there were more officers in blue Thursday morning, some parents still believed their children were unsafe. Latoya Winston, a Crenshaw resident who went to the high school as a teenager, does not feel relieved. She walked her freshman daughter to the front gates of the school.

“To me, it’s like they’re just there, to have a look or a presence,” she said of the police. “But to me, it’s not effective because it happened.”

Last year, Crenshaw High School locked students down after rumors spread that a student brought a gun to school. Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association said this activity just perpetuates a negative image for the high school.

“Crenshaw High School has been and is still getting a bad rap,” Jones said. “I think the parents are upset. I’m sure no parent wants to go to work sitting at a desk and getting a call saying there was a shooting at their school.”

Despite the communities best efforts to distill that negative image, Brown said that image is a reality.

“This was in broad daylight,” Brown said. “I can’t walk. I can’t go walking when I feel like it. I’m ready to move, but because of the economy, I can’t do that.”

Brown has lived in the same house for 36 years, and she sent her daughter down the street to Crenshaw High School. The other day, she walked to the library, and although she felt bad for saying it, she said she felt safer walking west.