OPINION: South LA gentrification blues

Let me tell you a little something about South L.A. 


A response to the L.A. Times article: “Soaring home prices spur a resurgence near USC.”

A South LA mural depicts the neighborhood's mixing of cultures. | Foshay School 7th Grade Photo Project

A South LA mural depicts the neighborhood’s mixing of cultures. | Foshay School 7th Grade Photo Project / Intersections

As I read the article mentioned above, I couldn’t help but picture “South Los Angeles” as a meaningless, desolate neighborhood infested with drugs, abandoned houses and cars, and weird and scary “ethnic” people. Thank goodness for gentrification, coming to save the day! (Note: sarcasm.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against diversified communities—racially, ethnically or socio-economically. In fact, I am completely in favor of mixed-income neighborhoods that promote the well-being of all residents, and enrich all of our lives, regardless of color, culture and economic status. I genuinely believe and embrace the richness of a multi-cultural, diverse world. [Read more…]

OPINION: English-speaking only students have “dreams” too

By Jasmyne A. Cannick

Bookshelf at Chuco's Justice Center in South L.A. | Stephanie Monte

Bookshelf at Chuco’s Justice Center in South L.A. | Stephanie Monte

Unless state lawmakers put forth the same effort into teaching public school students Spanish that they’ve put into English as a Second Language (ESL) for Latino students, with or without a high school diploma or college degree, black and white students will find themselves locked out of the job market for generations to come.

I am 35, educated, and like millions of other native Californians, I don’t speak Spanish. Yes, I took the mandatory state minimum one course of a foreign language to graduate from high school.  I even upped the ante and took an additional year of Spanish to be eligible for admission into the California State University system. Had I known at 16-years-old that Spanish was going to become the dominant language in California, I might have stayed the course and become fluent.And that’s the story for millions of adults my age and older who now find themselves highly educated and skilled but locked out of the job market in California simply based on their inability to speak Spanish.  English-speaking-only Californians are unable to qualify for the “may I take your order please?” jobs to positions as dental assistants, human resources directors, officer managers, administrative assistants, medical billers, warehouse workers, and, ironically, even for positions with labor unions or other non-profit organizations whose mission is to help the underserved in urban communities.

Now before you fire off an email to me accusing me of being anti-Latino, take a chill pill.

This isn’t a knock on the Spanish language or even the number of Latinos in California — legally or illegally — who have made Spanish seemingly the state language.  This is about calling upon state lawmakers to level the playing field for students in California’s public school system who don’t speak Spanish now so that they don’t find themselves in the same position as their parents in the future—unemployable not because of a criminal background or even lack of an education—but because of their inability to converse, write, and read in Spanish.  What I liken to as the new face of employment discrimination, Spanish speakers wanted only.

The fact is, if algebra, geometry, and biology weren’t courses that I had to take in high school to receive a diploma and matriculate into college, I wouldn’t have taken them.  The same can probably be said for many adults looking back on their high school years. So one course of a foreign language, visual or performing art, or trade as the state mandated minimum requirement to receive a high school diploma is not preparing future generations for the local job market—let alone the global job market.

Learning how to operate an iPad isn’t going to narrow the gap between the unemployed and employed in California now or in the future unless that iPad comes with Rosetta Stone®.  Requiring foreign language classes for non-Spanish speaking students beginning in kindergarten through grade 12 will narrow that gap. Be it Spanish, Korean, Chinese, American Sign Language, or some other language—if non-Spanish speaking students in our public school systems are going to have a real chance at the American dream, ironically, it starts with learning a language other than English.

Lawmakers saw the writing on the wall and adjusted policy and social programs accordingly.  It’s time our public schools did the same—because English speaking only students have dreams too.

Previously a press secretary in the House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a native of Los Angeles and writes about the intersection of race, class, and politics.  She was chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and can be found online at jasmyneonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

OPINION: We may forget Dorner, but we won’t forget the LAPD’s history

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has developed a reputation in the Los Angeles community and in the nation as one of the most brutal and corrupt police departments in the U.S., a reputation stemming from cases such as Rodney King and those involving the Rampart Division. For more of the story please click here.

OPINION: The benefits of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageIt’s been proven that the most important years of your child’s development is the first five years of life. That’s because their brain is constantly making connections and in the brain of a four-year-old, a thousand trillion connections are active – twice as much as an adult’s!

So for parents, it’s crucial that they take an active role in their child’s development, and help their child make the right kind of healthy connections to develop their brain power. One way to do this is by choosing a high-quality preschool program.

There are countless benefits to having a child attend preschool. Studies show that children attending a high-quality program significantly enhance their critical thinking; problem-solving and social skills that are needed to succeed in kindergarten and life. Research also shows that children who are attend preschool are more likely to read proficiently by third grade, less likely to drop out of high school or have a teen pregnancy, less likely to become involved in violent crime and more likely to go to college.

According to the RAND report, “Who Is Ahead and Who Is Behind?:Gaps in School Readiness and Student Achievement in the Early Grades for California’s Children”, African American and Hispanic students have lower levels of proficiency in some academic measures than Caucasian and Asian students. Preschool, however, appears to be a promising strategy for narrowing achievement differences.

Additional studies show that parental involvement in their child’s education is the key to their little one becoming successful in kindergarten and beyond. Experts say parents and caregivers should spend at least 20 minutes a day of quality time with their children by engaging their kids in conversations to improve their language and social skills. By doing these activities, along with spending time playing outdoors and reading books together, a child’s self confidence will increase significantly.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool, also known as LAUP (www.laup.net), is a great choice for a high-quality preschool education. The non-profit organization has developed a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System that ensures the 4-year-olds of Los Angeles County are receiving a top educational pre kindergarten experience. LAUP preschools give parents the right to choose whether they prefer a home-based, faith-based or center-based learning environment for their child.

LAUP is a non-profit organization providing a high-quality preschool education at little or no charge to the children of Los Angeles County. The reason LAUP was first established in 2004 was because of the critical need to educate children and get them ready for kindergarten. LAUP programs provide children with a safe and nurturing learning environment and give children the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. LAUP programs serve more than 10,000 children per year in 325 preschools throughout Los Angeles County.

To enroll your child in a quality LAUP preschool at little or no charge, please call 1-866-675-5400 or visit www.laup.net.