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2010 Year In Review

Mitrice Richardson remains discovered
Sherriff’s department scrutinized

By Juliana D. Norwood
OW Staff Writer
The 11-month search for 24-year-old pageant winner, and Cal State Fullerton graduate Mitrice Richardson came to a tragic end, when her remains were found by park rangers who were looking for illegal marijuana plants in a Malibu ravine. She was found no more than two miles out of the range of the last major search for her.
The main question that the family and supporters posed was whether or not the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station handled Richardson’s arrest and release appropriately. Much controversy arose, when it was reported that the young college grad was released in the middle of the night with no transportation and no money. Additionally, the family said that Richardson suffered from bipolar disorder, and they argued that she shouldn’t have been released in that state.
According to the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR), under the circumstances as the Malibu/Lost Hills Station personnel knew them, they acted in accordance with the state law and department policies and orders in the booking and release of Richardson.
Richardson’s family and many community activists called for Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca and his department to take lie detector tests to verify the information that they had provided regarding the events surrounding her arrest, booking, and release.

Comcast merger angers minorities
Media ownership diversity called threatened

By Juliana D. Norwood
OW Staff Writer
At a Congressional field hearing, the public pressed the House Judiciary Committee to demand that Comcast guarantee expanded opportunities for minority-backed cable services, television shows, and films in exchange for approval of its proposed deal to take control of NBC Universal.
The Greenlining Institute, which strives to empower communities of color through civil rights and anti-redlining activities, was one of the organizations that testified in opposition to the merger. Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Steve Cohen, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congressman Louis Gohmert made up the committee that expressed their concerns and questions about the proposed merger.
Some African American interest groups were in support of the merger, due to Comcast’s reputation of promoting diversity through their various employment and business practices and being a committed community partner in the markets they serve.
Congresswoman Waters, however, was not convinced that what the cable conglomerate had contributed was evidence that the merger will be in favor of the minority community.
Representatives from Hip Hop on Demand; National Coalition of African American Owned Media; Communications Workers of America; University of California, Los Angeles; National Association of Latino Independent Producers; Tower of Babel LLC; Radio One; and NBC Universal testified before the committee. No representative from Comcast was willing to testify.

Governor OK’d to cut state salaries to minimum wage
Controller John Chiang refused to comply

By Marisol Aguilar
OW Contributor
After a two-year battle, a state appeals court ruled that it was legal to pay thousands of hourly state employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for the month of July, or at least until a budget passes.
However, State Controller John Chiang refused to comply with the policy and was ready to file a new lawsuit against the Governor’s minimum wage order. The state’s Department of Personnel Administration filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking a restraining order to force the controller to comply with the governor’s actions.
According to Chiang, reducing the salaries of 200,000 employees to minimum wage “was practically unfeasible to do so without violating federal labor laws and the state constitution.” The federal Fair Labor Standards Act entitles a worker to “double damages,” if an employer cuts pay to minimum wage.
This was the second time Gov. Schwarzenegger had taken such a path. In 2008, when the legislature failed to come up with a budget, the governor issued the order to cut pay to the federal minimum, but court challenges delayed implementation. By the time the ruling came down in favor of the administration, a budget had been approved.…

Obama’s Fair Sentencing Act: A landmark for judicial reform
Crack closer to powder

By Gregg Reese
OW Staff Writer
President Barack Obama’s approval of legislation reducing the wide gap between legal penalties for possession of “crack” cocaine versus the powdered variety, generated applause across the country, especially within the Black community. Officially known as S.1789: The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the bill was an affirmation of opinions long expressed by advocacy groups and experts in the legal and health fields.
 Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, suggested that this latest reversal of a decade’s old legal precedent would be the harbinger of a new era in policy reform.
Yet just as she lauded the forward step the bill represented, Tyler acknowledged its limitations:
“To fully address the problems created by the crack/powder sentencing disparity, we need to completely eliminate the disparity and to provide full retroactive relief to the individuals still serving time under the old law…”
This view was echoed by the ACLU’s Hector Villagra, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California: “The Fair Sentencing Act reduces the disparity from a 100:1 to an 18:1 ratio. That is an extremely important step, but it still leaves a sizable sentencing disparity, one that is contrary to the fundamental principle of our criminal justice system: That all people be treated equally and fairly,” he said.…

Alice Huffman responded to controversy
Oscar Grant jury questioned

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
Alice Huffman, the president of the NAACP California State Conference, released what some considered an unsettling statement in response to the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, accused of killing Oakland resident Oscar Grant.
Community members and activists were disturbed to find that the 12-member jury contained no African Americans and two other ethnic minorities (four Latinos, one East Indian).
Huffman responded with the following statement: “The jury is diverse and is comprised of individuals who understand community-police relations … Of course, we would like to have seen African Americans chosen, but the concern must be about the evidence presented and the decision the jury must make, after the presentation of facts.”
 Various members of the community criticized Huffman for her seemingly passive position on the trial, urging the NAACP to push for a more diverse jury with more Black faces.
“I think the criticism is unwarranted. We will always be happy if there were more African Americans on the jury, but there are other ethnic minorities (in the jury),” Huffman shared. “We need to cool down and let the justice system do what it has to do … I don’t know what we would accomplish, if we continue protesting … It would be different, if the jury was all White.”

State’s services under the knife
Schwarzenegger sought to cut nearly $20 billion

By Cynthia Griffin
OW Staff Writer
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his proposed 2010-11 budget that would slash nearly $20 billion from state spending over the next 18 months.
Additionally, the governor declared a fiscal emergency and issued a call for the legislature to begin a focused special session to address the budget short fall.
Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed cuts in social services that galvanized organizations like Planned Parenthood to launch protests.
Among the cuts the governor was seeking was a 15 percent reduction in employee expenses by asking workers to contribute an additional 5 percent toward their retirement costs; and an across the board 5 percent salary reduction.
Additionally, in an executive order, he required all department directors to reduce their payrolls by 5 percent.
Other proposed cuts include eliminating the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program (CalWORKS); reducing the Medi-Cal eligibility to the minimum allowed and eliminating most of the remaining optional benefits; eliminating the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program, which provided services to those who are over 65 years of age, or disabled, or blind.
In addition to making cuts, Gov. Schwarzenegger tried to get the federal government to give the state $6.9 billion he said was owed to California.

Health care (insurance) reform
How does the bill affect you?

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
Since President Barack Obama was sworn into office, health care reform had been high on his agenda. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 45 million Americans were uninsured. Twenty percent include African Americans.
Obama’s health care plan, which is actually a health insurance plan, closed the gap between the un(der)insured Americans and those with decent packages. Nearly 32 million uninsured citizens were supposed to be covered through this new plan.
Njideka Obijiaku, the main facilitator of the MA’AT Club for Community Change public forum, said access and quality had historically been the issue for the Black community, but through the president’s bill, low-income areas and cities flogged with compromised care would have better access.
Individuals who qualified would receive subsidies of amounts comparable to their income. Businesses were also be mandated to provide health care provisions for their employees.
Low-income, underemployed and unemployed people have opportunities to gain access through government subsidies.
There is a fine for individuals who choose to avoid paying for coverage, although Native Americans, undocumented people, incarcerated people, and individuals with religious objections will not be required to obtain insurance.
Despite the efforts the bill makes to broaden access, other issue remained for Black health. Obijiaku said insurance reform does not address the needs of the general African American population; however, the bill does have the potential to decrease the gap.

Lena Horne put her focus on civil rights
She gave America five decades

By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
Lena Horne, the performer who gained a reputation as a revered jazz vocalist and whose looks made her one of the first Black onscreen leading ladies in the movies, died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital at the age of 92.
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1917. The legendary performer’s career started when she was a 16-year-old chorus girl at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem.
 In the early 1940s, she turned up at nightclubs on the West Coast, and soon signed with MGM (at that time, the most powerful studio in the United States), becoming one of the first Black women in American films to be fully glamorized, publicized, and promoted by her studio.
 In most of her films, Horne appeared only in a musical sequence. The year 1945 marked a turning point in the screen star’s life. While entertaining at an Army base near the end of World War II, she saw German prisoners of war sitting up front while African American soldiers were relegated to the back. From that point forward, Horne became actively involved in social and political organizations.
By the 1960s, she was one of the most visible celebrities in the Civil Rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant.…

Black farmers’ historic lawsuit known as Pigford II resolved
Congress was expected to approve settlement

By Juliana D. Norwood
OW Staff Writer

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Justice Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli announced in February that the settlement of a lawsuit by Black farmers who alleged the agency discriminated against them, had been settled. The litigation, known as Pigford II for Timothy Pigford who first filed the suit in 1981, is expected to pay out $1.25 billion to African Americans who claim they were discriminated against, when applying for the USDA loan programs.
The USDA established an agreement with the Black farmers in 1999 to pay them for discrimination that they endured. Many claims were settled, but a significant number of others were rejected due to missed filing deadlines. To be fair to all claimants, in the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress gave the farmers who missed the deadline the opportunity to file again in federal court as part of a $100 million settlement. The agreement for $1.25 billion includes that money.
President Barack Obama stated in May that the funds to pay back the Black farmers would be included in the 2010 budget, and Congress was to approve the settlement before March 31st. (a deadline which they missed).
The agency is now making civil rights a priority and has implemented required civil rights training for its leadership teams and political appointees.

Soul on ice
Black presence in 2010 winter Olympics

By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Co-Editor
During the 2010 Olympics in Canada, athletes of African descent represented at least 10 countries from around the globe.
The French sent a team of Black figure skaters–Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, the 2010 French National Champions–to the Olympics.
NHL standout Jarome Iginla represented Canada, and John Oduya of the New Jersey Devils competed on the Swedish hockey squad.
Nkeiruka Ezekh, born in Moscow to a Nigerian father and Russian mother, competed in her second Olympics. In 2006, she was on the Russian’s curling team.
Since the Jamaican bobsled team burst onto the world stage in 1988, Blacks have begun to compete in increasing numbers in the sport. Dutch sprinter Timothy Beck again competed in the four-man bob sleigh.
Chicago-born Shani Davis, who made world headlines by taking first place in the 2006 Olympics in the 1,000 meter individual and silver in the 1,500 meter, qualified to skate in five different races.
Called “The Snow Leopard,” Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong was the first Ghanian to compete in an Olympics, participating in Alpine skiing.
Athletes were not the only Blacks involved in the Vancouver Olympics; about 20 people of African descent were involved in various aspects of producing the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Conrad Murray charged in Jackson’s death
By OW Staff Writer
Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was under investigation for his treatment of pop singer Michael Jackson, was formally charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case, and returned April 5 for a hearing at the Los Angeles Airport court. At that time, Dr. Murray’s case was expected to be transferred to the downtown Los Angeles court on West Temple Street to the long-cause court.
Murray pleaded not guilty to the charges, more than seven months after he gave Jackson a dose of the powerful surgical anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid and left the singer alone.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which  prosecuted the case, believed that after reviewing the evidence, including a three-hour interview with Murray, that involuntary manslaughter was the charge that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Help for HBCUs
Health care bill included education funding

By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Co-Editor
When President Barack Obama signed the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, he made a commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Educational Institutions (PBIs) to receive badly needed financial resources. Additional money will now be available to the nation’s 105 HBCUs that are in good accreditation standing.
Among the most critical changes the legislation put in place is awarding nearly $1 billion in mandatory funding to HBCUs over the next 10 years. Another $850 million will be awarded to PBIs and $150 million will go to other minority-serving institutions. The money can be used for expanded instruction, infrastructure development and for other efforts that will strengthen the universities and colleges. The federal government began providing funding to the HBCUs and other minority colleges in October.
Starting in 2013, the act will also invest an additional $40 billion in the Federal Pell Grant program, increasing the award each student receives in order to keep up with the rising cost of college. The legislation also provides $2 billion across the next four years to community colleges to enable them to develop, improve upon, and provide education and career training programs.

The life and works of Benjamin Hooks
His passion for
justice served the nation

By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
Rev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, a lawyer, minister, and judge, who took over the leadership reins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1977, died at the age of 85, after fighting a long illness.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama remembered Dr. Hooks and offered their condolences to the pioneering judge’s family.
An ordained Baptist minister and practicing attorney, Hooks vowed to keep the NAACP vital by addressing many national issues from a non-White perspective. He had the NAACP issue formal opinions and criticisms on topics as diverse as the lack of Black executives in Hollywood, the role of the Black middle class in the improvement of life in the ghettos, and the nomination and confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas.
By the time Hooks retired as NAACP executive director in 1992, he and the venerable civil rights organization had successfully pushed to extend the Voting Rights Act in 1982, establish a Fair Housing Act in 1983, and enact a Civil Rights Act in 1991.
In 2007, President George W. Bush presented Hooks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States’ highest civilian honors.
Despite his advancing years, the charismatic attorney preached regularly at Middle Baptist Church until 2008.

Bass set sights on Congress
Coalition skills touted as key asset

By Cynthia Griffin
OW Staff Writer
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass announced that she was throwing her hat into the ring in a bid to take over the 33rd Congressional seat, when incumbent Diane Watson stepped down at the end of the year.
The Congresswoman was by Bass’s side, during the announcement and said she endorsed the Los Angeles activist “three hundred” percent.
The Assembly Speaker credited Watson as the mentor who helped guide her through several of the most turbulent years in her political career.
Among the issues Bass intended to address were foster care, health care, education, the environment and jobs.
Bass’s ascent to the point of running for Congress was a decades-long climb that began 20 years ago with the founding of a grassroots organization called the Community Coalition (CoCo), which advocates for community-level changes. In 2004, then-councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Watson were among those who urged Bass to run for the Assembly. She did, won and took office in 2005.
In her the second term, she became the first woman and second African American to hold the post of Majority Floor Leader. In 2008, Bass made history again, winning election as the first female African American speaker of the California State Assembly, the first Black woman in America to serve in such a powerful state legislative role.

Ailey company brought L.A. beauty in motion
Judith Jamison celebrated

By Gail Choice
OW Contributor
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrated Judith Jamison’s 20th anniversary as the company’s artistic director. Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey Company in 1965 after performing with the American Ballet Theater. Her early training in dance and music enabled her to become the principal dancer in the Ailey Company. Jamison stayed with Alvin Ailey until 1980. After leaving the company to appear in the Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, Jamison began choreographing her own works and started the Jamison Project in 1988. A year later, shortly after Ailey’s death, Jamison became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Alvin Ailey is recognized by the U.S. Congress as a vital American “cultural ambassador to the world,” and Angelenos saw why when the company brought the West Coast premieres of Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, which pays tribute to Ms. Jamison; Ms. Jamison’s new Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places); Matthew Rushing’s Uptown, and “Best of 20 Years,” program highlights from ballets that Ms. Jamison welcomed to the Ailey repertory. The Ailey also performed a new production of Hymn, Ms. Jamison’s Emmy® Award-winning homage to Alvin Ailey, and repertory favorite Suite Otis by George W. Faison to music by Otis Redding.

Grant killer sentenced
People unhappy with trial results

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
In July, a Los Angeles jury ruled that former BART officer Johannes Mehserle, caught on several camera phones and facility cameras shooting unarmed 22-year-old Oscar Grant on an Oakland BART platform, was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Jack Heyman, executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said the community was dissatisfied with the ruling against Mehserle. “We’d like to see the maximum sentence, which is 14 years. What we are afraid of is that, if he is not given a maximum penalty, this is going to give … the green light for police brutality,” he said.
Followers of the Mehserle trial were, in fact, outraged not only because the jury contained no Black members, but also because they wanted a murder conviction. The jury had a choice of deciding if Mehserle was guilty of murder or a lesser charge–involuntary manslaughter–and it ruled that the armed, on-duty BART officer did not purposefully kill the unarmed, cooperative, detained Oscar Grant, as he was face down on the BART platform.
Mehserle’s defense claimed he mistook his gun for his taser and lacked adequate taser training. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

President Obama remained calm in the face of oil spill
Some want to see his anger

By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
President Barack Obama dealt with the oil spill using a calm, even-tempered demeanor in the weeks after oil rigs exploted and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.
As the oil spill deteriorated into the worst in United States history, and the environmental devastation approached America’s shorelines, the president became the target of the same anger that was originally fired at the BP (formerly British Petroleum plc).
Remembering then-candidate Obama’s ability to energize crowds into chants of “Yes, we can,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said, “There was a feeling he was going to be one of these presidents that moved us with words like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did. Instead,” Brinkley continued, “Obama has presented himself as the unflappable president, with the engineer-like approach of Jimmy Carter and the legislative astuteness of Lyndon B. Johnson. But in a time of great crisis, people aren’t looking for Johnson or Carter. They are looking for powerful, rhetorical leadership–words that move a country in a positive direction.”
The president was actively engaged in the crisis. He fired the head of the Minerals Management Service, extended the moratorium on further offshore drilling, and increased the federal presence in the region.
The White House also took a more aggressive approach, with Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation.’s-calm-face-oil-spill

Congressman Rangel found guilty on 11 counts
By Juliana D. Norwood
OW Staff Writer
Democratic Representative Charles Bernard Rangel, first elected to Congress in 1970, is the first African American to hold the very powerful position as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and responsible for 90 percent of the affordable housing units built in the United States in the last ten years through his Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
Rangel had been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for financial improprieties. The three major allegations that tainted Rangel’s reputation were that he: improperly obtained four rent-controlled apartments in New York City, improperly used his office to raise money for the Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York and failed to disclose rental income from an apartment in the Dominican Republic.
Additionally, more pressure was placed on Rangel after he accepted a corporately funded trip to the Caribbean, which is in violation of the House Rules on accepting gifts. In November a house ethics committee found Rangel guilty of violating some of its rules and convicted him on 11 of 13 counts.

Dorothy Height mourned, saluted for years of service
Remembering a civil rights matriarch

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
Dorothy Heights, a polite distinguished woman of her time, was also known as the godmother of the civil rights movement. Her unmistakable faithfulness to justice and freedom paved the way for generations of activists and improved the lives of African American women throughout the nation. Although she never married or reared any children of her own, she was a “mother” to a nation of freedom fighters and change.
The world mourned her passing on April 20. She transitioned at 3:41 a.m. at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She was 98.
Leaders from coast to coast remembered Height’s influence and expressed their sentiments, love, and appreciation for the sacrifices she made over the years.
“As a founding matriarch of the American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Height’s crusade for justice and equality spanned more than six decades. She worked with every U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt, marched arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and advised and influenced countless organizations that strove for equality for all Americans. She was a truly extraordinary leader whose legacy will live on through the millions of lives she influenced and enhanced.” –Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

News in brief
A quick look at other top stories for 2010

ICEF schools struggle
The Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school management organization that prides itself on offering students–particularly those in South Los Angeles–a high-caliber college-prep curriculum, found itself in financial trouble this year and was forced to take on investors, including former Mayor Richard Riordan.
The new investors came with positions on the organization’s board of directors, a new management team and a new direction that included finding space in existing public schools rather than building or refurbishing classrooms.

Bringing Back the Compton Police Department
Despite repeated votes by its citizens rejecting the notion of re-establishing its police department, city of Compton officials continued to push for the municipality to set aside funds for such an endeavor.
Under former Mayor Omar Bradley, the Compton Police Department was disbanded and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs were brought in to police the Hub City.
Some people, namely current Mayor Eric Perrodin, have pushed for the return of a local law force.
However, as late as Dec. 21, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca told officials and citizens now was not a good time to bring back the Compton PD. Additionally, the city was apparently behind on its payments to the county for its services by about $6 million.

Aretha Franklin suffers cancer
Aretha Franklin was reportedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A prayer vigil was held in Detroit for the legendary singer, after she reportedly underwent surgery; this caused her to cancel all concert dates and appearances through May of 2010.

President’s aunt granted asylum
A U.S. immigration court granted President Barack Obama’s African aunt asylum, allowing her to stay in America. The decision came three months after Kenya native Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father, testified at a closed hearing in Boston, where she arrived in a wheelchair, and two doctors testified in support of her case.

Ernest Withers could have been informant
Ernest Withers was considered by some to be the greatest photographer of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, but revelations from FBI files indicate that he might have been an informant.

Tiger Woods retuns to golf
Tiger Woods’ return to the public eye after his televised confession of infidelity was voted the sports story of the year by members of the Associated Press.

Republicans join Democrats to aspprove Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Eight Republicans joined Democrats to end the Clinton-era policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that banned gay members from serving openly in the military.

Dorn cried foul over ousting
Forced into plea deal, he said

By Cynthia Griffin
OW Staff Writer
With the departure of Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Franklin Dorn the South Bay city faced a number of options to fill his unfinished term.
 According to a city spokesperson, the charter spelled out what could be done and that included calling for an election either within 120 days, 180 days or waiting until November.
A press release issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said Dorn resigned and then pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of conflict of interest, but Dorn said he retired and is entitled to all the benefits afforded retired officials. Dorn was charged in June of 2008 in connection with a low-interest loan he obtained through the city of Inglewood in 2004.
As result of his guilty plea, the 74-year-old Dorn was convicted of one misdemeanor count, placed on two year’s probation, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and can never hold public office again.
But Dorn, who alleged that he was forced to take the plea deal, said that the finding by the Inglewood city attorney that the altering of Article 36 to include elected officials violated the charter was wrong and politically motivated.
The ex-Inglewood mayor said his attorney planned to file a motion to have his guilty plea set aside.

Watts Labor Community Action Committee celebrated 45 years
CEO credits survival to economic thrust

By Lisa Olivia Fitch
OW Contributor
In August 1965, Watts became known world-wide as the site of the largest riots known to that date. Today, Watts is home to one of the largest and most successful community based organizations in the world, the WLCAC-Watts Labor Community Action Committee.
Part of WLCAC’s survival has been rooted in the fact that the organization was wrapped around an economic base.
The organization has built, owns and manages more than 500 houses and apartments for low-and moderate-income families and senior citizens in South Central Los Angeles. Proceeds from the operations are invested in creating additional housing and commercial development projects, which in turn provide new jobs for local residents.
Community services provided by the WLCAC include senior citizens’ nutrition and daycare programs, a child care center, community transit and dial-a-ride services, handyworker programs and employment training.
The future of the WLAC includes new urban farms, along with residential and commercial projects, some with major private developers as joint venture partners.
Current WLCAC President/CEO and son of founder Ted Watkins, Timothy Watkins, believes that the South Los Angeles community deserves some mitigation for the struggles of the last 45 years.
“Look at how a community such as Watts has struggled, mightily struggled, through neighborhood councils, gang task forces and nonprofit organizations to bring about peace and opportunities for people to live in relative comfort,” Watkins explained.…

Aaron Shannon Jr.’s killers found
Two suspects detained for Halloween shooting

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Two reputed gang members were charged with the Halloween-day killing of Aaron Shannon Jr., 5, who was shot while showing off his Spider-Man costume in the backyard of his family’s South Los Angeles home.
In addition to murder, Marcus Denson, 18, and Leonard Hall Jr., 21, were each charged with two counts of attempted murder for the Oct. 31 shooting in the 1000 block of East 84th Street.
William Shannon, Terrence Shannon, and other family members were gathered in a backyard, where the victim was running around, showing his father and others his costume.
Within the next few moments, one of the shooters came into view and began shooting again, aiming at William. William heard three rounds before he turned to run. By the time he turned, he had been shot in the wrist; his son, Terrance was shot in the thigh, and young Aaron had been shot in the head.
Hall and Denson each faced a maximum term of 130 years to life in prison, Droeger said.
LAPD homicide Det. Eric Crosson of the LAPD’s 77th Street Station said the shooting was linked to a gang rivalry between the Kitchen Crips and Swan Bloods.
City News Service contributed to this story.

Golden State Mutual succumbs to ‘progress’
Shine gone

By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Co-Editor
From the 1920s through the 1970s, people in the African American community would tell stories of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance company (GSM) agents coming to the door to collect premiums.
Today, the once venerable Black business is on the brink of extinction.
Ivan J. Houston, former GSM president and CEO who ran the firm from 1970 to 1990, after joining in 1948, said African Americans who were able to buy insurance from White-owned and controlled companies were often charged a higher rate. GSM built its business by tapping into that niche.
GSM opened its doors in one-room offices on Central Avenue, which was then the heartbeat of the Los Angeles African American community. The company also built a second headquarters at the corner of Adams Boulevard and Western Avenue. At one point, GSM conducted business in 14 states and had more than $4 billion in policies.
As social progress allowed African Americans to move away from their traditional communities and buy insurance from anyone without a surcharge, GSM gradually lost business. Although Houston said GSM tried a variety of strategies to keep market share and rebuild its coffers, on September 30, 2009, the California Department of Insurance took the company into conservatorship.

LAUSD cut summer school classes … again
Limited options offered

by OW Staff Writer
Faced with a lingering budget deficit, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced that many of its summer programs would again be cancelled this year, with summer school being offered primarily for high school students who failed classes and need to make up credits. Eighth-grade students who failed algebra, were also able to enroll in summer school.
Online programs were available through the district’s City of Angels School, according to the LAUSD.
The district’s Beyond the Bell Branch operated Summer Enrichment Programs at 186 elementary and middle schools. The programs, which are funded under the state’s After School Education and Safety Program, provide weekday activities-including academics and fitness-which began July 1.
The LAUSD Food Services Division coordinated meal programs at many schools that hosted Beyond the Bell summer programs. The food program offered meals to children up to age 18.
The district’s Beyond the Bell Branch also offered online resources for elementary and middle school students, including instructional materials and worksheets designed to keep students “engaged” during the summer, according to the district.
An Extended School Year program was made available for eligible special-education pupils. The program was only open to youngsters required take to courses as part of the student’s Individualized Education Program.

Expo Line approved for street level
Community feared for Dorsey students’ safety

By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
The endeavor to lay train tracks at street-level near Dorsey High School has been opposed for many years by community activists, Dorsey faculty, alumni, and students because of the risk of danger they felt it would introduce to the area. However, a state regulatory body cleared the way for construction of the Exposition light rail line and bolstered its decision by pointing out a list of what they called thorough safety improvements.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted recommendations made in June by hearings officers, who supported a revised plan that called for two station platforms, speed limits for trains, motor vehicle gates, and other safety improvements for the proposed rail crossing at Farmdale Avenue and Exposition Boulevard.
Under the plan approved by the commission, a light-rail station will be built near Dorsey on Farmdale Avenue. The street crossing will also include traffic signals, additional street lighting, specialized traffic and pedestrian gates, and Light Emitting Diode (LED) train-approaching signals, according to the Exposition Construction Authority (ECA).
The chief concern about the Expo Line among those in the community surrounding the high school was the safety of students and other community citizens.
Construction is expected to be completed next year.

NAACP protested Hallmark
Carson-Torrance branch said card was racist and offensive

The Hallmark greeting card company created a furor earlier this year because of a talking graduation card that contained stereotypical images and threatening messages against Black women.
The Carson-Torrance branch of the NAACP initially talked with Hallmark and asked the company to remove the offensive card. Hallmark promised to do so, but when NAACP members conducted a spot check in their area, cards were found still in place at many Hallmark locations.
The NAACP took the matter to the Carson City Council, which approved a resolution to have the offending card removed from shelves.
“We are very pleased that the City Council met with us and will move with us to have this card taken off the shelves of Walgreen and CVS stores in the Carson area,” said NAACP Carson-Torrance President Olivia Verrett, who added that the resolution set a time frame in which the cards were to be removed.
“Hallmark has offered an apology,” Verrett said. “They said they did not do this intentionally (to offend people).”

Closing up shop
Marijuana dispensaries

City News Service
At least 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles were sent letters ordering them to close by June 7.
The ordinance allowed up to 186 dispensaries to remain open-those that started before the City Council instituted a moratorium on Nov. 13, 2007.
Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said the City Attorney’s Office had prepared an initial list of about 400 operators that opened dispensaries after the moratorium was put in place. Dispensaries that opened prior to the moratorium were required to file a notice of intent to register with the City Clerk’s Office and were put on a priority list.
The ordinance required dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries and religious institutions, as well as each other. It also barred dispensaries from being “on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use.”
Some operators of medical marijuana dispensaries planned to challenge the ordinance in court, on the grounds that it would effectively zone dispensaries out of existence.…

Jean sought Haiti presidency
Haiti could have moved to a Hip Hop rhythm

By Juliana D. Norwood
OW Staff Writer
Haitian-American Hip-Hop superstar Wyclef Jean believed it was his destiny to return to his homeland of Haiti and lead his people out of bondage. He attempted to do so by becoming the president of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, was the turning point where Jean realized he truly needed to do something drastic to help his country.
Although some believed this to be just a publicity stunt, Jean has been at the forefront of many efforts to improve the conditions in Haiti even before the hurricane.
Jean runs a nonprofit organization, Yele Haiti (Haiti Freedom Cry), which was established in 2005. The program uses music, sports and the media to reinforce projects that are making a difference in education, health, environment, and community development.
Experts said that in addition to all of his charitable efforts for the country, Jean’s chances of winning the election were extremely high because half of the population is under the age of 25, making him relate very well to the masses.
Jean ran as part of the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) political party.
“If I can’t take five years out to serve my country as president,” he argued, “then everything I’ve been singing about, like equal rights, doesn’t mean anything.”

Sprite step-off controversy uncovered troubled waters
Sorority contest

By Dirk Dickens
OW Guest Columnist
If Spike Lee were to do a sequel to “White Men Can’t Jump,” it might be called “White Girls Can’t Step.”
The basis of the film would be the surprise win of a troop of White steppers from the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at the 2010 Sprite Step Off–the largest stepping contest around.
Their win set off a lot of buzz, both good and bad.
The jeers resulted from the perception of some Blacks that the girls were attempting to hijack or take over something that is theirs, as stepping is something steeped in African American fraternity and sorority culture.
Yet based on the non-stop cheers and applause, the audience loved them. It’s one thing to watch some White girls give stepping a shot, it’s another to see them throw down the way the Zeta girls did.
Should Blacks worry about Whites taking over stepping and rewriting its history to blur its true origins? I don’t think so. In any sport or art, people should welcome those who help push the envelope and raise the bar.
The beauty of sports, dance and art is that they can be a means of bridging racial divides by enabling people to explore common interest and passions.
Stepping shouldn’t be any different.’t-step

State of Black America
Urban League pushed job creation plan

By OW Staff Writer
The National Urban League (NUL) projected it would take $150 million to adequately address the issue of Black unemployment in America.
That is the finding released as part of the NUL’s 34th annual State of Black America (SOBA) report.
The National Urban League has created a six-point plan to create jobs.
These included offering financial support to entities that provide critical services; expand and expedite the Small Business Administration’s Community Express Loan Program; create green empowerment zones which will make manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels eligible for tax write-offs if they hire and maintain for at least three years at least half of their employees locally, expand the hiring of housing counselors nationwide, expand youth summer jobs programs and create urban job academies, which consists of the creating and expanding of the Urban Youth Employment Program.
In addition to the job plan, the new Urban League SOBA report for the first time included measurements that look at the situation of Hispanics.
The SOBA report featured the 2010 Equality Index(TM) which found that overall Blacks are 71.8 percent equal to Whites. Using similar categories (where statistics were available), the report found that the Hispanic equality index compared to Whites was 7.5 percent.
Wilson said these facts are used by the NUL, when they go to elected federal officials to advocate for their issues, and individuals can use them when talked with their own local politicians about issues.
City News Service contributed to this story.

‘Grim Sleeper’ suspect taken into custody
Arrest believed to conclude decade’s long investigation

By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
After killing 10 Black women and at least one Black man in South Central Los Angeles for almost 25 years, a man suspected of being the so-called “Grim Sleeper” was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Robbery-Homicide Division of the LAPD took 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. into custody at his home on 81st Street near Western Avenue. His arrest was the culmination of an investigation that began more than two decades ago.
LAPD Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said the Grim Sleeper serial killer was linked by forensic evidence to eight murders between 1985-88 and three murders between 2001-07. The killer was given the “Grim Sleeper” moniker because of what was believed to be a 13- or 14-year gap between his murderous rampages.
The district attorney’s office charged Franklin with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Prosecutors said he was eligible for the death penalty.
The common links in the killings were that all the victims were Black, all but one were women, and most of them were involved in prostitution or drug activity.
Franklin was described as a neighborhood mechanic who showed no signs of being capable of such horrible crimes.