Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line: Construction On Track

Construction of the $2-billion, 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX rail line continues to move forward, with another round of excavation underway for an underground train station.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been working on the project for just over a year, tackling challenging feats of engineering while also supporting businesses in the hard had areas.

Once completed in 2019, the Crenshaw/LAX rail line will have eight stations, the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line, and southernmost to the Green Line, not far from one of the world’s busiest airports. Funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008, it is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, vice chairman of Metro’s Board of Directors, said the importance of the Crenshaw/LAX rail line cannot be understated.

“This rail line will transform neighborhoods by allowing people to get where they need to be, and quickly,” he said. “It’ll also cut air pollution and traffic congestion, and boost businesses along the route by carrying customers almost to their doorstep. In short, it will change the landscape of Los Angeles for the better.”

Supervisor Shows Support for New Federal Sex Trafficking Bill

Girl Traff

I would like to commend Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for authoring the Combat Human Trafficking Act, which was introduced recently in the United States Senate. The bill seeks to penalize adults who buy sex from trafficking victims and strengthen victim’s rights. While many federal, state and local efforts have focused mainly on prosecuting the traffickers, it is time we start looking at the buyers who fuel this crime. After all, sex trafficking is a demand-driven industry.

The Combat Human Trafficking Act would ensure that federal law enforcement officials are properly trained to investigate and then prosecute these buyers. It also views those who are being trafficked for what they are: exploited women and children-not criminals.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that up to 83 percent of sex trafficking victims are American citizens, and the average victim is first trafficked between ages 12 and 14.There are few topics more disturbing than the buying and selling of children for sex. Unfortunately, our society is still misinformed about this issue. Many still refer to it as prostitution. But, this is modern day slavery and a multi-billion dollar industry driven by unscrupulous adults.

We must put an end to this notion that people—mostly women, girls and boys—are commodities to be bought and sold. This bill will help protect victims while punishing the adults who profit and derive enjoyment from this despicable trade.

Freedom Schools End with Grand Celebration

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera ParkEight-year-old, Laci Martin of Compton enjoyed attending her summer literacy enrichment program, so much last year she couldn’t wait to return to Read Lead’s Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Lynwood this year.

“Last year I wasn’t a good reader, but now I can read 141 words a minute,” Laci said enthusiastically. “I’ve read so many books this summer, I can’t count how many books I’ve read.”

Laci was one of more than 450 Freedom Schools scholars, ages 5 to 18 celebrating the end of their summer Freedom School program, a six week long program created by the Children’s Defense Fund to prevent the effects of summer learning loss. Throughout the summer, six Freedom Schools sites throughout the Second District, provided these young scholars with a curriculum that was both challenging and entertaining, with activities that included reading, art, dance, music, field trips, athletics and community service.

The model is based on an idea born 50 years ago this summer, during the crucible of the civil rights movement. In 1964, in what came to be called the Mississippi Freedom Summer, when college students from around the nation descended on the state to help African-Americans register to vote and to teach black children as an alternative to Mississippi’s underfunded and segregated school system. For many pupils, the Freedom Schools provided their first introduction to literature by and about black people, encouraging them to both read about and write their own stories.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera ParkFast-forward to 2014, and students in today’s Freedom Schools received similar encouragement. As it did 50 years ago, a love of reading blossomed in these young ones too. That’s crucial, because studies have shown that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds suffer a significant learning gap during the 11 weeks of summer vacation.

For the nearly 500 children of the Second District Freedom Schools, however, much of that gap was filled with mentoring, lessons and field trips. At the program’s end, children and their teachers gathered at Ladera Park in Los Angeles recently for a special culmination party. In addition to singing, chanting and celebrating their newfound love of reading, they were treated to a reading from Donzaleigh Abernathy, actress, author and daughter of the legendary civil rights leader Rev. Ralph Abernathy.

She read from her book, Partners to History and told the children how during slavery, reading was not an option for many and in fact, slave owners punished blacks who tried to learn to read.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera Park“I wanted to share that history and that’s why I decided to read the book today,” Abernathy, who knew Martin Luther King, Jr. so well he was like an uncle, said. “ I wrote the book because I love my dad and I love Uncle Martin and they made it possible for me to be free in the world.”

In addition, the students were treated to a special baseball clinic by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They learned about earthquake safety, climbed aboard a fire engine and stopped by the Los Angeles County Public Library’s Urban Outreach Bookmobile.

Freedom Schools Finale - Ladera Park“All children are entitled to a strong learning environment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has sponsored 16 sites over the past five years. “Freedom Schools instill an unstoppable love of learning and reading that positively affects every child. It is always an honor to see the desire to learn passed down to generations.”

As part of the program, college students serve as “Servant Leader Interns” who are trained to work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities. For first-time Freedom Schools Community Coalition Servant Leader Intern, Yvette Aragon, 23 of Los Angeles, the finale was bittersweet.

“I’m happy to be here with my scholars but to see the program end makes me sad,” Aragon said. “I’m so proud of them, not just my scholars but all the scholars here. They are dynamic and I know they are going to be future leaders.”

Hellen Keller Read Lead Servant Leader Intern Crystal Leon, 26 agreed with Aragon: “It’s a lot of hard work, dedication and long hours but at the end of the day when you make a difference in someone’s life, it’s all worth it.”


Another Summer of Literacy: Freedom Schools are Here

For the fifth summer in a row, the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week summer literacy and enrichment program for children ages 5 to 18-years-old, are coming to the Second District. Beginning June 16, six different sites will roll out the popular educational program.

In addition, five county probation camps will also take part in the innovative program, which has had national success in improving participants’ self-confidence, instilling a love of learning and bolstering reading comprehension. Now in its second year, the Freedom School probation camp program is part of a broader effort to enhance the educational approach in youth camps so they more focused on providing a positive learning experience to wards.

Established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Freedom Schools provide rigorous, quality summer and after school instruction to children in urban environments. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

Low-income children are particularly vulnerable to the “summer learning gap”— when many children fall behind in reading and math during the nearly three long months of summer vacation.

Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, in which students read aloud, sing, cheer and chant motivational songs, announcements and recognitions, closing with a moment of silence. The children then go on to read and make their stories come to life by painting and drawing them. They dance and sing and go on field trips, play sports and make time for community service.

“The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools ensure that children, regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status or gender have a healthy and fun place to learn over the summer,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who initiated the partnership with CDF in the Second District. “I’ve seen the excitement, the enthusiasm and the results over the years – that’s why this has been an annual event in the Second District. This program plants the seeds for a positive future for our children, giving them what I hope will be a life-long love of reading.”

For more information:
Or call: 213-355-8787

South L.A. Residents to Receive Life Saving Care Faster

When someone is having a heart attack, time is of the essence; minutes after it stops receiving blood, the heart muscle begins to die causing permanent damage. Eventually, the heart will simply stop. In South Los Angeles, however, the nearest available treatment was more than 10 miles away – and many minutes away to hospitals around the county as far as Torrance or downtown Los Angeles.

No longer.

St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood is now a certified ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (known as STEMI) Center, offering trained cardiologists and immediate treatment for anyone suffering a heart attack.  There are now 34 such centers in LA County, with St. Francis and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as the other such locations in the Second District.  The new center is particularly important for Los Angeles County, considering that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for residents–with blacks and Latinos suffering the highest rates among all other ethnic groups.

The Catheterization Lab where patients are taken to have any angioplasty procedures and stents placed.

“The heart is a muscle like the brain,” said Adam Garcia, a cardiovascular and radiology technician at St. Francis. “If it doesn’t get fed, it won’t do well. And so that is why we have to take care of the problem as fast as possible.”

Within minutes at St. Francis, trained staff can stabilize a patient, insert a stent in a blocked artery or perform surgery. The STEMI Center compliments The Heart Center at St. Francis Medical Center, which has a full-time staff of cardiologists, specialty trained nurses, surgeons and technicians who offer a full range of heart care services. Quick treatment can not only save lives, but also reduce the risk of long-term heart damage and prevent life-threatening complications.

“We needed to provide this care and so this is super exciting,” said Dr. Michael Stephen, Chief of Staff, St. Francis Medical Center.

Added Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the launch of the new center: “The residents of South Los Angeles deserve access to high-quality services in their community and the opening of this new receiving center does just that.  Lives will be improved and even saved because of what is happening today.”