Opportunity Knocks for Future EMT’s

Young Men from Los Angeles County’s Second District Attend an Orientation at Central Baptist Church in Carson

Young Men from Los Angeles County’s Second District Attend an Orientation at Central Baptist Church in Carson

For the first time, a unique pilot program to train underserved young men of color to become Emergency Medical Technicians is on its way to Los Angeles County. The program is a partnership between the Office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Workers Education and Resource Center with funding support from the California Endowment.

“This pilot program is a win-win. Our young men of color deserve access to the best opportunities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “And our communities deserve first rate emergency medical technicians.”

On the heels of a successful recent program in Alameda County, 21 young men from Los Angeles County’s Second District and their accountability partners, made up of parents, friends or significant others, participated in the orientation and kickoff at Central Baptist Church in Carson. Representatives from the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, and Fire were on hand to provide words of wisdom and to participate in the launch of the program.

The five month intensive program will include technical skill development, life skill building and culminate in EMT certification. The young men selected through a rigorous application process will earn a training stipend of $1,200 per month.

This group is the first of three groups that will participate in the pilot program in Los Angeles County’s Second District over the next two years.

Candlelight Vigil
25 Years After Civil Unrest

About 300 people joined Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas in marking the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Civil Unrest in Los Angeles with a teach-in and a candlelight vigil.

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“We come together to stand in solidarity, not to simply remember the events of 1992 but also to reflect on lessons learned after 25 years of recovery, revitalization and resilience,” Board Chair Ridley-Thomas said.

At the teach-in, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker of “OJ:  Made in America,”  Ezra Edelman, looked back on the turmoil. “Reliving, discussing and absorbing our history is the only way to move forward,” he said.

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Ezra Edelman. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Prof. Paul Ong, director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, unveiled a study entitled “1992 Revisited,” which tracked socioeconomic changes between the time of the civil unrest and the present.

“Without the heroic efforts of community organizers and elected officials, conditions would be far worse; nonetheless, the unfortunate reality as evident in the empirical facts is that much more must be done to address the continued economic marginalization of South Los Angeles,” he said. “This will require a comprehensive, inclusive and coordinated effort, one that cuts across silos and institutional layers, and guided by a common vision anchored in a commitment to social justice.”

Paul Ong, Maria Elena Durazo, Marc Brown, Peter Hong and Rep. Karen Bass. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Paul Ong, Maria Elena Durazo, Marc Brown, Peter Hong and Rep. Karen Bass. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“We have come a long way in building local organizations to address issues of education, environmental justice, and other local issues,” Unite Here General Vice President Maria Elena Durazo said. “Unfortunately, the poverty level has grown in most of the communities that were impacted by the unrest. We have to fight for jobs that truly lift people out of poverty – and we have to give equal access to those good jobs to everyone in the community.”

US Rep. Karen Bass and CalState LA Director of Strategic Initiatives Peter Hong also spoke at the teach-in, hosted by KABC-7 anchor Marc Brown at the auditorium of the historic Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building. Mayor Eric Garcetti also addressed participants.

Afterwards, teach-in attendees and members of the community went across the street for a candlelight vigil. Each carried a flame that illuminated the corner of Western and Adams, where a gas station was razed during the civil unrest.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors


Lessons Learned from
LA’s 1992 Civil Unrest

“A riot is the language of the unheard,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said.On April 29, 1992, the unheard were unleashed, leading to one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Los Angeles.
When the civil unrest over the verdict in the Rodney King case ended five days later, the toll included 54 people dead, 2,000 injured and 12,000 arrested. More than 1,000 buildings were set ablaze and 4,500 looted, resulting in over $1 billion in property damage. As a newly elected member of the City Council, I saw our recently renovated district office – a mini-City Hall – become a smoldering ruin.
Even now, 25 years later, not all of the social and economic injustices that became kindling for “the unheard” have been snuffed out. And yet, I believe quite a lot has been done – just not enough. I call it strategic dissatisfaction.
In 1992, 30 to 40 percent of the population in parts of South Central and Southeast LA lived below the poverty line. While the mean household income in the Westside approached $100,000, South Central and Southeast LA residents earned only about $25,000 and $22,000, respectively. That’s if they could find a job at all, with the unemployment rate at 13.7 percent and 17.4 percent in those neighborhoods, respectively, compared to 8.4 percent citywide.
Watts was among the communities that struggled the most, with an unemployment rate of 26 percent and a household income of just $12,000, leaving almost half of its households reliant on some form of public assistance.
Aside from crushing poverty and high unemployment, too many communities were also plagued by gang crime and a crack cocaine epidemic, along with indisputable racial and ethnic tensions. Back then, such areas were perceived as ominous. That is changing, and it’s a good thing.
In recent years, South LA and the rest of LA County’s Second District have drawn tremendous public and private investment. This urban landscape, which once seemed to have a liquor store at every corner, now includes the $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line set for completion in 2019 and the new $1-billion Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook, poised for further expansion.
Still to come are the $2.6-billion National Football League stadium for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, as well as the $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and $350-million Major League Soccer stadium for the LA Football Club, both in Exposition Park. Meanwhile, the LA Memorial Coliseum, the Forum and Metro’s Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station each set aside $270 million, $100 million and $66 million, respectively, for renovations.
These and other projects in and around commercial centers targeted for destruction in 1992 have created thousands of jobs in recent years and will continue to do so. Residents are reaping the benefits of local worker hire policies, wage theft crackdowns, and increases in the minimum wage and living wage.
All told, communities within LA County’s Second District have seen 5.5 percent employment growth over the last eight years, coinciding with a 20.13 percent increase in annual wages. If this trend continues, we should be able to chip away at the poverty rate, which, in South LA, has stubbornly refused to budge from about 33 percent since the time of the civil unrest.
Homelessness remains at crisis levels but, for the first time ever, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just this March, voters made history by agreeing to tax themselves over a decade to provide unprecedented resources – $3.5 billion – for ending and preventing homelessness countywide. Measure H is the only revenue proposal ever attempted, much less approved, during an off-cycle election. It will go hand-in-hand with Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure to build affordable housing in the city of LA.
Even before voters approved either ballot measure, LA’s Second District saw 2,200 affordable housing units built over the last eight years, and 800 more are in the works. Increased government investment has also led to the construction or renovation of several parks, libraries and school-based health centers, though many more amenities are still needed.
Law enforcement and policing remain problematic, though a number of reforms have been carried out over the decades. The LA Police Department has strived to increase diversity within its ranks to more closely resemble the city’s demographics, and has placed greater emphasis on community policing rather than being a militarized occupying force. The LA County Sheriff’s Department made similar changes and, for the first time, has both an Inspector General and a Civilian Oversight Commission looking over its shoulder.
Despite these changes, complaints of racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other abuses have never gone away.
These days, instead of Rodney King, we hear the names Ezell Ford and, elsewhere in the country, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland, among others. The police shooting of Michael Brown triggered violent protests in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., as recently as three years ago.
On April 29, 1992, the rage and anguish of a community that had long suffered injustice and neglect were finally laid bare. Against a fiery backdrop on primetime news, broadcast worldwide, they demanded social justice and economic progress. For a while, it seemed to have an effect – reforms were vowed, investments pledged, an uneasy truce declared.
But, 25 years later, poverty still holds a firm grip on many in South LA, which has among the highest rates of homelessness in LA County. The streets are dotted with vacant lots where planned grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants never materialized. Meanwhile, after years of steady decline, violent crime is on the rise again in South LA, straining an already tenuous relationship between police officers and the community.
We cannot afford to wait yet another quarter of a century before heeding the call of “the unheard.” On April 29, 2017, we are closer than ever to delivering on promises of jobs and community revitalization, and to ensuring that law enforcement is professional and accountable. We must seize this momentum and pick up the pace, if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past as we chart a path for the future.

Reflections on the Civil Unrest

Media outlets throughout the nation reflect on 25 years since the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles. NBC News Conference’s Conan Nolan and Charter Local Edition’s Brad Pomerance sit down with Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to discuss how far Los Angeles County has come and the work that remains.

A Tantalizing Preview of the Crenshaw/LAX Line

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is scheduled for completion in 2019 but, thanks to students at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, we can catch a glimpse right now of what’s to come.

Working with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, LATTC students created a video simulating a bird’s eye view of the 8.5-mile light rail line that will travel between South Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport.

Construction is more than halfway complete. The project will serve passengers in the Crenshaw District, Leimert Park, Inglewood, Westchester, El Segundo, and points in between. There will be eight stations, with the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line and the southernmost to the Green Line.

The project is expected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000, and would be the first to serve the area since streetcars – dubbed “Yellow Cars” – stopped running in the 1950’s. It is funded through a loan from the federal government and Measure R, a half-cent transit sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

Crenshaw-LAX Aviation-Century