LA Based ‘Napalm Girl’ Photographer Retires After 51 Years

Legendary Los Angeles-based photographer Nick Ut, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1972 photo that became an iconic image of the Vietnam War, is retiring after a 51 year career with the Associated Press.
Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

“Nick Ut, through his hauntingly beautiful photography, has chronicled history and captivated the world’s attention, leaving a legacy for future generations,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who recognized Ut proclaiming April 4, 2017 as Nick Ut Day in the County of Los Angeles.

Born in Vietnam in 1951, Ut was 15 when his brother and war photographer, Huynh Thanh My, was killed at war in 1965. Promising to himself that he would continue his brother’s mission of taking a photo that would end the war, Ut showed up at the AP’s Saigon bureau, seeking a job.

He was only 21 when he took the famed photo of a naked 9-year-old girl fleeing her village after a napalm attack on June 8, 1972. At 12:30 p.m. that day, four napalm bombs were dropped on Trang Bang. Nick watched in horror as people emerged from the fireball and smoke. He photographed a grandmother carrying a baby who died in her arms. He then photographed nine-year-old Kim Phuc whose clothes had been burned off her and whose skin was beginning to melt off of her body in strips. Badly in need of immediate medical attention, Kim had third-degree burns on more than 30 percent of her body. Nick set his camera aside, covered her with a raincoat and drove Kim and other injured children to a hospital in nearby Cu Chi. After the hospital refused to admit her, Ut used his media credentials to get her treated by doctors who ultimately saved her life.

“I cried when I saw her running,” Ut once told an AP reporter. “If I don’t help her — if something happened and she died — I think I’d kill myself after that.” Ut is still close with the now 53-year-old Kim Phúc who is a wife and mother of two.

South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places, June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places, June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Nick Ut was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for his photograph of Kim, which is credited with swaying public opinion against the war in Vietnam.

Los Angeles police form a line to prevent a crowd from going into a building, April 30, 1992, in a day of fires and looting. It was a long day as officers moved from trouble spot to trouble spot. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Los Angeles police form a line to prevent a crowd from going into a building, April 30, 1992, in a day of fires and looting. It was a long day as officers moved from trouble spot to trouble spot. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Ut would go on to take tens of thousands of photos over the next 44 years. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Ut came to California as a refugee. AP sent him to Tokyo, and then to Los Angeles in 1977. He became a fixture in Los Angeles, where his images from the 1992 civil unrest, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the recent brush fires became an international lens to tell the story of current events in Los Angeles County.

During his retirement, he plans to spend time with his family, especially his grandchildren, teaching photography, and, yes, taking more pictures. “I’ll take pictures until I die,” says Ut. “My camera is like my doctor, my medicine.”

Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

 

Virtual Reality Exploration at the Natural History Museum

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the Natural History Museum in launching its first virtual reality adventure – theBlu: An Underwater Virtual Reality Experience.

With a high-tech VR headset, visitors can explore the ocean without ever getting wet. In this six-minute immersive experience, they can wander around a sunken ship as manta rays and a blue whale swim past. Next, they can interact with colorful anemones at the edge of a coral reef while turtles and swarms of jellyfish glide by. The journey ends with a deep dive into an iridescent abyss, where hidden creatures such as angler fish appear with the use of a virtual flashlight.

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Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“The Museum’s mission is to study and teach the relationship between the whole spectrum of the human species and the natural world, and this experience does that and more,” Board Chair Ridley-Thomas said. “Using virtual reality technology in this exhibit makes this learning experience an immersive and interactive one. It makes learning fun.”

“Engaging and inspiring visitors is what we do – and theBlu is beautiful, powerful storytelling,” said the Museum’s director and president, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga. “It would not surprise me if the next generation of marine biologists and VR developers are inspired by this exhibit.

“Here’s what it’s like, from someone who has done a lot of SCUBA diving: it’s cool to see all those plants and animals and not be underwater and cold – especially the deep sea chapter, where you couldn’t even dive in real life,” added Dr. Chris Thacker, the Museum’s fish curator. “It’s incredible to see all the animals up close, particularly the whale and the turtle, and interact with jellyfish and see how they respond.”

theblu_screen_007“The experience is scientifically accurate and does a good job of replicating what it’s like underwater, but you’re just standing there, warm and dry,” he added.

The virtual reality studio Wevr created theBlu in consultation with scientists from the museum and film director Jake Rowell (Call of Duty, Final Fantasy). It was among the New Frontiers Selection at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

theBlu will be on exhibit from March 6-April 28. Tickets can be purchased the Museum’s website, NHM.org, at a cost of $8 for members and $10 for non-members. Children must be at least 10 years old to participate, due to safety reasons and ability to follow instructions. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

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theBlu director Jake Rowell, NHM director and president Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, and Board of Supervisors Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

 

 

AC Bilbrew Library Reopens

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All photos by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

The Willowbrook community came out in droves to join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in celebrating the grand reopening of A.C. Bilbrew Library after a $5-million renovation.

Located at 150 East El Segundo Boulevard, the library underwent a complete makeover. It now has twice as much seating capacity as before, with newly installed state-of-the-art technology – including laptops that can be borrowed from a vending machine – and recently acquired artwork that have transformed the 1970’s-era structure into a cultural center.

FullSizeRender8“This is not just your everyday library,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the ceremony, which also commemorated African American History Month. “A.C. Bilbrew Library is more than a simple repository of books. It is a gathering place for the community and a safe haven for children and families, where knowledge, art, culture and technology are all within reach.”

“A.C. Bilbrew Library has long been a community asset. However, the old library had outgrown the needs of the community and required a major renovation,” Library Director Skye Patrick said. “Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recognized these needs and championed to modernize this library.”

Aside from the transformed library, the community is also getting a completely renovated senior center, located just down the street and operated by Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services.

blc_003The 21,843 sq. ft. library, named after a community leader, poet, musician, and radio pioneer, has been updated with seating for nearly 200 people, providing additional space for reading and studying. There are also 18 adult desktop computers, three teen computers, four homework center desktop computers, two early-learning desktop computers and a laptop vending machine with a dozen laptops that can be checked out for use within the library.

There are three self check-out machines, and study tables with USB charging capabilities. In addition, the library features an updated community meeting room with a kitchenette and state-of-the-art audio visual system. There are two group study rooms with audio/visual capabilities and a whiteboard wall, a children’s activity room, and separate areas for teens and younger children.

Throughout the library are 50 paintings and sculptures recently acquired from the Golden State Mutual Arts Collection. The interior courtyard has a civic art piece developed by artist team Greenmeme, who incorporated native plantings and a trellis, as well as seating, to create an outdoor garden and a gathering space for the community.

BCB_7783The AC Bilbrew Library is the home for the African American Resource Center, which carries many precious archives and holds an important role in the preservation of African American culture and history. Some of the materials have long been out of print and are the only remaining copies available in the world. “Improvement has been made to the way the archives are stored so that these resources are preserved for many generations to come,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Built with sustainability in mind, the library is equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting, air conditioning and heating, drought-tolerant landscaping and other water-efficient features, making it the County’s second “net zero” energy facility.

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Pan African Film Festival Celebrates 25th Year in Los Angeles

This year, the Pan African Film Festival celebrates its 25th year with a 12-day movie marathon taking place February 9-20, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw 15 Theater located within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, at 3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near Leimert Park. The festival will screen 202 films, 124 of which are feature-length. The 78 short films screened are up for consideration for Academy Awards. The Academy approved the PAFF as a qualifying festival.

“Cinematic stories matter,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And this film festival taking place just blocks from Leimert Park has become an international cultural resource to showcase new narratives over the last quarter of a century. We are indeed privileged to have it in our backyard.”

During Black History Month and representing 56 countries on six continents, the festival will screen the largest selection of black films ever screened at one event. The PAFF screened the first films of such prominent black filmmakers as Gina Prince Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), Malcolm D. Lee (“Best Man”), Michael Jennings (“Moonlight”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma” &“13th”) and Academy Award winner Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”). The PAFF also screened films by Raul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Oscar nominated Mahamat Saleh Haroun (“Gris Gris”) and many others.

“It’s been an incredible experience to witness the growth of this PAFF and at the same time witness the tremendous development of the Pan African film Industry,” says Ayuko Babu, PAFF Executive Director. “Both have allowed me the pleasure of working with thousands of filmmakers and honoring the artistry from South Africa to Atlanta – all of whom tell their own stories and present their images to the world so beautifully. So now in our 25th year, PAFF will again present the largest selection of Black films ever to be screened at one event and honor the best storytellers and artists for their work.”

Watch an exclusive interview with Executive Director and co-founder Ayuko Babu below:

This year, the festival will celebrate the work of actress Alfre Woodard with The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by PAFF Co-Founder Ja’net Dubois during the Opening Night Gala, Thursday February 9th held at the DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles. The Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Woodard’s’ extraordinary career, having captured the hearts of theater-goers, moviegoers and TV watchers. Woodard has been able to transcend both genre and medium with work that scans over 30 years– all reflecting strong yet flawed black women. Alfre will share her journey with the PAFF audience in a hosted, one-on-one “Conversation With Alfre Woodard,” on Sunday February 10th at 3pm, narrated by Director Neema Barnett held at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Theater.

“I get excited every year right about this time because I know the Pan African Film Festival is coming. This means that I have felt this exhilaration 25 times!,” says honoree Alfre Woodard. “PAFF always delivers artfully curated entertainment and information in diverse genres. This year I’m particularly thrilled that they have invited me to represent their legacy of bringing engaging stories from filmmakers of the African diaspora to Los Angeles, the birthplace of American Cinema. As always, Feb 9-20th promises stimulating conversations and lively celebrations. You won’t want to miss it!”

The complete Screenings, Special Screenings & Events Lineup are available here: www.paff.org.

Graduation Motivation

IMG_0561Hoping it will motivate at-risk youth to stay in school, the Board of Supervisors is offering $500 to children of welfare recipients – if they earn a high school diploma or GED, and take a course in financial literacy.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl authorizing the County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to implement an Educational Support Payment (ESP) pilot program.

“We are always supportive of innovative ideas to motivate young people to complete their high school education so that they are better prepared to enter the workforce or matriculate at institutions of higher education,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The ESP pilot program is an example of outside-the-box thinking when it comes to raising graduation rates among economically disadvantaged young people.”

DPSS administers the State’s CalWORKs welfare program, which gives cash aid and services to some of the County’s most vulnerable families. Only half of adults receiving CalWORKs benefits have a high school diploma or GED. This is a huge barrier to employment, as with more than 85 percent of Americans 25 and older possessing high school diplomas, it has become increasingly difficult for those without diplomas or GEDs to become self-sufficient. The ESP pilot program can help break the cycle of generational poverty and dependency by incentivizing welfare recipients’ children to complete at least their secondary education, which should help them become successful and self-sufficient.

Under the ESP pilot program, 16 to 18-year-old children of CalWORKs participants who graduated from high school or earned a GED in May 2016 and before June 30, 2017 can earn $400 by providing proof of their high school diploma or GED. They can receive an additional $100 by completing a financial literacy course offered through the County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

The motion also required that surveys be conducted and data be tracked to determine whether offering financial incentives makes a difference in GED/high school graduation rates. The estimated cost for the pilot is $3 million, based on 6,000 teens qualifying for both the $400 graduation payment and the $100 financial literacy class.