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.

 

A Visionary Educator

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Passing of USC President Emeritus Steven Sample

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“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of USC President Emeritus Steven Sample, a visionary educator and friend.

“Under his exemplary leadership, USC rose dramatically in academic rankings to become one of the nation’s elite universities. His writings on civic engagement have greatly inspired me in my work as a public servant. I will always be grateful that he chaired my transition team when I was elected to the Board of Supervisors.

“On a personal note, I will always cherish our friendship, which spanned more than 25 years. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Kathryn, their family, and all my fellow Trojans.”

 

*Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas completed a Ph.D. in Social Ethics at USC in 1989.

 

 

A New Era in Education

Statement from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Appointment of Dr. Debra Duardo as Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education:

 

Debra Duardo

Dr. Debra Duardo

“I look forward to Dr. Debra Duardo assuming the role of Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and continuing the important work begun by Dr. Arturo Delgado.

“Dr. Duardo is an expert administrator with years of experience in trauma-informed education systems. She will bring her outstanding leadership on dropout prevention strategies, restorative justice and special needs education – and she will put students first.

“Dr. Duardo’s appointment comes just two months after Michelle King was named Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is unprecedented, and remarkable, that the two largest education agencies in Los Angeles are headed by Los Angeles natives and women of color who came through the very same systems that they now govern. I can think of no better role models for our students.”

Dr. Duardo holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Doctorate from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.