Education, Arts & Culture

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas on receiving the National Foster Youth Institute’s 2017 Champion of Children and Youth Award

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas with foster youth and Rep. Karen Bass, founder of the National Foster Youth Institute at its 3rd Annual Evening of Learning and Celebration, hosted by former City Councilmember Wendy Gruel and Dean Schramm. The nonprofit organization  mobilizes grassroots support to reform and strengthen the child welfare system, and to create a brighter future for America’s foster youth and their families. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

“Thank you Congresswoman Bass for that warm introduction and for this honor. I also want to thank Wendy and Dean for hosting this event and welcoming us.

“It has been my distinct pleasure to support and partner with this organization on behalf of the thousands of youth in Los Angeles County who are in, or have exited, the child welfare system.

“When the Board of Supervisors convened the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection in 2013, we learned how important it was to a child’s well-being for all involved stakeholders to work in a complementary manner to achieve the same goals. The Board approved the Commission’s recommendations in 2014. That same year, the National Foster Youth Institute was founded by the Hon. Karen Bass. We’ve been running on parallel tracks ever since, taking on issues of substance, and working in a complementary manner to achieve the same goals.

“We have worked to dismantle the commercial sexual exploitation of children – CSEC – and its disproportionate impact on foster youth. Sixty percent of all child sex trafficking victims have histories in the child welfare system. Let me repeat that – 60 percent. This is unacceptable. NFYI has been working with policymakers to pass legislation aimed at protecting these youth. In the County, we have prioritized the identification and recovery of youth who are being trafficked by establishing the First Responder Protocol, which decriminalizes young people who, in the rest of the nation, are being arrested for prostitution. Make no mistake: there is no such thing as a child prostitute.

“NFYI is also taking on the critical need for permanent and stable housing for current and former foster youth in order to combat homelessness, the defining moral issue of our time. An average of one out of every four youth in foster care will become homeless within four years of aging out of foster care. LAHSA reports that 48 percent of young people experiencing homelessness in the County self-identify as having been involved in the child welfare or Probation systems. The County’s Homeless Initiative and Measure H will be instrumental in providing housing and supportive services to this population. As many of you know, the Measure H ¼ cent sales tax went into effect last Sunday. This will provide $5 million this fiscal year for services for transition-age youth, and $19 million next fiscal year. Over the next 5 years, Measure H is expected to house 45,000 people and prevent another 30,000 from becoming homeless.

“Lastly, NFYI is investing in and lifting up our greatest asset: the youth themselves. In Los Angeles County, current and former foster youth organized by NFYI are weighing in on important matters that directly affect them. They are helping to write the County’s Foster Youth Bill of Rights and form a Foster Youth Advisory Council to DCFS, presenting recommendations to the Commission for Children and Families and the Board of Supervisors.

“One of the best ways for us to champion youth issues is for us, as adults, to step back and give voice and power to our future generations, and this organization is getting that right. In closing, I want to thank the Board of Directors and staff of NFYI, and all the partners here tonight fighting for vulnerable youth across LA and across this country. And most of all, I salute every young person who has survived the trauma of being removed from his or her family. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to ensure they have the brightest of futures. Thank you again for this honor.”

Rep. Karen Bass, founder of the National Foster Youth Institute, addresses the audience at the 3rd Annual Evening of Learning and Celebration.

Opera Opens at Exposition Park

For the first time ever, the LA Opera presented a live Opera at the Park simulcast at Exposition Park sponsored by Los Angeles County and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. The performance of CARMEN starring Ana Maria Martinez and conducted by James Conlon, was broadcast live in high-definition from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the big screen at Exposition Park for over a thousand community members.

“I am pleased to bring to the Second Supervisorial District a world-class opera performance in the perfect Southern California outdoor setting for families to enjoy,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas while introducing the simulcast. “Expo Park is where arts, sports, science, history and education all come together, so tonight, the LA Opera is right at home.”

The event began as the sun was setting with pre-show entertainment by student musicians and choir members from Manual Arts High School.

Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, and Manual Arts High School Choir and Band.

“It is appropriate that the simulcast is taking place in Exposition Park, a hub of artistic and cultural activity that is on the cusp of a transformative period in its history,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas who recently introduced a motion to issue a resolution declaring Exposition Park as the ideal location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a one-of-a-kind gathering place to experience art and exhibitions dedicated to the power of storytelling across all media, including paintings, illustrations and moving images. The Lucas family will fully fund the Museum’s construction, collection, and operating endowment with no cost to taxpayers to build the Museum.

“Through participation in the arts, people are brought together; we realize that we all have a story to tell, and that we can learn from one another, especially in these troubling times,” the Chairman said.

Wiseburn Walking Path Opens

A once blighted area has been transformed into a beautiful walking path, the first ever green space dedicated to the Wiseburn community located just east of the 405 freeway.

The $2.7-million Wiseburn Walking Path extends just over half a mile from 132nd to 139th Streets along La Cienega Blvd. At different points in the path, residents can rest on park benches, exercise on outdoor fitness equipment, and play on hopscotch courts surrounded by drought-tolerant landscaping and 100 trees. The light poles are solar powered, the irrigation system uses recycled water, and animal waste stations are provided for the convenience of pet owners.

All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“We are thrilled to open this long awaited walking path that everyone in Wiseburn, from children to seniors to pets, should be able to enjoy for years to come,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It is the culmination of years of work and advocacy by the community, as well as collaboration at various phases of government, to turn blight into beauty.”

Members of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps created the walking path, and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will maintain it. Aside from Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas, among the other contributors to the project were Wiseburn Watch, whose leaders advocated for the walking path, and Caltrans, which leased the land to the County to construct the trail. The West Basin Water District, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, were also involved in the project.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to work on the Wiseburn Walking Path project,”LA Conservation Corps CEO Wendy Butts said. “This invaluable experience and cross-jurisdictional partnership provided our Corpsmembers with training in construction and various types of landscaping skills. This learning will provide another meaningful building block in putting our young people on the pathway to a future filled with hope and opportunity.”

The LA Conservation Corps is a youth development nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of youth from disadvantaged communities through work and education. Its projects seek to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect the environment for future generations.

Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas with members of the Wiseburn community, and the LA Conservation Corps.

Back to School, Health and Wellness

All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Families got a chance to boost their health and wellness while kids got free back-to-school backpacks during a weekend of community events in South Los Angeles.

About 200 people participated in a two-mile Walk4Health co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and UMMA Clinic. Thewalk began at St. John’s and concluded at the Mt. Carmel Recreation Center, where more than 2,000 people gathered for the Back2School Community Health and Resource Fair.

Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson helped to make the event a success by providing the venue free of charge and assisting with street closures.

Among the organizations offering financial assistance and free medical, dental and mental health screenings were HealthNet, the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers (Central City Community Health Center, Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center, South CentralFamily Health Center, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, T.H.E. (To Help Everyone) Health and Wellness Centers, UMMA Community Clinic, Watts Healthcare, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Trader Joe’s and the California Endowment.

The Special Needs Network, a nonprofit that seeks to raise public awareness of children’s developmental disabilities, handed out more than 1,500 backpacks and school supplies and provided free haircuts.

Throughout the fair, the crowd was treated to live entertainment, as well as free food and beverages. Children enjoyed a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, arts and crafts and other activities. “This event is so important because it brings much needed health and dental services into a community that has a shortage of providers,” SNN founder and president Areva Martin said. “We know that our health is our wealth and by providing families with access to high quality health care services, we ensure a stronger and more vibrant community.”


Women Olympians Honored at Coliseum


Posing with new plaques at the Coliseum in honor of two outstanding women Olympians. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors 

The images of two pioneering women Olympians have been enshrined on plaques at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor. Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the first women’s Olympic Marathon, and Anita L. DeFrantz, Olympic medalist for rowing and International Olympic Committee member, are only the second and third individual women athletes since 1932 to be memorialized this way.

“The Coliseum Court of Honor welcomes two extraordinary athletes who exemplify the Olympic spirit and paved the way for women to excel in sports at the highest level,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas during the ceremony, co-sponsored by his office. “We celebrate Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz for their achievements as Olympians and as female role models.”

Pioneering Olympians Anita DeFrantz and Joan Benoit Samuelson are honored at the ceremony

Pioneering Olympians Anita DeFrantz and Joan Benoit Samuelson are honored at the ceremony


After unveiling the plaque, DeFrantz said, “We all know that women’s sport historically has been underreported. I’m thrilled that women’s accomplishments will be celebrated at the Coliseum with these plaques.”

Nearly 60 plaques have been installed at the Court of Honor since 1932. Until now, the only individual female athlete commemorated was Babe Didrikson, and her plaque was installed in 1961. LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril led the effort to bestow similar honors on both Samuelson and DeFrantz.

“Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz showed girls across the world how a sporting dream can spring into reality, and inspire our work every day to keep closing the gender gap in sports,” Simril said, adding the pioneering athletes’ contributions on and off the field are “nothing short of transcendent.”

Diandra Jay/Board of SupervisorsWith the goal of leveling the playing field so that sport is accessible to all children, LA84 supports thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grant making, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues.

Anita DeFrantz is a 1976 Olympic rowing bronze medalist and 1980 U.S. Olympic Team member.  She later became vice president of the Olympic Village for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, and a president of the LA84 Foundation. Currently, she is a member of four IOC commissions – Finances, Legal Affairs, Olympic Channel and the Coordination for the Tokyo 2020 Games. She is one of Chairman Ridley-Thomas’ appointees to the Women & Girls Initiative’s Governing Council, representing Los Angeles County’s Second District.

Joan Benoit Samuelson became the first woman to win the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984. In 2009 she was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. Currently, she serves as a consultant to Nike and as a clinician.

Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors