Education, Arts & Culture

A Day at the Marina

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse with Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Life Guards, and the Department of Beaches and Harbors. All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors.

It was a fun-filled day at the Marina, as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse joined Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Life Guards, and the Department of Beaches and Harbors for the first ever Second District Day in the Marina featuring ocean safety, sail boating, paddling, and kayaking.

The District Day in the Marina is a new program by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors bringing youth ages 8-12 to experience a programmed day of water and beach activities in Marina Del Rey. Chairman Ridley-Thomas took to the sand as he led the children in a day of fun in the sun.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro LA-Watts Willowbrook Clubhouse is in the house…or should I say in the sand!” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said to begin the day. “We encourage you and your families to return as often as you’d like to enjoy the beach and some of the other things the Marina has to offer, including concerts in the park, fishing docks, and the South Bay Bike Trail.”

Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Ocean Lifeguards offered instruction and education to the 25 children in attendance including several first-time beach goers.

“We hope to help instill in these young people a love for the coast and our marine environment at an early stage in their lives,” said Carol Baker of the County of Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors.

Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center Breaks Ground

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for the Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center with nearly 200 in attendance.

The Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center will be located at 5054 South Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The Life Learning Center was named in honor of two prominent leaders who proactively support coalition building, social justice, empowerment, and non-violent solutions. The newly reimagined and renovated building will be a dedicated youth center to encourage participants and their peers to “drop in” and use it as a safe zone and resource. This warm, welcoming stand-alone drop-in center will provide access to holistic arts education, permanent housing, comprehensive resources, school assistance, career training, and a positive support system.

“One of the most challenging periods in a young person’s life is the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” said Avis Ridley-Thomas.

There is a significant overlap between homelessness and commercial exploitation: a 2017 study found that 91% of homeless youth reported being offered work opportunities that turned out to be fraudulent work situations, scams, pandering, or sex trafficking. More than half of homeless youth report mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress. Half of chronically homeless adults in the U.S. experienced homelessness between the ages of 18 and 24. And youth homelessness increased 61% from 2016 to 2017 in the County of Los Angeles.

“This transition from adolescence to adulthood also provides a window of opportunity to intervene and guide young people toward self-sufficiency,” the Chairman said.

The Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center will serve as a drop-in center for any young person seeking a sense of safety and belonging.

The Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic (LACGC), a nationally acclaimed mental health service provider for children and youth in South Los Angeles, purchased the building that will house the Center which will occupy 10,000 square feet of space. The center will provide trauma‐informed mental health services and support resources to at‐risk transition‐age youth, ages 16‐25. LACGC’s Life Learning Program was founded in 1992. In 2014, the program was renamed the Avis & Mark‐Ridley Thomas Life Learning Program in honor of their joint achievements in community empowerment and social justice.

“We fully expect that this Center will avert many a young person from the criminal justice system, the mental health system, and a lifetime on the streets,” the Chairman said.

The center is expected to open in mid-2018.

View Park’s Bebe Moore Campbell Library Opens

View Park’s Bebe Moore Campbell Library is open for business following a $1.38 million renovation. The library’s new name honors Campbell, the late best-selling novelist, advocate for the mentally ill, and distinguished View Park resident.

“Bebe Moore Campbell was an accomplished journalist and author who, through her writing, engaged in tireless and undaunted efforts to confront racism and challenge the stigma associated with mental illness,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas who attended the ribbon cutting two years after authoring a motion to change the name of the library. “Her legacy of raising awareness for important social issues certainly will not be forgotten.”

Ms. Campbell authored four New York Times bestsellers: Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Come Back Choir, What You Owe Me, and 72 Hour Hold. She also wrote the Los Angeles Times bestseller and New York Times notable book of the year, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, for which she won an Image Award for literature from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Her byline has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise, and many other publications.

Ms. Campbell was also the co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Inglewood, now known as NAMI Urban Los Angeles.

She died in 2006 of complications from brain cancer. She was 56.


Credit: Ellis Gordon, Jr., husband of BeBe Moore Campbell, and NAMI Urban Los Angeles

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.