Education, Arts & Culture

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun, on stage at A Noise Within theater in Pasadena. Photos by Craig Schwartz.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a special performance of the Tony Award-winning A Raisin in the Sun for more than 300 people from across the Second District, many of whom had never been to a theater before.

“Theater has the power to engage, educate, empower, transform individuals and communities, achieve social justice initiatives, and bring communities closer together,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal work, tells the story of an African-American family living in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side during the 1950s, as they struggle with competing dreams and racial intolerance. Even decades after it was first performed, the play remains a resonant story of hope and the need to retain dignity in a hostile world. Its title was inspired by a line from Langston Hughes’ poem, Harlem.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the theater production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas invited attendees from schools, youth groups, seniors, veterans, and community-based service organizations to watch the play at A Noise Within theater in Pasadena, with a cast that includes Ben Cain and Toya Turner under the direction of Gregg Daniel. Many in the audience expressed appreciation for the performance.

“Arts are very important to the community and we should have more,” said Thurman Jackson. “This is my first time watching a play like this, and it touched my heart. I want to find more plays to attend.”

Even the younger members of the audience were able to grasp the cultural and historic significance of the play. “I learned how people struggled back in the day,” said Marvin Williams, a student at Falcon Youth and Family Service.

“Arts as activism is incredibly relevant to today’s society and A Raisin in the Sun is incredibly relevant to reflect on what is happening in our community today and hopefully make an effective change,” said Alicia Green, director of education and community outreach at A Noise Within, which produces world-class performances of classical theatre and runs education programs committed to inspiring diverse audiences of all ages.

“I hope that in some way people can see themselves reflected on stage,” she said. “Whether it is a dream deferred or a dream recognized, I hope that everyone can recognize something in themselves that they are able to change for the future.”

After their curtain calls, the cast took questions from the audience.

Diversity in local arts institutions and programs is important to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who has sponsored eight other theater productions in the past, including Rodney King at the Bootleg Theater, Through the Looking Glass at the Kirk Douglas Theater, and Aladdin, in two languages, at Casa 0101.

Cast of A Raisin in the Sun on stage at A Noise Within. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

A Community Conversation on Children, Youth and Families

Child welfare leaders recently came together with the community to discuss how to best serve vulnerable children and families in Los Angeles County.

Among the panelists was Shari Walker,who shared her inspirational story about being a former foster youth who is now studying to be a social worker. Department of Children and Family Services director Bobby Cagle, Acting Department of Social Services director Antonia Jiménez, and Office of Child Protection executive director Michael Nash were also on the panel.

Community-based organizations hosted resource tables to recruit foster families, court-appointed special advocates, and mentors for youth and families.

Held at the Mark Ridley-Thomas Constituent Service & Training Center, the event was the first in the Empowerment Congress Committee Cafe Series. It will be followed by a discussion on cannabis on May 9.

A Legacy of Life Lessons on the Gridiron

Coach Robert Garrett holds his scroll, flanked by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, and the Crenshaw High School football team. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded a scroll to a local high school football coach who has mentored student athletes in South Los Angeles for over 30 years, helping some achieve their dream of playing in the NFL. As head coach of the Crenshaw Cougars at Crenshaw High School, Robert Garrett teaches youth in at-risk communities how to become champions – lessons that they carry with them throughout their lives.

Coach Garrett was recently named 2017 Don Shula National Football League High School Coach of the Year during the recent Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, which aired nationwide on ESPN. The Los Angeles Chargers nominated Coach Garrett for the award named after the winningest coach in NFL history, which honors exemplary high school football coaches for demonstrating a commitment to player health and safety, and the integrity, achievement and leadership exemplified by Don Shula. The award included a $25,000 cash prize from the NFL Foundation, $15,000 of which will benefit Crenshaw High School’s football program, a much needed contribution.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Coach Robert Garrett and LA Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“Coach Garrett often says that although he loves football, his favorite part of his job is helping his young players become better men,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We can see from all that they have accomplished – from winning state titles to being drafted into the NFL – he has been very effective in doing just that.”

“Coach Garrett is a symbol of how discipline, focus, hard work, humility, and determination can make a difference in young lives,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

As the entire Crenshaw High School football team enthusiastically watched their mentor receive the scroll, Coach Garrett  said, “It is my passion and my ministry to be involved with young people. I am commissioned by a higher authority to continue to fight that fight to give my self-worth to the betterment of the young people in our communities.”

This year, Coach Garrett led the Crenshaw Cougars to the 2017 CIF Division 4-AA State Championship. He has inspired many student athletes to victory, including Hayes Pullard and Brandon Mebane, who now play for the Los Angeles Chargers as a linebacker and a defensive tackle, respectively.

Mebane attended the scroll presentation, saying, “I’m now in my 12th year in the NFL, and I give Coach Garrett credit for a lot of it. He did a lot of things for me to help me get to this stage in my career.

“I feel very good about Coach Garrett receiving these honors,” he added. “It’s good to recognize all the great work he’s been doing for over 30 years at Crenshaw High School.”

The NFL Foundation recently presented a $15,000 check to Crenshaw High School because its football coach, Robert Garrett, was named the 2017 Don Shula National Football League High School Coach of the Year. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors


Falcons Take Flight

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded scrolls to the Southern California Falcons Youth Football and Cheer Organization, winners of the 2017 Pacific Coast Conference Youth Football Championship.

“This morning we acknowledge a shining example of success by those who take the time to work with our young people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“The Falcons are about more than just a winning football organization – they develop character,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “I am honored to present them with this County scroll in recognition of their continued commitment to develop the leaders of tomorrow.”

Keith Johnson had founded the Falcons with the simple goal of providing children in the community a safe place to play football. Its mission soon evolved, however, to empowering underprivileged and underserved youth to excel in life by providing them with services to better their education, health, physical fitness, and cultural appreciation.

The Falcons also mentor the children on personal and social responsibility by using the motto:  It’s time to teach new school kids old school values.

“In 2007 and 2008, we were just a young football program that had a dream to do something special,” Johnson said after receiving the scroll. “But what was really needed was a place where kids could learn, where they could understand who they are and what they could become.”

“We are not doing this alone. When Mark Ridley-Thomas was still running for Supervisor, he came to our park. Before he left, he simply said this, ‘I don’t know whether I’ll win or not, but I do know this: I will always support you because you’re doing real work with real people,’” Johnson said. “The Supervisor’s support has allowed us to catapult to the place where we’re mentoring not only our own children but we’re also mentoring other organizations to do the work that we do.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Falcons coaches, players and parents. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors


Legendary Los Angeles Jazz Musician Turns 90

All photos by Henry Salazar / Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors paid tribute to the legendary jazz musician Ernie Andrews, who will be turning 90 on Christmas Day, 2017. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented him with a scroll and a birthday cake, and also led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday.

“Our local legend is in the house,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Join me in celebrating the one and only Ernie Andrews on his remarkable jazz career and his upcoming 90th birthday.”

“I appreciate the recognition,” Andrews said. “I’ve been doing nothing but singing for a living – over 72 years now. That’s all I’ve ever done and I’ve had a nice journey.”

All photos by Henry Salazar / Board of Supervisors.

“I have enjoyed the ride and I’m still enjoying the ride,” he added. “Thank you.”

Born in 1927, Andrews spent his early years in Philadelphia and Louisiana. After moving to Los Angeles in 1944, he soon made a name for himself as a bright young talent in the local jazz scene.

Songwriter Joe Greene heard him performing on Central Avenue and quickly signed him, eventually writing his biggest hit, “Soothe Me.”

Andrews joined the Harry James Orchestra in 1958, and adopted a lush pop-oriented orchestral sound. From the 70’s through the 90’s, he collaborated with many stellar musicians, including the Frank Capp-Nat Piece Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and the Los Angeles Symphony Camerata. He also performed in such iconic events as the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival.

In 1986, his remarkable career was documented in the film “Blues for Central Avenue.”