Education, Arts & Culture

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

Honorary USC Degree for Ridley-Thomas

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The University of Southern California awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at its 134th Commencement, citing his contributions to the community.

“It is my hope and commitment that I may continue to serve the public, especially the underserved in our society who are homeless, jobless and lack access to basic medical care, which I believe is a right and not a privilege,” said Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas, who received his Ph.D. in Social Ethics from USC in 1989, focusing on Social Criticism and Social Change.

USC also awarded honorary degrees to comedian Will Ferrell, who delivered the commencement address. Ferrell earned his undergraduate degree in Sports Information from USC in 1990. Also recognized were Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren, social work visionary Suzanne Dworak-Peck, orthopaedic spinal surgeon and inventor Gary Michelson, and David Ho, a leading researcher in the fight against AIDS.


USC President C.L. Max Nikias and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

USC President C.L. Max Nikias and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Good morning, and welcome to the 134th Annual Commencement of the University of Southern California! 

Today, we confer more than 15,000 degrees at the undergraduate level, at the graduate and doctoral level, and at the professional level. Today, we confer degrees on graduates from all 50 states and from more than 100 nations, representing hundreds of fields and specialties. We confer them on women and men from every walk of life.

Today, we also confer honorary degrees on a number of international icons in the arts and humanities; in public service and philanthropy; and in medical and scientific innovation.


Over his long and distinguished career as a state and local legislator, Mark Ridley-Thomas has been a steadfast champion of Los Angeles. He has tirelessly worked to extend vital services to more citizens, and to increase civic engagement in our city. In founding the influential Empowerment Congress more than 25 years ago, he created a powerful model for political expression.

An esteemed Trojan alumnus, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas strengthens our communities by shaping inclusive legislation that touches the lives of millions while helping to fulfill the lofty promise of a democratic society.

For his exceptional legislative efforts, his determined leadership, and his visionary philosophy of community engagement, the University of Southern California is proud to honor Mark Ridley-Thomas with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa.


By the authority vested in me by the USC Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon Mark Ridley-Thomas the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa. Please accept our warmest congratulations.