Willowbrook, MLK

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Willowbrook

Dancing in a conga line, listening to the trumpet, guitarron and violin of Mariachi Ellas Son, nearly 300 Second District residents celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook. The festive celebration, which commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, is an annual tradition at the Center for Public Health sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“We are here to promote and celebrate health, fitness and wellness,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Over the next year the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical campus will be transformed into a center of excellence for healthcare delivery in the Willowbrook community and beyond.”

As guests received fitness and nutritional eating tips from various resource tables staged in the parking lot, danced to salsa music or munched on salsa verde with chips, corn and bean salad and a vegetable salad prepared by Chef Cheryl Tate, others contemplated what the holiday means to them and reflected on their Mexican roots.

Among those singing along to the ranchera music was Raquel Piñeda, 60, of Florence-Firestone who moved to Los Angeles from Michoacan, Mexico when she was 15-years-old. When they were young, she instilled in her now-grown children a love of Mexican music and dance.

“On Cinco de Mayo we have a family reunion,” said Piñeda. “We teach the kids how to dance to cumbia, mambo, and rock and roll. We play bingo and poker and watch the kids take turns swinging at the piñata.”

Sandra Gonzalez, 33, from Los Angeles, also pauses on Cinco de Mayo to share memories of family.

“We took my first family trip to Mexico when I was nine and my last when I was 14-years-old,” said Gonzalez. “We share stories with younger generations of visiting Mexico when we were younger and it gives the young people in my family an opportunity to learn about their culture -to know who they are and where they come from.”

For others, like Andres Gonzalez, 33 of South Gate, Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity for people of all cultures and walks of life to come together to learn about Mexican history.

“People forget that the city of L.A. was founded by Mexico — San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento- all kept the original names that were given to them when they were part of Mexico,” said Gonzalez. “People forget that not all Latinos are immigrants and that they were here when the south west states became part of the U.S.”

Fabiola Galvan Torres, 23, who was born in Michoacan, Mexico and now lives in Canoga Park, says the holiday makes her feel American.

“I feel like now it’s more of a Mexican-American holiday,” she said. “I think it’s great because it brings everyone together not just Mexicans but it has become like St. Patrick’s Day.”

Meet the MLK Hospital Street Naming Contest Winner

Congratulations to Yolonda Simmons, winner of our Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital street naming contest. For more than two months, hundreds of people voted on a name for the new street leading to the hospital, and Simmons’ entry, “Healthy Way, ” beat out 57 other contenders.

In gearing up for the opening of the brand new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas invited county residents to come up with a name that would capture the spirit of the new medical center and encompass the goals of the surrounding community.

Simmons found out about the contest after reading Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ monthly newsletter.

“I’ve never entered any contest before but I wanted to have a voice,” Simmons said. “I really wanted to stress health. The hospital had a rocky road when it closed, and I wanted to reignite the excitement about the new hospital and that it is a healthy way now. I wanted to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and entering the hospital to strive for a healthier future.”

Nearly 800 residents took part in the online voting process , and Simmon’s is quick to note that her victory was not accomplished alone.

“My husband is my secret weapon,” said Simmons, who runs Free N One, a substance abuse program with her husband Ronald Simmons. “He was a social media manager for me and really got the word out in the community. We told everyone at a gathering to vote. If you were with us at a dinner we would not let you go unless you voted.”

When she told her husband that she had entered the contest, he began a social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook to support his wife’s entry.

“It’s important to me that the hospital has a positive image and a bright future because our community needs it, wants it and deserves it,” she said. “It is important that the community supports the positive image the hospital will bring.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas noted that Simmon’s entry, Healthy Way, is much more than a street name.

“I congratulate Yolonda Simmons, who chose this name, to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and/or entering the area of the hospital to strive for a healthier future,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The new hospital will be at the heart of an wellness complex that, when completed, will bring a level of healthcare excellence to the region.”

Dr. Robert Ross Delivers Keynote at Charles Drew University

Dr. Robert Ross delivered the keynote address at Charles Drew University’s Inauguration of its new president, Dr. David Carlisle. The text of his inspirational speech, in which he extols Dr. Carlisle’s brilliance, record of accomplishment and integrity, as well as the university’s crucial role as a centuries-old institution serving African-American and Latino communities, is featured in full below:

Thank you, and thank you to the friends, family and supporters of Charles R. Drew University, the dedicated faculty, the supportive administration and staff, the students, the Trustees, and of course, our new President, Dr. David Carlisle.

The definition of Inauguration:

· The formal admission of someone to office; a ceremonial induction into office.

· A ceremony to mark the beginning or introduction of something.
· The beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.

So, among three standard dictionaries – the British & World English Dictionary, the Merriam Webster Dictionary, and Dictonary.com – three similar, but not identical definitions.

In preparing for these remarks today, I initially struggled with the question of which of these three definitions was most appropriate for this particular ceremony, at this particular time, on this particular day. Which one of these three would I hinge this set of 10-minute, 600 seconds worth of remarks about?

Answer: all three. Upon reflection, this ceremony is certainly about the induction of a person. But it is also about a thing, an institution. Most powerfully, it is about an idea.

As to the first definition, and the one that is most concretely evident as recorded in the printed program, we are indeed marking a “ceremonial induction into office.” It is the representation among the three definitions of the term “inauguration” that is about a particular person being inducted into a particular office.

I have known Dr. David Carlisle for more than two decades, although I will confess that in the earlier portion of that time frame, we did not get to know one another well. We were both participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the late eighties. I can attest to the fact that, at the time, David embodied, certainly by reputation, being both clinical, and a scholar. (For me, I represented one of the two, and it most certainly was not the scholarly portion.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to submit that Dr. David Carlisle is a timeless sort of leader. He is a leader who represents the sensibilities and values from a bygone era, but desperately needed in leaders of our current time.

He is obviously bright, even brilliant, certainly accomplished, utterly mission driven, and of tremendous integrity. He is soft spoken, even-tempered, fair-minded, justice-oriented, and, in the tradition of leaders of academic institutions, science-, data-, and evidence-driven. Today’s leaders appear to be suited to the accommodation of political convenience – and even celebrated for their ability to craft political maneuvering.

David, on the other hand, is the umpire dutifully calling balls and strikes, and fair and foul balls, in the World Series Game. He will not sacrifice integrity or truth for the politics or drama of the stage or the moment. He will call them the way he sees them, and he will do so in service of integrity, accountability, and the mission of this extraordinary institution. And he will do so because the institution is bigger than any one of us.

Which brings me to the second definition of the term “inauguration”: a ceremony to mark the introduction, or in this case, the re-birth, of some “thing”. The “thing”, in this case, is Charles R. Drew University, the only historically African-American, Hispanic-serving educational institution in the 230-year plus history of this great nation. This “thing”, the institution, is different – even unique – a community-birthed and community-driven institution who, named after a great figure in African-American history and American medical lore, endures and even thrives in spite of all conceivable manner of financial, political, leadership, and management challenge.

Nearly two years ago our foundation, The California Endowment, was approached to rally to the cause of this institution, and the question on the table for me as CEO, and ultimately, our Board of Directors, was the following: was Charles R. Drew University, as a financially embattled institution, “an investable proposition?”

Many other institutions answered either “no”, or “we’ll wait and see.”

My answer to our Board of Directors – as I requested funding and support for CDU — was a “Yes, we must.” And a key reason was its people. The community it served. The institution’s mission-hungry and passion-driven students. It’s highly committed faculty, sticking with the institution through all and any manner of difficulty. A staff who would never give up on the value that the institution brings to the community.

Which brings me to the third definition of the term “inauguration”: the beginning of a system, policy, or period. And what, precisely, is the “system” or “period” that we, more accurately, “re-inaugurate” today? Most critically, it is that of an idea. And that idea is the idea of health justice. It is as alive and as powerfully relevant today as it was circa 1965 to 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were controversial vehicles of social change and social justice and social equity.

While the idea of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez is too often symbolically reduced to holidays and postage stamps, and festivals, and parades, it is the daily, weekly, and monthly work and commitment to service by Charles R. Drew University that keeps the idea of social and health justice meaningfully, authentically, and palpably alive. And that idea has been fed, nourished and nurtured by the passing of a social justice relay baton, a torch if you will, handled and carried by individuals carrying the names of Drew, and Hawkins, and Gill, and Satcher, and Williams, and Hopper, and Francis, and Dowling, and Norris, and Baker, and Wilson, and Ridley-Thomas, – and now Carlisle.

Men and Women, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no more extraordinary moment than the moment of now to realize the vision and mission of Charles Drew University. An African-American President of these United States has imposed his leadership will on this nation, to bring forward a policy instrument, a policy platform, in the name of the Affordable Care Act. Accessible, affordable, quality care for all. We cannot waste this moment, and CDU is rising at precisely the right moment in time.

You have a community, and a student body, and an administrative staff, and a faculty, and a Board of Trustees behind you. And you have Dr. David Carlisle to lead you there.

Thank you for permitting me and The California Endowment an opportunity to contribute to an extraordinary saga in the history of health justice in this nation. God Bless You, and the Charles R. Drew University, and congratulations to Doctor David Carlisle.

Robert K. Ross, M.D.
President & CEO
The California Endowment
February 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital Campus Master Plan Gets a Thumbs Up

On the 84th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, plans for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital campus received a thumbs up from the Board of Supervisors , as they unanimously approved the master plan for an expansive health and wellness campus in South Los Angeles. The MLK campus will be at the heart of a web of community wellness resources. It recommends not only expansion of the new hospital and existing Multi-Ambulatory Care Center, but it also urges a new mental health urgent care center, mixed-use retail space, medical office space, connected community gardens, safe pedestrian walkways and recreational facilities to promote wellness and physical activity, among other suggestions.

A priority project for Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the in-patient hospital is expected to be completed by 2013. The master plan was the result of a year-long community planning process, and was formed with the input of hundreds of residents, civic leaders, business owners and health care advocates.

The master plans is a roadmap, not a hard and fixed requirement, but it seek to anticipate the future direction of healthcare and prepare for that new day. It also lays out a vision for the entire 142-acre Willowbrook community that surrounds the campus.

Off campus, the plan envisions space for school-based health centers, mobile clinics, blood banks, and community health centers to support the work of the MLK campus and provide a more holistic approach to health care. The plan recommends a new health park and a series of connected community gardens, safe pedestrian walkways, and recreational facilities to promote wellness and physical activity. It promotes access to healthier food options and includes space for retail. It also increases access to public transportation.

“I am thrilled with the passage of this master plan,” said the Chairman. “It is our goal to bring a complete and comprehensive network of services—not just a hospital—to South Los Angeles. The planning process was intense and intensive, but it was well worth it. This document will serve as a guide for many years to come as we bring top-notch services to a community that has long waited for quality care.”

[image_lightbox url=”http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/MLK-Final-Master-Plan.jpg” title=”Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital Campus Master Plan” align=”none”]Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital Campus Master Plan[/image_lightbox]

Tree Lighting Ceremony Brightens Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Center

Neither rain nor frigid temperatures could dampen the joy on 9-year-old Amauria Bowman’s face Friday night at the fourth annual tree lighting ceremony at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center in Willowbrook.

The fourth grader at Carver Elementary school was one of nearly 250 children that showed up to sip hot cocoa, eat sugar cookies and receive a toy for Christmas at the event hosted by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. As she snuggled into her warm jacket, Bowman reflected on the true meaning of the holidays.

“I just think this is a big celebration of life and the rain doesn’t ruin it,” she said. “What matters is that we have fun and celebrate and have a nice time.”

The gathering, which was also supported by Legrant Communications, served as a time of reflection in honor of the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting where 27 people died—including 20 children. The Rev. Shane Scott of Macedonia Baptist Church, MACC Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Moore-Oliver and Elaine Batchlor, the Chief Executive Officer of the MLK Community Hospital joined Chairman Ridley-Thomas and the Grant AME Church Youth Choir at the event in addition to more than 100 adults from the local community. In his welcoming remarks, Chairman Ridley-Thomas noted that the tragedy put a spotlight on the importance of protecting children.

“When we think about Newtown, Connecticut we must give special accord to the children. We cannot act as if something extraordinary didn’t happen in this land,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “We are here, also saddened by the circumstances in which any of us could have found ourselves.”

After a moment of silence and a prayer, 9-year-old Chryshell Perkins, a fourth grader who is also from the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club, flipped the switch to light the tree. Perkins was selected for the honor because of her good grades. She smiled proudly and as she sipped her hot cocoa she noted how getting good grades would help her get into college. “If I get good grades and I don’t have enough money for college, they could pay my way,” she said, describing the possible scholarships that could be available to her.

The lighting of the “Tree of Hope” also highlighted anticipation of the upcoming construction and eventual opening of the brand new medical campus that is coming to the site. The Medical Campus, which will host an inpatient hospital, mental health urgent care center, medical office space, residential facilities for seniors and medical interns and residents, will provide a more holistic and preventative approach to health care for local residents.  “We signal hope and life and new beginnings at the Martin Luther King Medical Campus,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas.

But for 6-year-old Jonathan Eason, the night’s highlight was the Hot Wheels Trick Track stunt set that he received.

“It looks awesome and has very cool cars!” he said as he held the box tightly.

And while 12-year-old Karen Mendoza, of Edison Middle School, was happy to receive a Scrabble Slam card game to play with her siblings, her wish was a simple one for the holidays.

“I would like for my family to get together and have a great time,” she said.