- Second District
The much-anticipated Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center recently re-opened with a celebration. Nearly one thousand residents came out to take their first peak of the newly renovated library, including 13-year-old Lennox resident Aja Clark.
“When I first walked in, I thought to myself, wow, this is beautiful,” Aja said. “I see very happy faces and a lot of young students coming out to support the community.”
Originally built in 1949, the Lennox Library was the oldest and most outdated library within the County’s Public Library System. The new library is more than double the size of the old facility. There is a children’s section and teen study room, as well as a community meeting room and of course, an adult reading area. There are nine new public access computers and a community meeting room with seating for 75 people. Staff from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office and representatives from Community and Senior Services, Consumer Affairs, Regional Planning and the Sheriff’s Department also will be on site to provide services to local residents.
The $8.4 million-library renovation is only the latest project in Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’s longstanding effort to fuel community engagement by providing attractive and useful public spaces for constituents. Since taking office in 2008, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has invested more than $13 million to create true Constituent Service Centers throughout the Second District. Others are located at Exposition Park and in Florence-Firestone.
The Constituent Service Centers provide venues for public meetings on important issues, as well as space for ongoing educational programs for residents. In some locations, county agencies such as the Department of Community and Senior Services are on-site to directly serve residents, and members of the Second District staff are also present.
“We need to meet our constituents in their communities,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The policy work we do at the Hall of Administration is only part of our mission. By attracting residents to our constituent centers we also create opportunities for members of the community to access government right where they live and receive the services they need.”
The Exposition Park Constituent Services Center, located adjacent to several popular museums and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, currently features the largest public meeting space of the centers, which has made it possible to host numerous well-attended events there since its 2011 completion including:
“I enjoy seeing the smiles on our resident’s faces when they walk into the new Lennox Library and Center,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “They, like all of the other constituents in Los Angeles County, deserve nothing but the best in services and facilities.”
“I’ll definitely come back just as soon as I finish this book,” Aja said.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, April 26, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will lead a march along Western Avenue to bring attention to the sex trafficking of children. Other dignitaries and elected officials will join in as marchers make their way south on Western Avenue, one of the more active areas of child sex trafficking in Los Angeles County. Marchers will begin assembling at 9 a.m. on the intersection of Western Ave. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and then walk 1.5 miles to 52nd Street, sending a message that our children are not for sale. For more information and to register please go to www.empowermentcongress.com.
Sixth grader, Antonio Ayala, 11, of Alliance College- Ready Middle Academy 7, is called fat and teased for running slowly by a handful of classmates every day – it happens at recess, at lunch and even during class.
“It’s been happening to me since I came to middle school last year,” Antonio said. “This morning, at nutrition, one of them tackled me down on the playground and called me obese.” He doesn’t tell his teachers, he said, fearing the consequences, “I’m afraid that if I tell anyone, it will get worse.”
Antonio was one of 425 middle school students from five Los Angeles middle schools who recently attended the second annual iStand4Peace anti-bullying summit hosted by Special Needs Network, Inc. and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Held on the campus of the University of Southern California, the event featured 14-year-old songwriter and author Shanaya Fastje, twins Erin Green and Desiree Glover of Twin of a Kind and other speakers who shared their personal bullying stories with the crowd. Students also watched segments of “The Bully Effect,” a documentary produced by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“The need for kids to learn the importance of how to respond to teasing and taunting and harassment just can’t be overstated,” said Areva Martin, Esq. president and co-founder of Special Needs Network, Inc. “We want to give kids in LA County –kids in the Second District the opportunity to learn positive behaviors, to learn how to navigate their campuses, not become bully’s and not be bullied.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas wanted the students to feel empowered to know they could tell a school administrator if they witness or experience bullying.
“All of you here can take a message forward,” he told the students. “You can stand against bullying and stand for peace.”
The Bullying Prevention Institute notes that the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that every seven minutes a child is bullied at school. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, every day 160,000 children miss school due to fear of being bullied.
Indeed, Antonio Ayala, who wants to become a police officer to help protect people, said he hopes to go back to his school and take a stand against bullying.
“I don’t want to live in a world full of violence and cruelty,” he said. “I decided that I need to keep moving ignore what they say and follow my dream.”
It was a long time coming, but the new Juanita Tate Marketplace at last is open in South L.A. Residents no longer have to drive far from their community to stop for dessert at Yogurtland, buy medicines at a CVS Pharmacy and savor fresh fruits, vegetables and Mexican delicacies at the 40,000-square-foot Northgate Market – all of which now are located at the new strip mall on the southwest corner of Central and Slauson Avenues.
The shopping center is not only a convenience, it is a symbol of progress for a community that has been neglected for too long. Although today it is an impressive site, with bold colors and welcoming signs, a quarter of a century ago, it was an eyesore, a metal scrap yard that was condemned.
It was thanks to the vision and perseverance of Juanita Tate, a longtime community activist who fought for a better quality of life for South L.A. residents and helped lead the organization, Concerned Citizens of South Central, that the marketplace became a reality.
“Today is my mother’s birthday,” said Tate’s daughter Noreen McClendon, who spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony April 14 on behalf of her mother who died in 2004. “This project took 25 years to deliver. And today is the fulfillment of that.”
The marketplace also benefited from many partnerships, including the now defunct, Community Redevelopment Agency/LA which condemned the property, cleaned it with a federal grant and then engaged developer, Regency Centers, who worked on the project for about 10 years.
“We have waited such a long time for this to happen,” said Regency COO Brian Smith. “When we help transform an area, it is extremely rewarding.”
In addition, California FreshWorks Fund, a healthy food initiative funded by the California Endowment, awarded the Northgate Gonzalez company a $50,000 grant and $5.5 million loan to build the market and provide healthy food. Northgate has also partnered with Homeboy Industries and the Los Angeles County Department of Probation to provide young men and women a fresh start in the workforce.
“For far too many decades, this corner was a symbol of the disinvestment and blight,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the marketplace. “But that is no longer the case. The Juanita Tate Marketplace is now a symbol of effective community revitalization.”
Willowbrook, a community near Watts and Compton, originally was a farming area settled in the 1800s that derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. This year, we are featuring Willowbrook on our website to highlight its vibrant community and burgeoning development.
Thanks to a $600 million-investment from Los Angeles County in new gardens, building, public art and infrastructure, the community is poised to emerge as a regional hub for health care, transportation, culture and civic activity. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the New Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital. To date we have featured Wilowbrook in our monthly architectural feature and with the digital version of the book, Willowbrook Is… Willowbrook Es.
But nothing is more valuable than the voices from the community. Willowbrook is home to residents and retains an old fashioned sense of neighborhood. For the next two months we will be featuring one interview each week with a Willowbrook resident. The interviews were recorded by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; each voice is unique but the common thread is the pride residents have in their homes and community.
I moved here 47 years ago, and I started working at the library in 1981. A lot of changes have been made here. It used to be an open field out there. Now we have new homes. We have children coming into the library checking out books. They really enjoy it. And I try reward them when they read books. They tell me what they have read. And I have prizes for them that I bought with my own money.
I talk with the kids and they look forward to coming and meeting Mrs. Moore. If she’s not there they say, “I’ll come back later.”
Things like that really touch my heart. I love people and I like to do whatever I can for the community.
Community, family and God — that’s everything to me.
I’ve been a resident of Willowbrook for 49 years. I came to Los Angeles as a small child from Arkansas. As a result of our family being from a rural setting, we sought out a similar neighborhood. Willowbrook was known for being the country in the city, so to speak, having 350 foot by 50 foot lots. And so that’s where my family decided to purchase property. And our family has had property here ever since.
We have a rich history. The name Willowbrook came forth as a result of this land being a marsh land with these stream and willow trees that originally was part of a ranchero situation because of the fact that most of the people that purchased property here purchased that property because they wanted to raise livestock. They wanted to have the extended garden areas and a lot of space for them and their families.
I still reside in Willowbrook. I have no intention of living any other place. I still marvel at the fact that many of the families from Willowbrook to Mona and Imperial to El Segundo. They’ve been there for fifty plus years and they still maintain their property there. It’s a good feeling to know that the comraderie is still here. The sense of community is still here.