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From Los Angeles to Memphis
A Fifty Year Journey

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tragic death by journeying to the place where he was assassinated in Memphis, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

On April 4, 1968, 13-year-old Mark Ridley-Thomas was an eighth grader on the campus of George Washington Carver Middle School in southeast Los Angeles when news broke of Dr. King’s assassination. He had heard Dr. King’s unmistakable voice on the radio station KGFJ and, even as a young teenager, felt the power of his words and the tragedy of his loss.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

Inspired by the immortal I Have a Dream speech, Ridley-Thomas took an undergraduate course titled “Social Ethics of Martin Luther King” at Immaculate Heart College in 1974, on his way to earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with secondary and adult education teaching credentials. By 1976, he himself was teaching a full-length semester course on the philosophy of Dr. King to college preparatory students at Immaculate Heart High School.

In 1977, Ridley-Thomas was recruited to the local board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Los Angeles, an affiliate of the organization founded by Dr. King in 1957. By age 26, Ridley-Thomas had risen to become executive director of its Los Angeles Chapter. During the 80’s, Ridley-Thomas furthered his studies and deepened his writings on Dr. King while earning a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California, with a focus on Social Criticism and Social Change.

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

Ridley-Thomas headed the SCLC of Greater Los Angeles for a decade, from 1981 to 1991, working on such issues as school desegregation, police misconduct, domestic violence, sexual assault, dispute resolution, parental empowerment and voter registration. From 1991 to the present, Ridley-Thomas has held several elected public offices, guided by the philosophy of Dr. King on a range of critical issues, including police accountability, homelessness, voting rights, affordable quality education, living wage, and healthcare for all.

“Dr. King’s death was a turning point in my life as it relates to the philosophy of nonviolence,” the Supervisor said. “To be in Memphis now, 50 years later, is really quite moving.”

During his time in Memphis, the Supervisor visited the Lorraine Motel, where an assassin’s bullet felled Dr. King. The Supervisor also participated in discussions of Dr. King’s legacy; a celebration of Dr. King’s final sermon, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop; and a march and rally to the “mountaintop” at Mason Temple.

Among those who participated in the tributes were Rep. John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King in Selma; the Rev. James Lawson, who had invited Dr. King to Memphis in 1968; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Children’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman; and, finally, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, who served as event co-chair.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Rep. Karen Bass, Rev. James Lawson, and Maria Elena Durazo. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

A contingent from Los Angeles traveled to Memphis to pay tribute to Dr. King, including Bishop Charles E. Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, also an event co-chair. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, actors Chris Tucker and Glynn Turman, and drummer Sheila E also made the journey, and noted photographer Leroy Hamilton documented the various events. They joined thousands of people from around the world in celebrating and commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. King.

“We have a lot of unfinished business related to justice, peace and human dignity,” the Supervisor said. “But the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to Dr. King and his family and all of those continuing to fight for justice and democracy.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Rev. James Lawson, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders and Bishop Charles E. Blake. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

Kicking Off A New Era of Soccer
in Expo Park

All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

With a blast of fireworks and confetti, soccer fans celebrated the grand opening of the $350-million Banc of California Stadium at Exposition Park, the new home of the Los Angeles Football Club.

L-R: Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LAFC forward Carlos Vela, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Councilman Curren Price.

This privately financed “cathedral of soccer” is the first open-air sports arena built in LA since Dodger Stadium in 1962. A stunning piece of architecture, it stands where the now-demolished LA Memorial Sports Arena used to be, right next to the LA Memorial Coliseum.

“This magnificent Banc of California Stadium will do more than provide a new state-of-the-art place to play soccer,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Coliseum Commission. “It will bring thousands of jobs and economic opportunity to the surrounding community and beyond, furthering the transformation already taking place in this region.”

“This has exceeded expectations,” he added. “There’s no way you can come here and not marvel at what has been done in record time.”

“I think it’s the best stadium in all of Major League Soccer,” said former NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson, one of the LAFC’s co-owners along with two-time Olympic gold medalist Mia Hamm Garciaparra, former Major League Baseball all-star Nomar Garciaparra, entertainment and sports leader Peter Guber, and others.

“It is an honor to unveil this world-class stadium to the Los Angeles community,” LAFC lead managing owner Larry Berg said.  “This project is not only about providing our fans and supporters a state-of-the-art venue to watch soccer in the heart of Los Angeles, but this is about our Club’s commitment to investing in and elevating our entire city.”

Also present at the ceremony were LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilmember and Coliseum Commission President Curren Price, MLS commissioner Don Garber, LAFCco-managing owners Bennett Rosenthal and Brandon Beck, and LAFC president Tom Penn. After the ceremony, LAFC players, including stars Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, took to the field for the first time to practice for their first home game, 10 days away.

The stadium was designed by leading architect Gensler Sports. Construction took 20 months, and produced thousands of construction and permanent jobs at the stadium, many of which went to workers from the surrounding community. The project includes a large public plaza, restaurants, an LAFC retail store, and a conference and events center.

The new stadium is the newest landmark in Exposition Park, along with the LA Memorial Coliseum, the California African American Museum, the California Science Center, and the Natural History Museum of LA County. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is currently under construction.

Exposition Park Embraces Everyone In

Hundreds of people in Exposition Park got an up-close look at solutions to homelessness during United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ first-ever Everyone In pop-up community event.

They were treated to a virtual reality experience in which formerly homeless people now leading stable lives shared their powerful stories of how supportive housing helped them. Everyone In organizers encouraged attendees to volunteer and be engaged at every turn.

On hand to talk about their work, and how volunteers can help, were more than 30 nonprofit organizations in South LA that provide transition assistance to jobs and housing, and other services.

“Homelessness is a moral crisis which will define our civic legacy in the eyes of future generations,” Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas said at the event. “There can be no conscientious objectors in this fight. With Measure H, we can scale up our compassion, our innovation,” he added. “We cannot be timid in the face of this crisis.”

Just over a year ago, voters passed Measure H and Proposition HHH, taxing themselves to fund supportive housing and other services to address the crisis of homelessness. Supportive housing — which combines apartments with on-site services — is safe and well designed, with a 90 percent success rate at keeping people from going back to living on the streets.

A recent poll commissioned by United Way found 69 percent of LA County voters said they want supportive housing for homeless people built in their own neighborhoods.

“Supportive housing is the best solution for ending homelessness and we now know that there’s a strong majority that supports building these solutions in their neighborhoods,” United Way President and CEO Elise Buik said. “We hope people will leave this event with a greater understanding of the benefits of supportive housing, and how they can take action to demand proven solutions to ending homelessness.”

Powered by United Way, Everyone In is a campaign aimed at engaging and activating people across LA County to take part in helping their most homeless neighbors obtain the services they need to build stable lives. The pop-up community event in Exposition Park is the first of many large engagement events that will take place across LA County throughout the year.

Everyone In brings together a coalition of leaders from government, business, philanthropy, faith-and community-based organizations to encourage everyone to take part in solutions to homelessness. Other leaders who participated in the activities at Exposition Park were Wells Fargo vice president for community affairs Gregg Sherkin,Natural History Museum President and Director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, and SSG-HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis.

Everyone In brings together a coalition of leaders from government, business, philanthropy, faith-and community-based organizations to encourage everyone to take part in solutions to homelessness. United Way’s Elise Buik, Wells Fargo’s Gregg Sherkin, SSG-HOPICS’ Veronica Lewis, the Natural History Museum’s Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas attended the Exposition Park community event. All photos by Diandra Jay.

A Budget that Reflects Our Values

Los Angeles County-funded teams conducting outreach to people living on the streets, offering a range of supportive services. All photos by Mayra Vasquez/Countywide Communications

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the $30.8-billion proposed 2018-19 budget would improve the quality of life of millions of residents, particularly the most vulnerable, while maintaining public safety, advancing economic equity, and fostering fiscal responsibility.

LA County Fire Department

“Government can’t do everything but the County of Los Angeles does a whole lot,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“This budget reflects our determination to confront homelessness, the dearth of affordable housing, and the need for criminal justice reform,” he added. “It also expands access to health services and an equitable economy, ventures into innovations in technology and biosciences, and celebrates the arts.”

County CEO Sachi Hamai unveiling the recommended budget for FY 2018-2019

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai, who recommended the spending plan, said, “This budget demonstrates the County’s determination to address the region’s most difficult social issues through bold action, elevating the quality of life for all residents, no matter what their circumstances or paths.”

The budget includes the first full year of funding from Measure H, a $374 million investment to combat homelessness. It also includes $45 million for affordable housing, and creates 1,000 jobs providing services to the homeless.

LA County Department of Animal Care and Control

Since voters passed Measure H in March last year, the County has helped thousands of individuals and families through an unprecedented expansion of outreach, emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, supportive housing, and benefits advocacy. Among the early successes between July and December 2017: more than 7,000 people entered crisis, bridge and interim housing, many of whom were among the 3,000 people who secured permanent housing.

Public hearings on the budget will begin May 16. The Board of Supervisors will kick off deliberations on June 25.

LA County Department of Health Services’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center

39 Bells: Los Angeles Remembers
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From Pasadena to Pomona and Leimert Park to San Pedro, bells rang in communities across Los Angeles County to solemnly commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK 50 Bell Toll, part of a nationwide observance, inspired strong emotions that spanned generations.

Conceived by the National Civil Rights Museum, the MLK 50 Bell Toll inspired places of worship, college campuses, and institutions around the world to have their bells toll 39 times to mark the number of years that the civil rights leader lived. The simultaneous ringing began at the moment of Dr. King’s death, which was 4:01 PST.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas worked with the Board of Supervisors to coordinate the local tributes, saying, “In just 39 years, Dr. King accomplished more than most accomplish in a lifetime.”

Among those who participated in the MLK 50 Bell Toll are:

  • All Saints Church in Pasadena;
  • African American Museum of Beginnings in Pomona;
  • Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles;
  • Hollywood United Methodist Church in Hollywood;
  • Holy Assembly Church of God in Christ in Pasadena;
  • Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro;
  • Loyola Marymount University; and
  • Transfiguration Catholic Church in Leimert Park.