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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.

A Mountaintop Monument for Peace and Justice

Fifty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hundreds of community members dedicated a Memorial Tree Grove in his honor at the highest point of the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Baldwin Hills, overlooking downtown Los Angeles.

Rev. James Lawson and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, with Shine Mawusi Drummers, lead a processional toward the dedication ceremony. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

“Today, we meet Dr. King at the mountaintop,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “I believe once you experience the Memorial Tree Grove here at the very top of Hahn Park, you will find few other spaces that so peacefully and so exquisitely facilitate reflection in his honor.”

He added, “There is no other individual who  has inspired us, challenged us, and motivated us to create a world filled with more civility, equality and dignity.”

Rev. James Lawson, who was with Dr. King on the day of his death, delivered the keynote speech at the dedication ceremony. Noting the lofty perch of the memorial for the civil rights icon, he said, “We’re trying to set a high mark, and our standards ought to be high, because to become a people of self governance, where the dignity of every human being is recognized, is a lofty and noble vision that requires our finest minds, our finest spirits, if it is to be accomplished.”

Rev. James Lawson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 15,000-sq. ft. tree grove features an obelisk that evokes memories of the site where Dr. King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The obelisk and the path leading up to it are inscribed with some of the civil rights icon’s most inspiring words.

With sweeping vistas of downtown Los Angeles, the tree grove will be a highlight of the 13-mile Park to Playa trail now under construction, slated to connect the beach to the Baldwin Hills by 2020.

Several of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most inspiring quotes are displayed in the tree grove named after him in the Baldwin Hills. Photo by Mayra /Countywide Communications.

The dedication ceremony, held to culminate the Season for Nonviolence, featured the Xipe Totec Aztec Dancers, World Stage Executive Director Dwight Trible, Shine Mawusi Drummers, and Now Art LA Flag Troupe.

Community leaders included City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and leaders of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy and Mujeres de la Tierra; LA County Departments of Public Works, and Parks and Recreation; LA City Department of Water and Power; and the Empowerment Congress.

“Our department is honored that our urban jewel, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, was chosen to showcase a beautiful memorial overlooking the city of Los Angeles that commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” LA Department of Parks and Recreation Director John Wicker said.

Mujeres de la Tierra founder Irma Munoz added, “This magnificent memorial reflects the spirit and inspiration of the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove at the highest point of the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Photo by Mayra Vasquez/Countywide Communications

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

Housing and Healthcare Under One Roof

Rendering of Joshua House Health Center and Six Four Nine Lofts, courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture

A state-of-the-art building that will provide affordable housing and healthcare under one roof is now under construction in Skid Row and expected to open in 2019.

Six Four Nine Lofts – consisting of 55 affordable housing apartments for people who had been homeless – will occupy the top four stories at the corner of 7th Street and Wall Street. Joshua House Health Center will occupy the bottom three stories.

At the ground blessing ceremony. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

At the groundbreaking and blessing ceremonies, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “Our collective pursuit should be to create opportunities so that anyone who calls Los Angeles County home is able to live a life of dignity and purpose.”

“The goal is access to health, access to homes, access to a better life, and access to a better community,” he added. “Let’s all be part of the movement we call Everyone In!

Skid Row Housing Trust, the lead developer for both projects, will own and operate Six Four Nine Lofts, whose residents will be mostly veterans and individuals with chronic health conditions. Thanks to funding from the County’s Department of Health Services and the US Department Veteran Affairs, they will receive comprehensive case management, as well as referrals to a wide array of services, such as physical and mental healthcare, substance abuse and detox services, counseling, peer support groups, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, life skills and employment training.

Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC) will own and operate the Joshua House Health Center, its flagship facility. “We are proud of this very special project that we hope will help transform the way healthcare and housing services are offered to people who are homeless and underserved,” LACHC President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Abdishoo, said. “Our multidisciplinary care teams will deliver the full continuum of medical, dental and mental health; substance abuse services; and linkage to housing under one roof.”

Courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture

Joshua House Health Center was designed to be state-of-the-art, open and welcoming, while offering a safe place for people to receive high-quality care. It will have 18 medical exam rooms, six flexible consultation rooms, eight dental chairs, nine mental health rooms, 13 social work and care coordination offices, a multipurpose area to provide health education and fitness classes, a meditation room, and a chaplain’s office.

LACHC expects to serve 1,200 patients in its first year at the site, and eventually serve up to 7,000 patients annually. Trust CEO Mike Alvidrez said, “As the developer, we are pleased to partner with LACHC to help expand medical care and services in a new, modern clinic that better reflects the level of dignity and quality of care LACHC has shown patients for more than 20 years.”

Without homes, people are exposed to harsh weather, disease, violence, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, stress and addictive substances. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 30 years less than that of people who do not live on the streets.

Using a single location for a separate housing and healthcare projects – each with its own structure, ownership and financing – is an efficient use of public funds as it allows many development costs, like site acquisition, to be split between the two projects. It makes each project less expensive.

Both projects received funding from a diverse array of sources, including LA County, LA City, and the state of California. This collaboration is most evident in the housing portion, which includes one-time capital funds of $5.5 million from Proposition HHH and $1.5 million from LA County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In addition, LA County’s Department of Health Services will invest $7.4 million over the next 15 years for rental subsidies and support services.

Aside from constructing the building, the Trust leveraged $5.3 million in state cap-and-trade funds to make transit-related improvements along 7th Street, including bike share stations, bike lane, accessible crosswalks and traffic lights.

Courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture

 

 

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors adjourned in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death.

The Supervisor, who will travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to participate in activities commemorating the assassination, also plans to dedicate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove at the highest point of the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area on Saturday, March 31.

15,000-sq. ft. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove at the highest point of the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area featuring an obelisk that evokes memories of the 1963 March on Washington.

The 15,000-sq. ft. tree grove features an obelisk that evokes memories of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and is inscribed with some of the civil rights leaders’ most inspiring words. With sweeping vistas of downtown Los Angeles, the hilltop location will be an ideal space for peaceful reflection, a highlight of the 13-mile Park to Playa trail currently under construction, slated to connect the beach to the Baldwin Hills by 2020.

The Supervisor also worked with the Board to coordinate MLK 50 Bell Toll events throughout Los Angeles County on April 4, the date of the assassination.

Led by the National Civil Rights Museum, the MLK 50 Bell Toll asks 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, and to pay homage to his legacy. Locally, the solemn ringing will begin at 4:01 p.m., the moment of Dr. King’s death.

Among those confirmed to participate in the MLK 50 Bell Toll in the County’s Supervisorial districts are:

  • First District: The San Gabriel Valley NAACP in West Covina, the NAACP in Pomona Valley, and the African American Museum of Beginnings in Pomona.
  • Second District: Transfiguration Church in Leimert Park.
  • Third District: Hollywood United Methodist Church in Hollywood.
  • Fourth District: The Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro.
  • Fifth District: Holy Assembly Church of God and All Saints Church in Pasadena.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas proclaims adjourns in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on March 27, 2018. Photo by David Franco / Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors