Our Athens

Kristin Sakoda dances with Vanessa’s Positive Energy Dance Troupe at the Book Launch Party.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated the launch of Our Athens, the latest in a series of books documenting and celebrating unincorporated communities in Los Angeles County’s Second District.

Creative Core LA, with guidance from the County’s Arts Commission, photographed more than 65 community leaders and members for the book, which will be distributed at various events and community centers in Athens.

Representatives of the West Athens / Westmont Task Force at the Book Launch Party. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“Let it be known near and far that Athens has a rich history and an even more dynamic present, and our mission was to have the book capture as much of that as we could,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the book launch, attended by more than 100 people including several who were featured in the book.

Members of the West Athens Taskforce, Vermont Manchester Collaborative andSouthwest Community Association also celebrated the launch of the book, together with representatives of local schools, youth centers, churches, businesses, senior centers, and others.

Athens has 40,000 residents spanning an area of 3.2 square miles. Among the neighborhood’s landmarks are Chester Washington Golf Course, where the book launch was held, and which was the home course for the great African American pro golfer Charlie Sifford. Other local destinations are Jesse Owens Park and Washington Prep High School, which had a movie made about its transformation in the late 70s, starring Denzel Washington.

Athens has seen more than $400 million in investments since Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was elected in 2008. This includes new affordable apartments; a renovated library; façade improvements for small businesses; transportation and street improvements; new and improved parks, walking paths, and a community garden.

“We are not done yet,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Our goal is to continue to ensure that there are high-quality assets in Athens, worthy of the civic vitality that is ingrained in this community.”

Our Athens is the latest in a series of books highlighting the Second District communities of Florence-Firestone, Lennox, Willowbrook and East Rancho Dominguez.

Left to Right: (Top) 88th Street Temple Church Pastor Anthony Williams, Southwest Community Association Director Henry Porter, West Athens Westmont Taskforce Founder Bruce McCall (Bottom) Washington Prep High School Principal Dr. Dechele Byrd, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Create Core LA Co-Founder Gennia Cuo, LA County Arts Commission Director Kristin Sakoda. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Undesign the Redline

Undesign the Redline, an interactive exhibition that traces the history and legacy of housing discrimination and segregation across Los Angeles and the United States, will be on display in April at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration to commemorate Fair Housing Month.

Created by the social impact firm Designing the We, the interactive exhibition traces how government policy going back to the 1930s, known as “redlining,” created racial segregation and disinvestment that, in some communities, persist to this day. The exhibition uses powerful narratives of people and communities, maps, historical artifacts, storytelling, photographs and activities to illustrate redlining’s roots and lasting repercussions.

Enterprise Community Partners and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas partnered with Designing the We to bring the interactive exhibition to the seat of Los Angeles County government.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “I encourage all to come and experience the exhibit, as we must know our history in order to avoid repeating it. It was not until 1968, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that the right to equal housing opportunities was guaranteed. As we grapple with this region’s housing crisis, this exhibition informs us of the historical impact of housing discrimination, especially redlining, that took place in all corners of our nation, including Los Angeles.”

Undesign the Redline puts into perspective the local community landscape and the history of Los Angeles, including the stories of:

  • The history of Watts as a visionary plan as a “free city” of blacks and other disenfranchised groups
  • Loren Miller & the fight against deed discrimination
  • The Federation of the High Cost of Living, which was formed to explore how rental costs could be lowered
  • The mothers of East Los Angeles
  • Bunker Hill redevelopment and urban renewal

“Undesign the Redline sheds light on how the explicitly discriminatory housing practices of redlining continues to influence the design and growth patterns of Los Angeles today. The relics of these practices are present in the form of displacement, gentrification and a vast homelessness crisis. Learning this history inspires us to change that legacy and advance a path forward that will transform our communities,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, VP and Southern California market leader, Enterprise.

The Los Angeles County Hall of Administration is located at  500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. The exhibit is located in the Second Floor Atrium, Grand Park Entrance, and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

LA County Counts in the 2020 Census

 Leaders join together for a “Census Call to Action” rally in downtown’s Grand Park. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County, City, and community leaders joined together for a “Census Call to Action” rally in downtown’s Grand Park to the County’s unprecedented partnership and to raise awareness exactly one year ahead of the 2020 census in an effort to ensure that hard-to-reach populations are counted.

“The 2020 census will significantly impact how the federal government allocates funding and resources,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are raising awareness a full year in advance of the 2020 census launch to ensure that Angelenos are fairly represented in the final census count.”

Los Angeles County is considered the hardest-to-count county in the nation with over 10 million residents. A Census undercount could translate to fewer federal funds for transportation infrastructure projects, economic development, and programs that help support our most vulnerable residents.

“The 2020 Census is the first census that will be done primarily electronically, creating an additional barrier for low-income families and communities of color. I am concerned that the effort to add a citizenship question may discourage responses, especially among immigrant communities. Today was a clear demonstration that LA County will work with our municipal and community partners to support our vulnerable communities. We embrace LA County’s diversity and we will make every effort to count every resident,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “An accurate census count is not only foundational to representative democracy, but it ensures that schools and communities throughout LA County receive their fair share of federal funding. The federal government must not leave our vulnerable communities underfunded and underrepresented. Everyone counts!”

The 2020 census will launch April 1, 2020. The census can shape many different local community benefits such as hospitals, fire departments, schools, and highways. Each year, the results help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities. The census is mandated by the United States Constitution. The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.

Women’s History Month Profiles

Women’s History Month: Jo Ann Boyce

In celebration of Women’s History Month Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to Jo Ann Boyce, who was one of 12 black teenagers in 1956 that would become known as The Clinton 12.  She and 11 others were the first to integrate a public high school in the South after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Jo Ann Boyce has been a true trailblazer for women’s rights and desegregation,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Jo Ann Boyce was born Jo Ann Crozier Allen September, 1941 in the small riverfront town of Clinton in East Tennessee. She and her family lived in a primarily African American community where family, church and school were the foundations of the neighborhood. Jo Ann’s first school years were first through eighth grade at Green McAdoo Elementary, a two room all black school. As well as segregated schools, she and her family lived under the laws of Jim Crow. Jo Ann and her school mates were bussed 20 miles to an all black middle and high school on graduation from eighth grade.

In the early 1950’s, several African American families in Jo Ann’s community filed a lawsuit against the Anderson County Board of Education. The lawsuit was filed to force the desegregation of Clinton High School which was in close proximity to the black community. Then, African American children were forced to be bussed to high schools in other towns/counties at a cost to the parents. The lawsuit was denied by a federal judge. However, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Brown v Board case in 1954, which outlawed school segregation, the same judge had to reverse his original ruling. Therefore, in August, 1956, twelve African American  students, eligible for high school admittance, including Jo Ann Allen, met in front of their previous elementary school. There they held hands and a prayer was said for God’s Grace to keep them safe. The twelve then walked the short distance down the hill from their community toward the all white Clinton High School into the unknown of a new frontier.

Desegregation of Clinton High School was originally met with quiet resignation or white citizens were following the “law of the land.” Within three to four days, the quiet was changed by the appearance of a rabble rouser, an outsider. Young people now held up anti desegregation signs, large crowds began to gather, Jo Ann and her fellow black classmates were accosted by foul, racist epitaphs, rotten food, rocks and sticks whizzed by this heads, spittal barely missed their faces/bodies. Over several days, racial strife worsened with acts of harassment and threats of bodily harm inside the school. Thumb tacks in desk seats, ink in lockers, destroyed books, hair pulling and heels being stepped on were frequent acts of violence inside the school. Outside school, the violence escalated to include the vicious beating of a white minister who had escorted the black students to school one day and during the Memorial Day holiday, rioting in the town which included the cars belonging to unsuspecting African American travelers driving through the town on the main highway leading to other towns, being rocked side to side, windows being smashed and lives being threatened. Overwhelmed , the extremely small police department called on volunteers of which 40 men came forward. But they too were overwhelmed by a crowd of 2-3 thousand, so help from the governor was requested. The Tennessee State Troopers were first to arrive followed shortly by the Tennessee National Guard. Although order was restored, Jo Ann’s parents made the decision to move away from Clinton following this severe breakdown in lawfulness.

Jo Ann, her parents, sister and brother arrived in Los Angeles in December, 1956. She enrolled in and graduated from Dorsey High School in 1958. Following graduation, she enrolled at Los Angeles City College where she received an AA degree as well as a degree in nursing. Initially working at Good Samaritan Hospital working with adults, Jo Ann eventually was employed in her “dream job” as a pediatric registered nurse, first with a private pediatrician for ten years followed by a thirty year employment at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles until her retirement.

Jo Ann has been married almost sixty years, is the mother of three adult children and is grandmother of four. She enjoys singing, reading, and collecting stamps/coins. She coauthored a book with renown children’s books author Debbie Levy entitled “This Promise of Change; One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality,” which was published and released January 8, 2019. The book, written in verse for youth 10 years to adult, highlights some of Jo Ann’s life in Clinton with a detailed timeline of school desegregation and biographies of the other members of the Clinton 12 in the back matter.