Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Fifty years ago, Americans from around the nation made the journey by bus, train and airplane to join Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the nation’s capital, marching to demand that the United States of America live up to the ideals of equality for all expressed in its founding documents.

In a speech that electrified the nation, Dr. King, reminded the nation that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, freedom was still elusive for millions of citizens. African Americans faced police brutality and unequal access to employment. Discriminatory voting laws relegated African-Americans and other minorities to second class citizenship status.

We have made great strides in making Dr. King’s dream a reality of judging a man by his character and not by his skin color. Change indeed has come to America. Twice, the nation affirmed the new reality of possibilities by electing Barack Obama to the presidency.

Yet as we reflect on the progress we have made as a nation on this momentous anniversary, there is undeniably still much more work to be done.

Every day, African-American young men are disproportionately victims of gun violence and in many cases racial profiling. The unjust shooting of 17-year-old Travyon Martin and the legal exoneration of his killer is but one example. Women, for example, still are not paid on par with men and we still struggle with extending the protections of civil rights to all citizens.

Our work is not done. This past June, the Supreme Court of the United States rolled back the clock in a majority decision that sabotaged the Voting Rights Act, eliminating a mechanism that safeguarded the enfranchisement of millions of African Americans.

So, as we honor the legacy of Dr. King, let us recommit ourselves not just to his dream for America, but to his principles of nonviolence and to his example, standing against injustice individually and collectively, rolling up our sleeves and going to work.

With hope,

County Asks Congress to Renew Voting Rights Act

Board of Supervisors Asks Congress to Renew Voting Rights Act from Mark Ridley-Thomas on Vimeo.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called on Congress to update Section 4 of the Civil Rights Act to enable the Department of Justice to review changes in voting laws that threaten the ability of citizens to cast a ballot for candidates of their choice.

The 1963 March on Washington was a watershed event that set the stage for Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965, giving the federal government the power to enforce the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution.

But earlier this summer, on June 25th, in Shelby County v. Holder, a divided Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. Section 4, known as the coverage formula, identifies the regions of the country that permit the U.S. Department of Justice to review and pre-clear changes to voting laws within those jurisdictions that may have a discriminatory impact or effect.

Testifying before the board on the importance of maintaining strong voter protection laws were local and nationally recognized civil rights leaders, including Rev. James Lawson Jr., a key tactician and teacher of nonviolence who worked closely with the Martin Luther King Jr., Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Northridge, Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Virginia Lee, of the Advancement Project, Eugene Lee, Voting Rights Project Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Rick Davis, Regional Director, Lambda Legal and Lola Ungar, Vice President and Action Chair, League of Women Voters. The motion, sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina, sends a message from the largest county in the nation that a revision of the Voting Rights Act must be done by Congress.

“Nobody should ever use voter suppression as an ordinary tool of politics,” said Sonenshein. “If those who represent California make clear that the Voting Rights Act, admired and supported by both parties, must be made whole, this will send a message that will resound across the nation.”

Saenz said that the Voting Rights Act played a central role in diversifying Los Angeles County government as well.

“The composition of this board changed, in my view, for the better and helped to ensure representation of the entirety of the county and its diversity,” noted Saenz.

Chairman Ridley-Thomas emphasized that the freedom to vote is a centerpiece of democracy.

“The hallmark of a democratic society is the healthy exchange of views,” said Ridley-Thomas. “We want to make sure that those who wish to participate do participate.”

And Lawson noted that civil rights are entwined with voting rights.

“At this stage of the game in the United States we should have national and local leadership committed to the universal right to vote,” he said. “This motion asks Congress, Republican and Democrats alike, to move swiftly so that this right is not abdicated in many parts of the country.”

Free Summer Movies in Second District L.A. County Parks

A trip to the movie theater on any given night can cost a family of two adults and two children anywhere from $50 to $60 before popcorn, beverages and candy. But this summer, on select nights at designated Los Angeles County parks in the Second Supervisorial District, families can enjoy a movie and popcorn for free.

From now until September 28, L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the county Department of Parks and Recreation will host MRT’s Free Summer Movies at county parks throughout the Second Supervisorial District. A large 12 ‘ x 9” screen, projector and multiple speakers will be set-up to transform a section of the parks into an outdoor theater.

“Families can come early and fire up the grill at the park before the movie starts and make an evening out of it or just come for the movie,” said Mika Yamamoto, regional operations manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. “We want constituents to experience all the amenities the park has to offer.”

MRT’s Free Summer Movies is intended to be a safe and relaxing event for adults, kids and neighbors alike.

“We want everyone to come out to their local park, spend time with their family and friends and enjoy a movie under the stars,” said Chairman Ridley –Thomas.

Movies will start at dusk. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, snacks and lawn chairs. Popcorn will be provided free of charge.

For complete movie listings, dates and parks participating in MRT’s Free Summer Movies, please click here.

New Exhibit Shows the Sweeping Story of L.A.

Los Angeles has often been misunderstood by outsiders. Either mythologized as the land of movie stars or loathed as the land of freeways and smog, the reality of it as a region rich with history, culture and innovation often gets overlooked. But a new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History seeks to bring the history, character and narrative of Los Angeles into focus. Becoming Los Angeles, which opens to the public this weekend, transformed 14,000 square feet of exhibition space into an interactive illustration of the history of L.A. from the dinosaurs through the modern era.

[raw]The exhibits seeks to highlight the major events in Los Angeles’ history. They include the Missionary settlements of the late 18th century, to the construction of the railroad in the late 19th century which connected Los Angeles to San Francisco, to the creation of the first mass produced car in 1902 to the modern day sprawl of Los Angeles as a place of unburdened dreams and reinvention.

The exhibit, which took 10 years to compile, is a cornerstone of the museum’s mission to remake itself as a 21st century institution that offers an array of experiences for all museum-goers. In addition to the exhibit, the museum now boasts acres of garden space, walking trails and an edible garden that seeks to bring museum visitors closer to the natural world both indoors and out.

“This is just as important an exhibit for us as an institution as the dinosaurs,” said Natural History Museum President Jane Pisano. “We see this as a nexus between nature and culture and how people and land interact with each other.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas who is an avid supporter of the museum, said the institution has grown over the years and should be considered among Los Angeles’ landmarks.

“There is a sense of energy and inspiration in what has become a regional destination point,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This is not just ambitious; it’s visionary and it is making its mark.”

The exhibit opens on the cusp of the museum’s 100th anniversary in November. When the museum opened on November 6, 1913, only a day after the newly built aqueduct in the Owens Valley sent water gushing into the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles seemed poised to become a true metropolis. On that day, the project’s master builder William Mulholland is said to have boasted, “There it is. Take it.”

As Los Angeles author and historian D. J. Waldie noted in his opening remarks for the exhibit, water made the creation of Los Angeles possible—even as mankind tried to shape the region into something that conflicted with the natural landscape and the original, native founders.

Today, the definition of “it” has evolved, he said.

“ ‘It’ might be the city we will find at last to be our home,” he said. “Taking was how we formerly understood the idea of Los Angeles. This exhibition shows us becoming Los Angeles.”[/raw]