Education, Arts & Culture

Supervisors Look to Support Families Affected by Use-of-Force or In-Custody Deaths

Recognizing that deaths from the use of force by, or in the custody of, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) can traumatize the families who lost a loved one, witnesses, and the community – regardless of the circumstances that led to the fatality – Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl today called for creating a Family Assistance Program.

Their motion, up for a vote by the Board of Supervisors on July 9th, calls for providing families with grief counseling and other mental health services, funds to assist with burial costs, and timely updates delivered in a respectful and compassionate way.

More than 100 people have died from LASD use of force or in the custody in the last three years. For their families, the trauma is often compounded by how they were told what happened, how their relatives were characterized, and insufficient information.

“When families and communities need to heal, it is incumbent upon us to marshal our resources to help them,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “A Family Assistance Program is not only humane, it can also improve police-community relations and prevent further violence.”

“When a death occurs that involves law enforcement, family members and witnesses are often anxious and confused. If someone has been killed, family members are in shock and grieving,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “The Family Assistance Program provides new services, both emotional and financial so that our residents are provided much-needed support at moments of crisis.”

The motion calls for establishing a Family Assistance Program as outlined in a recent report by County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai entitled “Supporting Families Impacted by the Sheriff’s Department.” The report, prompted by another Ridley-Thomas/Kuehl motion, back in October, details how to implement the recommendations of the Civilian Oversight Commission for the LASD and includes input from advocacy groups such as the Youth Justice Coalition which developed a Family Bill of Rights.

Under the program, Family Assistance Advocates would be hired to serve as the primary point of contact for grieving families, and training would be improved for staff in various County departments who interact with them. The motion also calls for pursuing state legislation to expand which victims may be eligible, and philanthropic partnerships that can provide additional services.

The Family Assistance Program includes roles for the Mental Health, Public Health, Medical Examiner-Coroner, Registrar-Recorder, Inspector General, Civilian Oversight Commission and CEO. The motion also seeks the participation of the Sheriff and District Attorney.

Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center Opens

Avis Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the Grand Opening. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

The Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic unveiled the Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center not far from Exposition Park, where  transition age youth, ages 16-25, can  access high-quality mental health and social services to foster their emotional well-being and physical health, achieve lifelong economic stability, and build strong connections to positive support systems.

Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic President and CEO Charlene Dimas-Peinado. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“The Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center is named after two pillars in our community. The LLC symbolizes hope and a brighter future for our youth and young adults. It’s also the right time for us to focus our attention on the social and environmental concerns impacting them and make a meaningful difference,” said Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic President and CEO Charlene Dimas-Peinado.

Rendering for the Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center

“Avis and I are honored, beyond measure, to be the namesakes of the new Life Learning Center,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “These are our young people and they deserve to be lifted up and supported. We believe this reimagined center will be a life-changing and welcome addition to this community and it will complement the many new developments along the Vermont Corridor.”

Community Room at The Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In Los Angeles County, there are approximately 1.4 million transition age youth. Many of these young adults transition into adulthood successfully; however, an estimated five to ten percent are challenged due to a number of negative circumstances – poverty, housing insecurity, substance abuse, physical abuse, exposure to or a victim of violence and/or are members of marginalized groups based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Often, young adults in South Los Angeles are more vulnerable and socially isolated which can jeopardize their long-term success.

The Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic is a nationally acclaimed community-based provider of holistic, innovative, and evidence-based behavioral and mental health services for children, young adults and families in Los Angeles. LACGC has assisted high-need families in historically underserved communities since l924. Each year, LACGC serves over 4,000 individuals at three community-based centers, 30 school-based sites, and directly to clients through field-based programming.

A Progress Report on Child Welfare Reforms

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Empowerment Congress hosted a retrospective look at the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s landmark report, The Road to Safety for Our Children, on the fifth anniversary of its release.

Blue Ribbon Commission 5 Year Anniversary Roundtable DiscussionThe Board of Supervisors empaneled the Commission after the tragic murder of eight-year old Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale. On April 18, 2014, the Commission, chaired by Dr. David Sanders, released 66 recommendations in the following six domains:

  • Prevention
  • Safety
  • Permanency
  • Well-Being
  • Global Impact; and
  • County Administration.

For stakeholders who attended the event in Exposition Park, it was a chance to look back at the progress in implementing the Commission’s reform recommendations.

Blue Ribbon Commission 5 Year Anniversary Roundtable Discussion

Amazing Grace

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted the Los Angeles premiere of Amazing Grace, a critically acclaimed documentary about the 1972 live recording of Aretha Franklin’s gospel music masterpiece of the same name.

Sabrina Garrett Owens, a niece of the Queen of Soul, attended the premiere along with more than 400 other people at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, the same church where the documentary was filmed 47 years ago.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Amazing Grace documentary producers Allan Elliott and Tirrell D. Whittley; and Sabrina Garrett Owens, a niece of Aretha Franklin. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“Like Johann Sebastian Bach’s church of St. Thomas or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s church in Salzburg, New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is amongst the holiest of holies in the music history,” said Allan Elliott, one of the producers of Amazing Grace. “We want to thank our friend and partner, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for making sure future generations can come and worship at the mecca of gospel music, New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, the home of Amazing Grace.”

Ahead of the premiere, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson sought to honor both the choir and the church that co-starred with Franklin in that legendary performance.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas nominated the Grammy Award-winning Southern California Community Choir for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, while Councilmember Harris-Dawson urged the Los Angeles City Council to designate the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church as a Historic-Cultural Monument.

“The Southern California Community Choir is one of the most gifted and inspirational gospel choirs of our time,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Their performance on the Amazing Grace album is timeless and has changed so many lives. I am proud to do my part to honor their work so that future generations can remember their legacy.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with the Amazing Grace documentary producers, members of the Southern California Community Choir who sang with Aretha Franklin in 1972, and Councilman Curren Price. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas nominated the choir to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which administers the Walk of Fame. Their performance with Franklin, under the direction of the Rev. James Cleveland and the Rev. Alexander Hamilton, produced the best-selling gospel music albums of all time. The choir has also performed with Elton John, Arlo Guthrie and Kansas, and won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1975.

The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church provided the backdrop for Amazing Grace, not to mention a seat in the audience for the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who sang and danced along with the crowd. The structure was originally developed as a theater and stores in 1932 but underwent several alterations, including an addition designed by the legendary African American architect Paul R. Williams. It was converted into a church in early 1958.

In his motion urging the Los Angeles City Council to initiate the process of declaring the church a Historic-Cultural Monument, Councilman Harris-Dawson described the church as an icon to be celebrated in African American and Los Angeles history. “This is yet another example of how South Los Angeles is a beacon of culture then and now,” Councilman Harris-Dawson said.

Women’s History Month: Michele Siqueiros

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to Michele Siqueiros, the president of The Campaign for College Opportunity.

“We all know that education is the key to success in life and Michele is committed to ensuring that our youth are prepared for the future,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Not only does she advocate for college access and success, she is leading by example as a first generation college graduate.”

“I’m proud to stand on the shoulders of trailblazers like the Supervisor and am grateful for this recognition,” Siqueiros said.  “I promise to continue fighting to ensure all students have the opportunity to attend and succeed in college – just like I did.”

As president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, she works daily to expand college access and help California students achieve success.

Under her leadership, she has strengthened the campaign by raising more than $21 million, championing major budget appropriations, and securing historic higher education legislation. She continues to produce reports addressing issues such as the lack of diversity among college leaders and faculty, the powerful return on investment for spending by the state in colleges and universities, the need for major improvements to close ethnic gaps, as well as reforming remedial education at colleges.

Siqueiros graduated from Pitzer College with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science and Master of Arts degree in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2010, she led a transformative movement that resulted in an easier process for students to transfer from any Community College in California to the California State University system through the “Associate Degree for Transfer Program.”

Siqueiros was appointed in 2019 by Senate Pro Tem Leader Toni Atkins to the Student Centered Funding Formula Oversight Committee — a committee charged with making recommendations to the Legislature and the Department of Finance on higher education related measures.