Education, Arts & Culture

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.

$70M Magic Johnson Park Renovation Breaks Ground

Surrounded by hundreds of cheering South Los Angeles residents, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Earvin “Magic” Johnson kicked off a $70-million renovation of the park bearing the basketball legend’s name in the community of Willowbrook.

The project represents the largest investment in a park improvement ever by the County of Los Angeles, and is the first phase of a master plan that is slated to dramatically transform Magic Johnson Park over the next two decades.

Rendering courtesy of AHBE

“We are making magic at Magic Johnson Park, and the result is going to be visionary,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Besides providing amenities that currently don’t exist in this community, we are enhancing the beauty of this space and creating opportunities to strengthen the bonds of this community. These improvements will be nothing short of transformative.”

“For almost 25 years, the Magic Johnson Park has been used for daily exercise, family outings, and celebrations,” said Johnson, after whom the park was named in 1994 following his retirement from the NBA. “I’m excited about this significant investment by Los Angeles County which provides a safe, scenic space for Willowbrook residents and increases the community’s engagement with the park.”

(left to right) Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, and CBS’ Jim Hill at Magic Johnson Park Renovation Groundbreaking. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The project, slated for completion in Fall 2020, includes a 20,000-square foot state-of-the-art community events center for holding weddings, conferences and other large gatherings; an outdoor wedding pavilion; a splash pad and children’s play areas; improved walking paths with security lighting; and acres upon acres of new landscaping that will give the park an entirely fresh look.

The lake that is currently the centerpiece of the park will be getting an innovative feature that will help address both water conservation and water quality goals. It will divert storm runoff from surrounding neighborhoods and nearby Compton Creek, clean it and then use it to fill the lower lake and irrigate 30 acres of the park, creating a wetland experience for park goers.

Another benefit is that the renovation will create hundreds of jobs. The County hired contractor S.J. Amoroso Construction Company to build the project and required that 30 percent of all construction hours be rendered by local residents living within 5 miles of the park, or in zip codes countywide that have high poverty rates.

County Parks and Recreation Director John Wicker ensured that there was a comprehensive and community-driven process to prioritize new amenities for Magic Johnson Park. “We are grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and partners that are committed to developing and investing in this new, state-of-the-art and LEED Gold facility,” he said. “As a collective, we will build a park for the Willowbrook community to be active and participate in the year-round programs, as well as come together to make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Rendering courtesy of AHBE

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is considering opening a satellite location within Magic Johnson Park while its main campus on Wilshire Boulevard is undergoing its own massive renovation.

“Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has long been a tireless advocate for enhancing County residents’ quality of life,” said LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan. “The upcoming renovation of Magic Johnson Park is an exciting milestone for all of us in Los Angeles. Parks are important community gathering places, and these wonderful amenities will no doubt draw even more people here. I hope that LACMA will be able to play a role in further transforming the park in the coming years.”

Rendering courtesy of AHBE

The Magic Johnson Park renovation is only the latest of many investments that have transformed the community of Willowbrook. Over the last several years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has championed a building boom that included the Martin Luther King Medical Campus, Willowbrook Library and Senior Center, AC Bilbrew Park, the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing, and upgrades to Metro’s Rosa Parks Station.

Longtime resident and community leader “Sweet” Alice Harris said, “This investment in Magic Johnson Park, and the greater community, is nothing short of a blessing.

Rendering courtesy of AHBE