Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas On the Resolution of the Teacher Strike

“I am very pleased that both parties persisted through hours of negotiation to reach an agreement and settle this strike. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of students returning to school to resume their education. Many of them – particularly those preparing for Advanced Placement exams, scholar-athletes who could not practice or compete during the strike, and those with learning disabilities – will face challenges in trying to compensate for learning losses incurred during this disruption. It is my hope that, in the future, the district and union will involve their partners – most notably the State, the County, the City, and the private/philanthropic sector – in identifying and exploring resources that may be available to prevent another strike. For example, the County was able to help last week in locating funding for healthcare professionals on elementary school campuses, satisfying one of the longstanding issues on which all stakeholders agreed.”

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Forward Progress on First LA County Arts Department

The Board of Supervisors took further steps toward creating the first Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture Department. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Sheila Kuehl had coauthored the motion earlier this year with broad support from arts funders, creators and institutions.

“When we think about nearly 800,000 creative industry jobs in 2016, $200-billion in economic output, and $9-billion in taxes, we understand the impact of the arts and the creative economy,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “With the new Arts and Culture Department, our region’s reliance on the financial output from the many sectors of the creative economy – digital media, sporting and other special events –will be included and enhanced.”

The transition of the LA County Arts Commission to the LA County Department of Arts and Culture is anticipated to be completed by July 1, 2019.

“There was a time when the arts were seen as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have,” LA County Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda said when the Board voted to create the new department. “Today the ordinance creating the first ever Department of Arts and Culture for the County of Los Angeles marks a historic milestone for the arts in LA County and elevates the County’s vital role in public support for arts and culture.”

The LA County Arts Commission was initially established in 1947. It has grown in the last 71 years since from solely supporting local music performances to supporting hundreds of nonprofit organizations and functioning as a full-service local arts agency.

Throughout the decades, the Commission’s role has expanded to include innovative and meaningful programs including working with school districts throughout the County to develop and implement a strategic plan to integrate arts into K-12 public schools. It also administers the Civic Art program, where artists are aligned with capital projects to bring aesthetics and programming to the community in which the project is located, as well as the Arts Internship Program. To date, more than 2,000 college and university students participate in a paid internship for ten weeks during the summer in arts organizations and venues throughout the County.


Harvest Party Mixes Pumpkins and Development Projects

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas greets a younger community member at the October 27, 2018 Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

Youth show up for face painting, games, and other activities at the Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

More than 200 people turned out for a fun-filled Harvest Party on the site of the mixed-use development slated for the intersection of Vermont and Manchester avenues in South LA. The site, formerly a blighted lot, had been converted for the afternoon into colorful, family-friendly area, with bright yellow benches and overhead canopies for shade. There were free pumpkins and face painting for children, mini-soccer balls for toddlers, free tacos and beans for all and healthy cooking demonstrations.

But this was a party with a purpose. Fulfilling a promise to keep the community informed and engaged as the affordable housing, retail and educational project slated for the site moves forward, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — who sponsored the event — invited area residents to meet the developers who will be transforming the site.

A young community member selects a pumpkin at the Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

Bridge Housing heads the team which will be responsible for constructing and operating the retail, affordable housing, transit plaza and parking planned the site. Their partners include the Coalition for Responsible Community Development and Primestor Development, Inc. all of whom have deep roots in community and economic development across South Los Angeles. Throughout the afternoon, community members moved from the child-oriented events to booths where they casually chatted with the team and shared their ideas.

“This site has been a hot topic for 30 years,” said Juan Molino, editor of a local blog and newspaper. “There’s been a lot of heat over the lack of development in the past because we were sold lots of dreams by the past owner. But I’m a fan of what they’re doing here,” he said, gesturing to the developer’s booths and sweeping his arm to encompass the entire event. “This project is going to be good for us in so many ways.”

Planned for the 4.2-acre site are: California’s first urban public boarding school,180 units of affordable housing, a transportation careers training center, open space and 62,000 square foot of retail space. The school, which will be operated by the SEED Foundation, already is poised to become a one-of-a-kind pipeline for graduates seeking lucrative careers in the STEM and transportation fields.

“This project is designed to be an economic engine for this community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “In particular, the school will give some of our best and brightest children the tools they need to graduate and either go to college or to begin a job for which they have been fully prepared.

The Empowerment Congress Economic Development Committee showed up to the Vermont/Manchester activation. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

“We are laying the foundation for wealth-building on the Vermont Corridor, starting right here at Vermont and Manchester,” the Supervisor continued.

Lesley Poole, chief executive officer of the Seed Foundation also was on hand for the party. Poole, who is based in Washington D.C., has family ties to the Vermont/Manchester community and chatted easily with community members, introducing herself and listening to their ideas.

SEED runs the nation’s only network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools. SEED Los Angeles will be the foundation’s fourth school; the others are in Washington D.C., Maryland and Miami. The LA school will offer a STEM-focused curriculum for grades 9-12, and the school will recruit students from the local community and across the County, in partnership with the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Success starts with the community,” Poole said. “Our goal is to ensure young people have agency, opportunity and resources. When people have the necessary resources, they can bring about the changes they want for their own communities.”

Community members play a large version of tic-tac-toe. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

Celebrate LA!

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during the launch of Celebrate LA! All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Massive crowds celebrated as the  Los Angeles Philharmonic marked its 100th anniversary with an eight-mile long street festival connecting both of its venues, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas marches with the Centennial High School Marching Band from Compton.

Dubbed Celebrate LA!, the unprecedented community event featured 1,800 musicians, dancers and visual artists — mostly from L.A. – as well as live shows, food, and family activities. Presented in partnership with CicLAvia and Community Arts Resources, the festival kicked off with a performance by a marching band from Centennial High School in Compton.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to see how the LA Phil has chosen this gift for Los Angeles that celebrates community and creativity as reflected in the myriad performances all day and into the evening,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Arts are a vital part of the engagement, education, and empowerment that builds community every day here in Los Angeles County.”

“This Centennial is a chance to rededicate ourselves to the transformative power of music and to the magnificent City of Angels, where we will continue to make magic happen,” said LA Phil Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel.

“Our Centennial is as diverse as the communities the LA Phil serves,” LA Phil Chief Executive Officer Simon Woods added. “It’s a big embrace of Los Angeles, its people and its amazing creative identity, and it’s as international as the artists who perform on our stages.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.

The eight-mile route was transformed into an auto-free zone, with people walking, running, skating, scooting and biking on the streets instead. Major hubs along the route included Walt Disney Concert Hall, Koreatown, Melrose, and the Hollywood Bowl. Each featured performance stages, art installations, food trucks, screen-printing, kid-friendly activities, dancing, and live music from LA’s best musicians.

The festivities culminated in LA Phil 100 at the Bowl, a free community concert featuring Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, and special guests Kali Uchis, Herbie Hancock, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.

Aretha Franklin: A Los Angeles Tribute to the “Queen of Soul”

In January 1972, Aretha Franklin, the Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir convened in Los Angeles and recorded “Amazing Grace,” a groundbreaking album that is still one of the nation’s best-selling gospel recordings.

On the evening of August 30, 2018, the person who managed the production of “Amazing Grace” – along with 20 of the choir members who performed on the recording – took part in a musical tribute to the late Aretha Franklin at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles (CAAM).

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas flanked by members of the L.A. chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Southern California Community Choir Alumni. Photos by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

The event – hosted by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, CAAM and the L.A. County Arts Commission – featured a mass choir that included the L.A. chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Southern California Community Choir Alumni. The mass choir performed selections from “Amazing Grace.”

Aretha Franklin was saluted for her social justice activism as well as her music. Her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was an important supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the national organization headed by Dr. King. As a young woman, Aretha travelled with Dr. King in the South during some voting rights campaigns.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, former executive director of the Los Angeles SCLC chapter, led the effort to create the tribute.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks to a standing room only audience at the tribute. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

“We honored her for her service to human rights and we paid tribute to her talent by listening to some selections of Amazing Grace,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

The recording was co-directed and arranged by the Rev. Alexander Hamilton, retired pastor of the Los Angeles-based Community Baptist Church and former music director for the Voices of Inspiration choir. He was among those who prepared the mass choir for the tribute.

“As Aretha Franklin’s co-music director and arranger with Reverend James Cleveland on the ‘Amazing Grace’ album, this was the apex of my 60 plus years in the music business,” said Rev. Hamilton. “She was a singer’s singer and a musician’s musician. The hard work, effort and musical precedence of this landmark production transcends anything imaginable or envisioned. It will always garner Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T!”

(left to right) LA County Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Avis Ridley-Thomas, Marian Wright Edelman, and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, senior pastor of the Inglewood-based Faithful Central Bible Church, was among those who attended the recording of the 1972 performance.

“To watch in spiritual amazement the anointed collaboration of the Lady Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul’ and Reverend James Cleveland, the ‘King of Gospel Music,’ coupled with the musical creativity of the choral arrangement of Maestro Alexander Hamilton was to be in the presence of artistic royalty,” Bishop Ulmer said.

That recording was highlighted in “How Sweet the Sound: Gospel Music in Los Angeles,” a CAAM exhibition that closed August 26.