Education, Arts & Culture

Undesign the Redline

Undesign the Redline exhibit kickoff reception. Left to Right: Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Undesign the Redline Consultant Mary Lee, Designing the WE Co-Founder Braden Cooks, and Enterprise Community Partners VP Jacqueline Waggoner. Photo by Leroy Hamilton courtesy of Enterprise Community Partners

A new interactive exhibit traces the history of housing discrimination across Los Angeles and the United States.  Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise), Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC), Designing the WE and Wells Fargo to present Undesign the Redline.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas shares lessons learned from Undesign the Redline. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“It is incumbent upon us all to approach the errors of our past with a lens toward a brighter future,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This exhibit ‎helps us imagine what our community can look like. It motivates us to pursue bold change to implement our collective vision.”

Created by social impact firm Designing the WE in partnership with Enterprise, the interactive exhibit uses narratives, maps and other documents to trace how government policy, known as “redlining,” created racial segregation and disinvestment in communities from the 1930s to present-day. The exhibit combines historical artifacts, storytelling, photographs and activities to illustrate redlining’s roots and lasting repercussions.

Redlining has limited people from housing opportunities and their associated benefits, including the choice of where to live, whether to rent or own, and wealth generated by homeownership. Today, the growing threat of displacement caused by increasing housing instability is impacting these same neighborhoods.

Dance to kickoff the new exhibit.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

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;
• Bunker Hill Redevelopment and urban renewal;
• Limited Diversity in Lakewood;
• The Federation of the High Cost of Living, which was formed to explore how rental costs could be lowered.

“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. But learning this history inspires us to change that legacy and encourages us to transform our communities,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, VP and Southern California market leader, Enterprise.

The exhibit is now on display at LATTC’s Magnolia Hall until March 31, 2019.

Black History Month: Rev. Dr. Alexander Hamilton

In celebration of Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to the Reverend Dr. Alexander Hamilton, who arranged the late Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-Award winning gospel album Amazing Grace, among many other stellar musical achievements.

Rev. Dr. Alexander Hamilton with, L-R, Lady Alicia Hamilton, Supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Hilda Solis and Alan Elliott. All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I commend you for a long-lasting and outstanding career in the music industry, and for all that you have done and continue to do in the lives of musical artists all over the world,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

In accepting the honor, Dr. Hamilton said, “As long as God gives me a finger to play with and a mind to think with, he’s got me and I’ll be making His music as much as I can.” He was joined by his wife, Lady Alicia Hamilton, as well as several friends and choir members. He said he has made a lifetime of conducting God’s music through them.

Dr. Hamilton has played, conducted and arranged scores for numerous music icons, including Lola Falana, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Lou Rawls, The Staple Singers, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Natalie Cole, Etta James, James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar and Mahalia Jackson. He also co-wrote the gospel hit He’s A Miracle Worker with Edie Kendrix.

On the big screen, Dr.  Hamilton can be seen directing the choir in Amazing Grace, which documented the recording of the Queen of Soul’s 1972 platinum selling album. The film’s producer, Alan Elliott, said of Dr. Hamilton: “His work is a monument to himself, to God, to the community of Los Angeles, and to the world.”

On February 7-18, Amazing Grace will kick off the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas encouraged everyone to see it, saying, “It is a musical experience that takes you to a different level.”

Dr. Hamilton began his career at the tender age of 9 years old.  As a child, he was a student of the late Hall Johnson, a well-known musical writer and arranger.

For 45 years, Dr. Hamilton served as the director of The Voices of Inspiration community choir, The New Generation Singers, and the Immanuel Gospel Community Choir. Dr. Hamilton and The Voices of Inspiration Choir have recorded several albums, including Glory, Hallelujah!, God Can, and Praise Him Till. Under his direction, The New Generation Singers recorded and released an album entitled Safe in God’s Love.

Currently, Dr. Hamilton is the Pastor of Philadelphia Church Fellowship of Los Angeles.

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.”

Click here to view information on how many schools are in each Supervisorial district.

Board Approves Millions in Aid for LAUSD

Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Amid a continuing teacher strike, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis that would identify millions in Los Angeles County funds that could be directed to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to enhance healthcare for students.

“Among the concerns raised by teachers is the need for more support services for students and, with this motion, we are doing what we can to be helpful,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, a former high school teacher himself. “LA County has sufficient resources and this is part of fulfilling our mandate to provide medical services to the most vulnerable.”

A Wellness Center at Manual Arts High School

The motion seeks to build on the infrastructure and resources that LA County already provides LAUSD, which includes dozens of school-based health centers, as well as mental health clinicians, crisis intervention training for teachers, and counseling for families. LA County is also currently working to build dozens of wellbeing centers in high schools to support teenage students’ social and emotional wellness and sexual health.

Specifically, the motion instructed the LA County Department of Mental Health (DMH) to identify up to $10 million in potential funding to enhance mental health and wellbeing at LAUSD schools. The amount would make it possible to fund a healthcare professional on every elementary school campus five days a week. Research has shown that the sooner children experiencing trauma or distress can access professional treatment and support, the higher their likelihood to succeed academically and develop resilience and effective coping mechanisms.

“The mental health and wellbeing of our kids, schools, and neighborhoods must always be front and center,” DMH Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said. “We empower our future by identifying and addressing needs early and broadly through services at our school platforms. We are currently invested in a strong partnership with LAUSD, and this motion takes our commitment to a whole new level.”

The motion also instructed the County’s Departments of Health Services (DHS) and Public Health (DPH) to, within 30 days, identify strategies for supporting LAUSD in its efforts to hire school nurses and other health professionals.

LA County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin and Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer testify in support of the motion. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“As a former high school principal, I know the importance of ensuring a healthy environment in our schools and DPH stands strongly in support of LAUSD,” DPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “Teachers, nurses, counselors, and parents all play a vital role in supporting our children and helping them become all they can be.”

LA County Office of Education (LACOE) Superintendent Debra Duardo, who recently assigned a team of fiscal experts to look into LAUSD’s worsening financial situation, said, “LACOE has long recognized that we cannot allow the unmet mental health needs of children and youth to stand in the way of their access to a great education.”

“As we continue to work with LAUSD on fiscal and operational health, we are encouraged by the leadership of Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis in recognizing the compelling need for funding for mental health services,” she added. “We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to ensure that every District in the County is equipped to support the social-emotional and mental health needs of our youth.”

Courtney Powers with the Community Clinic Association of LA County, which represents several operators of school-based health centers, also supported the motion. She said, “Our health centers are places of trust in the community and schools are too, so this is a terrific opportunity to expand reach to students and families in need.”

“When the physical, emotional and psychological needs of children are met, we all benefit from their ability to focus on learning,” said Michael Green, LA County Regional Director for SEIU Local 721. “If, through this investment, we increase the wellness and learning ability of a child, then we are making a positive change for their future, and the future of our community.”


A Strike Teaches the Wrong Lesson to Our Kids


By Mark Ridley-Thomas, Diane Watson, Steven Bradford Curren Price

As public servants – some of us are former educators as well – we have learned valuable lessons about the classroom:

First and foremost, teachers are truly unsung heroes who make a real difference every day by enabling and empowering students to achieve their dreams.

Second, teachers are underpaid, undervalued and underappreciated while facing daunting challenges. Nowhere is this more evident than the Los Angeles Unified School District, where nearly two-thirds of students struggle to read, write and speak English fluently.

Third, teachers and students alike cannot perform at their peak efficiency when classroom sizes are too big.

The union leaders representing Los Angeles Unified teachers would have us believe that the solution to these problems is waging a strike that would disrupt the lives of so many students and their families.

Today, more than 400,000 students who live in poverty, 60,000 special needs children and 20,000 homeless kids rely on LAUSD for essential services, including serving 1 million meals a day.

Since taking office in 2014, United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl has repeatedly threatened to instigate a strike against LAUSD. Caputo-Pearl has now put a strike ahead of the well-being of our children.

We see no reason for a strike and implore Superintendent Austin Beutner and UTLA leaders to rethink their approach at the bargaining table by putting the needs of students first

A strike won’t resolve the many pressing issues confronting the nation’s second largest school district.

A strike won’t provide the infusion of funds needed to avert the looming insolvency of Los Angeles Unified.

A strike won’t get UTLA all of their demands.

The facts are clear: Los Angeles Unified is on the brink of financial disaster. Independent experts who have inspected the district’s books have confirmed that the $1.8 billion reserve is a mirage. Indeed, all of the reserve money is earmarked to be spent within two years.

With a deficit projected to surpass $400 million in the upcoming fiscal year, the district may become obligated to spend more outside the classroom than inside.

That means the current “surplus” won’t save LAUSD from having to declare bankruptcy and be taken over by the state or broken up into separate districts if the LAUSD is forced to make further economic concessions to resolve a strike.

We’re already seeing this scenario play out in the Sacramento City school system, where public school leaders say they will run out of cash by the end of this year.

California school districts receive state funding based largely on attendance. In Los Angeles Unified, enrollment has declined precipitously, to 500,000 students today from a peak of 700,000 in the 1990s.

Already, California ranks near the bottom with states such as Mississippi and Alabama in funding levels for K-12 education. By comparison, New York City, the nation’s largest school district, provides more than $20,000 per pupil while LAUSD provides $15,000 per student.

Amid this bleak financial picture, most people agree on the priorities moving forward for Los Angeles Unified students and families.

• Teachers make incredible personal sacrifices to help their students succeed and they should be paid more. Both sides have agreed to a 6 percent salary increase recommended by a neutral Fact Finder.

• Smaller class sizes and more teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians are needed to make our schools better.

• A renewed focus on the classroom begins with recruiting and retaining talented educators.

We urge leaders for LAUSD and UTLA to put aside their differences and put the needs of children first. That starts with negotiating a fair settlement in good faith to avoid a strike and working together to demand more federal, state and local funding for our schools.

Los Angeles County’s economy is the 17th largest in the world. An insolvent school district sends a very bad message and weakens our economic strength. It is incumbent upon all of us to find a way so that future generations of Angelenos are empowered to lead our industries and to live in thriving communities.

Mark Ridley-Thomas is a Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the Second District, and former schoolteacher; Diane Watson is a former Congressmember and LAUSD Boardmember; Steven Bradford is a State Senator representing the 35th District; Curren Price is a Los Angeles City Councilmember representing the Ninth District, and community college instructor.

 This article is republished with permission from the Southern California News Group.