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Strengthening Democracy Through Girls Empowerment

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former LA County CEO Sachi Hamai at the 2018 Girls Build Summit.

In this moment of deep consequence, every effort to remove barriers to voting and to provide opportunities for success is instrumental in ensuring a better future for LA County residents. Recognizing the role that girls and young women have in advancing efforts to preserve democracy and support others to become civically engaged, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion co-authored with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl support the “Girls Build” initiative (Girls Build)  and declares October 2020 as Girls Empowerment Month throughout the County of Los Angeles. 

It is our obligation to lead our communities through this moment that includes COVID-19, the resulting economic downturn, and a national reckoning with structural racism. By highlighting civic engagement and leadership, Girls Build encourages young women to become empowered to protect their communities and democracy as well,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Engaging at a young age will have a measurable impact on their motivation as adults to address disparities and evoke social change, especially in communities of color.”  

The motion notably calls upon LA County residents to learn more about the LA Promise Fund’s “Girls Build” initiative as it has a special focus on voter mobilization this year—at a time when it is needed most. In partnership with Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, a non-profit nonpartisan organization, the LA Promise Fund will build a diverse coalition of 10,000 young women to register and pre-register to vote. Girls Build participants will double their coalition participation by setting a goal of registering 10,000 additional members of their families, schools, and communities across Southern California and throughout the nation to vote. 

The motion also establishes October 2020 as Girls Empowerment Month throughout LA County. Showing continued support for Girls Build acknowledges the significant impact the initiative has on young women and girls who participate, and the significant impact the girls have, in turn, on their communities. In addition to encouraging LA County residents to familiarize themselves with the work of Girls Build, the motion also urges every LA County resident to register to vote and to consider volunteering to register others.  

“Anything we can do to encourage young people to get involved in elections and to make sure every eligible person in the County casts a ballot has my vote!” said Supervisor Kuehl. “This motion will build an army of 10,000 young women of color to register their friends and family members and ensure that communities that are often under-represented are fully represented in 2020.”

Over the course of five years, Girls Build has provided stipends to participants and $50,000 in college scholarships awards each year to six winning Girls Build teams. Girls Build also celebrates gender equity and women’s success by introducing young women to hands-on opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) education, panel discussions with women leaders, films that champion girls’ and women’s empowerment, and other unique events. Through these experiences provided by the LA Promise Fund, thousands of students can become change agents in their communities when faced with social issues ranging from women’s representation in STEM fields to voter engagement. 

Learn more about Girls Build by visiting https://www.lapromisefund.org/girls-build/. Register to vote and consider volunteering to register others to vote by visiting http://lavote.net. And launched in 2018 by co-chairs Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is changing the culture around voting using a data-driven and multifaceted approach to increase participation in elections. Learn more at http://whenweallvote.org. 

Governor’s Homekey to Create Hundreds of Affordable Apartments in LA County

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the latest round of funding for Homekey, California’s innovative, nation-leading $600 million program to purchase and rehabilitate housing – including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other properties – and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

To date, Los Angeles County is set to receive $60 million to purchase eight motels with a combined total of 631 rooms. Each room will be converted into affordable apartments with supportive services and rent subsidies funded through the County’s Measure H and state and federal sources.

“Behind every allocation we make for Homekey is the story of a Californian who will no longer have to sleep in a tent, in a car or on the street,” said Governor Newsom. “The partnerships with local leaders and their innovative approaches to homeless solutions are inspiring. From helping victims of domestic violence, to LGBTQ youth, to seniors, we’ve seen bold proposals that help a cross section of Californians struggling to find permanent housing.”

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his unwavering leadership and investing much needed resources to combat this crisis within a crisis – homelessness amid a pandemic,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed Measure H and whose district will have three Homekey sites.
“Project Roomkey enabled LA County to bring 4,000 vulnerable people indoors in just months – an unprecedented accomplishment that protected their health and that of the larger community while simultaneously providing a lifeline to struggling businesses,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “We are ready for the next phase, Homekey. We have eight motels lined up to be converted into affordable apartments with services, a key component of our COVID-19 recovery rehousing plan.”

The Governor also announced a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable housing, to distribute $45 million in funding – $20 million from Blue Shield of California and $25 million from Kaiser Permanente – to support operating subsidies for Homekey projects. This funding will provide critical support to local jurisdictions to ensure that those housed through this initiative receive critical services like case management, job training, substance abuse counseling and more.

Building on the success of Project Roomkey, Governor Newsom in July announced the availability of $600 million in funding for Homekey, the next phase in the state’s response protecting Californians experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, following approval by the Legislature as part of the 2020-21 annual state budget. Of that, $550 million will be provided to cities and counties by California’s direct allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with an additional $50 million provided by the state to supplement the acquisition and provide initial operating funds. The Homekey funds are being expended in compliance with federal regulations in response to COVID-19.

HCD began accepting applications for Homekey on July 22, 2020. Additional awards are expected weekly until all $600 million has been awarded. The response from local governments and housing providers was significant – demonstrating the strength of these state-local partnerships. By the application deadline of September 29, a total of 147 applications had been received from 73 entities statewide, with over $1 billion requested.

Youth in Bioscience, Pathways to Success

The COVID-19 pandemic is a constant reminder of just how integral medicine and the life sciences are to the health and well-being of our society. Currently, workers in the bioscience industry are working hard on developing vaccines, therapies, and technologies to respond to the ensuing pandemic. As we look toward the future, the bioscience and biotech fields will only grow in a post-pandemic environment—and that is why it is so important to familiarize youth right here in Los Angeles with the possibilities the growing local bioscience industry has to offer.

The Second District held its first Los Angeles County Youth Bioscience Summit on Friday, October 9th. The Summit consisted of panel discussions and interactive lab experiments meant to expose youth to the fields of life sciences.

“The Youth Bioscience Summit gave a platform to share resources for students to build a career in the life sciences. This event shared valuable information to enrich the next generation of bioscience workers with the expertise, skills and experience needed to thrive in the field,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been a champion of providing opportunities for work and learning in the life sciences and related fields.

Additionally, the event focused on the different ways Los Angeles County has invested in bioscience, highlighting strategies to be competitive for entry-level jobs and the various ways a degree in the life sciences touches a wide range of industries. Many of the participants were students from high schools and community colleges located in Los Angeles County.

Originally, bioscience did not have as strong of a presence in Los Angeles County, especially in the Second District, making it that much more difficult for its constituents to connect with the job opportunities arising from the industry’s steady growth.

But five years ago, that all changed with a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Following the motion’s approval, the Board of Supervisors directed the County to study key industries for job growth and economic development. The result was the development of a Countywide Bioscience initiative that included a goal to create a workforce pipeline to diversify the industry. The Summit was part of this effort to expose young people to opportunities to work in the field of bioscience, which is increasingly important to do as we face the current economic downturn.

The event gave youth, at all levels, an understanding of the growing LA County bioscience landscape, the steps to take advantage of in career pathways, and hear directly from employers on workforce opportunities. While the Summit is just scratching the surface of what bioscience has to offer, the Second District continues to encourage youth to explore and consider what a future in bioscience can look like beyond the Summit.

Click here for the full agenda and resource guide. View 60-minutes of the Summit in its entirety below:

Lula Washington Dance Theatre Receives Grant to Reopen During COVID-19

We’re at the Lula Washington Dance Theatre to celebrate its reopening for safe outdoor classes for the community! The arts matter!

Posted by Mark Ridley-Thomas on Saturday, September 26, 2020

Due to COVID-19, participating in the arts the way we know it—especially performance arts—has completely changed. But as a powerful antidote for coping with the heightened stress of these turbulent times, it is when we need the arts most. Recently, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas provided a $150,000 grant to the Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT) in the heart of Crenshaw so that classes, particularly those oriented towards youth, can resume safely under the circumstances of COVID-19.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

“This re-dedication and unveiling are built on the foundation off our decades of hard work, love, and investing in children and families. This is a place that dancers can freely express themselves all year-round as we continue to adjust to a new normal,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am proud to be a supporter of this organization and its new outdoor expansion. This dance company continues to be a beacon of light in this community. In addition to learning about dance, community members can become change agents for their families, for their communities, and for the County.”

Not only is the community dance theater now able to host outdoor classes year-round, it is also able to now provide free dance training for neighborhood children and “Community Moves” classes every Saturday for all those who want to partake in the expression and healing of dance.

“We were just understanding COVID and then the world erupted into protests over the killing of George Floyd. I wanted LWDT to be able to do something to help our community heal and express themselves safely. We knew that because of COVID we would have to do everything outside. This would mean permits, and big-ticket rentals that we just could not afford. This grant award enabled LWDT to purchase and own an outdoor stage and canopies, allowing us to program our parking lot for classes and performances year-round and into the future–using COVID metrics for physical distance, wearing masks and requiring folks to sign up and RSVP because space will still be limited,” Tamica Washington-Miller, Associate Director of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

“No one knows when we will be out of the COVID era. Being able to present and program in our parking lot is a life-line opportunity for us. This allows us to continue to provide access to the art of dance and a space for life affirming, creative expression, and cultural arts to our community”, said the dance theater’s Founder and Artistic Director Lula Washington.

“Supervisor Ridley Thomas has always been a supporter of the arts, and, of our organization,” added Lula Washington Dance Theatre Founding Executive Director, Erwin Washington. ‘This donation to us will benefit our community for years to come.”

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

The ribbon cutting for the grand COVID-19 reopening of the community dance theater was a joyous occasion with music, dance, and singing—all in a socially-distanced, safe outdoor environment. The Washington family shared heartfelt remarks on what reopening the Lula Washington Dance Theatre means to their family and organization, and especially what this means for the youth in South Los Angeles. As a gesture of thanks, youth participating in the dance theater’s classes gifted Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with a plant to signify the growth that will be able to occur in the community by allowing community members to continue fostering empowerment and having an outlet for expression through dance.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

“Arts communicate justice, arts communicate peace, arts communicate the possibility for a better world. Everyone can speak and understand the language of the arts, and everyone can dance and appreciate its virtues,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

The arts matter. The arts heal. Thus, we are elated to welcome back Lula Washington Dance Theatre and its dancers so we can harness the power of art to overcome the multilayered crises we are presently faced with.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

The Lula Washington Contemporary Dance Foundation (LWCDF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1980 by Lula and Erwin Washington to provide a creative outlet for minority dance artists in South Los Angeles. The Foundation seeks to build bridges between people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds through its interrelated parts: the professional Dance Company (Lula Washington Dance Theatre), the Dance School, the Youth Dance Ensemble, and the Dance Studio. To reserve a space for their free classes on Saturday, please email school@lulawashington.org.

What an exciting day to join safely for this ribbon cutting for Lula Washington Dance Theatre!

Posted by Mark Ridley-Thomas on Saturday, September 26, 2020


Community Recreation Amid COVID-19

Over the last several weeks, in response to the growing need for safe, socially-distanced recreation for communities during COVID-19, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a “Drive-In at the Park” summer series.

Launched on Labor Day weekend with a screening of Cool Runnings in LAFC’s parking lot, located at Exposition Park, visitors were treated to an abundance of snacks and souvenirs, courtesy of partners Chevrolet and Ozo. This screening was followed the next weekend with a special screening of the of Black Panther in honor of the recently passed Chadwick Boseman at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

To close out the series, on back-to-back days, families were treated two Disney classics. First tucked away in a campground environment, gathered away from the shining lights of the city at Kenneth Hahn State recreation area families were shown Remember the Titans, featuring Denzel Washington. Offering not just a unique setting, but a powerful storyline that resonates parallels to the moment we are in today and the need for strength and unity to forge a path forward.

And on the following day, Disney family favorite, Moana, was played at the newly revitalized Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park. The screening served as the culmination of a day of celebratory activities at the park that included a special visit from the park’s namesake—Magic Johnson himself—in anticipation of its reopening after $70 million upgrades. Even at night, the community was able to safely come to life with families strolling the completed areas of the park after dark.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

Working in conjunction with event partners: View Park Organization, Empowerment Congress West Area, New Mount Calvary, Animo Watts College Preparatory Academy, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation Chevrolet, and OZO, the two drive-in experiences provided safe, community relief and diversion for families and individuals of all ages in the South Los Angeles area. At each event, guests got their fill of free popcorn, candy, swag bags, and more from sponsors to enjoy with the movie.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

Although this series of drive-in events has ended, there will be more future opportunities for the community to continue to come together while staying COVID-19 safe.

Stay Tuned!