• George McKenna: When a Living Legend Speaks

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Candidate for the Los Angeles School Board George McKenna is living legend for many in the African-American community.

    His legend is largely due to role in turning Washington Prep High School from a failing and violent school to a renowned performing arts academy in the 1980s. The turnaround was so dramatic that a film was made about it with Denzel Washington starring as McKenna. With this film, his legend only grew.

    His almost 50 years of service meant that he served as principal of the schools attended by my parents, uncles, aunts and cousins born before 1970. My mother, a former student of Mount Vernon Junior High School, has fond memories of McKenna and remembers him from when he served Dorsey High School.

    I was reminded of this nostalgia listening in on the conversations of black educators, both retired and active, one recent Sunday at the home of San Pedro residents Ron and Vive Jones.

    He shared with his small audience of 30 or so, what he learned while on his journey through life.

    “What I’ve found, especially with people in California, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, believe that what they have is the best they can get,” McKenna said. “And they learn to live in what I call a limited reality. The disenfranchised don’t always recognize their own oppression because they live in what I call a limited reality.”

    McKenna, made clear on this evening, that he sees his role as a creator of appropriate (more…)

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  • Beach Volleyball Comes to Naught After Dispute

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    The San Pedro Booster Club-sponsored volleyball tournament scheduled for June 28 was suppose to be a summer event filled with nice clean fun on Cabrillo Beach. Instead, it is just a mess.

    The proverbial mess hit the fan May 6, when the San Pedro High School Pirates Booster Club found itself having to choose between two volleyball tournament proposals: one from former Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council board member Frank Pereyda, Ed Pluemer and Scott Carter, and the other from Dave Behar. Pereyda’s group were under the impression that they were the only ones on the agenda. The booster club voted to work with Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council president Dave Behar’s proposal to produce the summer event.

    What followed were accusations being thrown alleging co-opting of the event, the misappropriation of Los Angeles logo on promotional fliers and members handing in resignations from Coastal’s Recreation and Parks committee in protest. And over the past weekend, the San Pedro High School Pirates Booster club announced in a forwarded email they were no longer sponsoring the event.

    Ed Pleumer resigned over the weekend in the wake of the fallout, but from his references to the the discontinuation of the Max 246 bus on Paseo del Mar not being address and the good work the committee has done so far, it was not clear that his resignation had anything to do with the volleyball tournament. (more…)

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  • Sheriff Candidates Talk Tough, Talk Progressive:

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    Sheriff Candidates Talk Tough, Talk Progressive:  Questions Remain

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor This race for sheriff has produced some candidates who are good at talking tough and talking progressive as of late. With the ongoing federal investigation of the department and deputies getting indicted left and right, the circumstances may call for such candidates. Most of the candidates seem to agree that there needs to be a change in the departmental culture, but their solutions doesn’t go much beyond changing the regime running the department—presumably to one they head themselves. On one end of the spectrum, there’s sheriff candidate Paul Tanaka, who is officially under federal investigation connected to the hiding of an FBI informant in the Men’s Central Jail system.  Tanaka seems to advocate the cosmetic changes the Los Angeles Police Department pursued before being forced to submit to a federal consent decree—those cosmetic changes being the installation of a “tough” person of color in the top job to ensure diversity, ergo a chief who is sensitive to ethnic communities that has historically been the most subjected to sheriff deputy abuses. On the other end is former Men’s Central Jail Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, who has probably presented the most progressive vision on changing the department’s culture by advocating clearing out executives in the department that knew what was happening but said nothing. He has also been most vociferous in his advocacy for a civilian review board, even though there is no law that would give such a board the teeth it needs to be effective. (more…)

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  • The Whistleblower

    Candidate for LA County Sheriff Bob Olmstead Speaks on Changing the Department From Within and Without

    By Terelle Jerricks , Managing Editor

    Candidate for Los Angeles County Sheriff, Bob Olmsted, was a frustrated man in the winter of 2010 and 2011.

    He retired from his command at Men’s Central Jail when he learned his wife was terminally ill. In his two years in that command,  he made tremendous strides in curbing jail violence. After he left, he heard reports of his work at the jail coming undone and heard whispers of deputies who thought they were above the law.

    Olmsted’s mood only soured further when he tried to take his concerns up the chain of command with documents in hand.

    Finally, Olmsted tried to speak with Sheriff Lee Baca. They never spoke.  Olmsted was faced with a choice: Say nothing and collect his pension or blow the whistle to any who would listen. The first choice wouldn’t allow Olmsted to peacefully rest. The County Commission on Jail Violence documents the results of Olmsted’s second choice.
    The jail violence commission identified two important events as catalysts in the dramatic drops in use of force incidents between 2009 and 2011, after a rapid increase in force incidents from 2008 to 2009. The report said: (more…)

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  • RLn ENTERTAINMENT: May 28, 2014

    June 21
    Long Beach Bayou Festival
    Celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Long Beach Bayou Festival, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 21 and 22, at Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach.
    The event is a zydeco, blues, Creole and Cajun festival. Tickets start at $25.
    Details: (562) 912-4451; www.longbeachbayou.com

    June 22
    Tributo a Las Divinas Cubanas
    The Museum of Latin American Art presents Tributo a las Divas Cubanas, June 22, as part of its Summer Sundays at MoLAA concert series, showcasing Afro-Cuban music.
    Cuban vocalist and former member of Bamboleo, Yordamis, will pay a musical homage to legendary Cuban troubadours: Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Celeste Mendoza, and Graciela. In a genre dominated by men, these chanteuses proved to be as formidable as their male counterparts. Backed by the West Coast Salsa Orchestra, Yordamis will perform the songs that have memorialized each Diva in her own right and continue to be steadfast favorites.
    Yordamis Megret was born in the province of Oriente in Cuba. She made her debut at the age of 5 as a singer at Teatro Guiñol in her hometown. In 1995 she graduated with honors from National School of Art in Havana. In Cuba, Yordamis worked with NG La Banda director, Jose Luis “El Tosco” Cortes, as well as Orchestra Bamboleo. After four years of successful tours and performances with Bamboleo she launched her solo career, remaining in the United States. Yordamis, a resident of Miami works as a classical guitar teacher as well as the lead singer for her own orchestra.
    Details: (562) 437-1689; www.molaa.org
    Venue: MoLAA
    Location: 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach

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  • Citizenship Application Volunteers

    The Greater LB Interfaith Community Organization is seeking volunteers to assist people with filling out their citizenship applications, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 14.

    The group also is seeking volunteers to help with data entry, updating its website and other forms of communications.

    Details: (562) 533-4903

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  • RL NEWS: May 28, 2014

    San Pedro & Peninsula and Wilmington YMCA Board Member

    Receives Top Recognition

    SAN PEDRO – YMCA of San Pedro & Peninsula and Wilmington announced, May 22, that long-time board member and Palos Verdes resident, Arthur McAllister, received the Distinguished Golden Book of Service Award from the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles Association.

    The award is the highest honor a volunteer can receive in the YMCA of Los Angeles.  It’s given to those who have at least 10 years of service, have given a high priority to the YMCA.

    McAllister has served on the Metropolitan of Los Angeles Board of Directors and for more than 30 years on the San Pedro & Peninsula and Wilmington Board of Managers. He and his wife, Cheri, have been active volunteers, running camp programs and serving in the Adventure Guides/Princesses program for more than 20 years.   Both his children, Chris and Karen, participated in the San Pedro & Peninsula branch’s swimming program. He has been chair of the board, leading the Capital Campaign that helped open the Wilmington Program Center and remodel the San Pedro & Peninsula facility. He is also a member of the President’s Club.

     

    Pedro Educator Selected as Preschool Teacher of the Year (more…)

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  • Food Not Bombs: Defying Authority for a Higher Purpose

    Make no mistake: the members of Food Not Bombs are a bunch of lawbreakers. Bunches is more like it. With at least 500 chapters worldwide (and maybe more than twice that number), every day Food Not Bombers are defying the myriad laws restricting food-sharing. Sharing food with the hungry is an unregulated act of kindness, proclaims the Food Not Bombs Website. Resist all laws restricting compassion.

    That’s exactly what Maura Cotter, founder of Long Beach’s second Food Not Bombs chapter, is doing. And she’s been to jail for it.

    The wheels of Cotter’s brush with the law were set in motion almost as soon as Cotter founded her Food Not Bombs chapter. Inspired by an offhand comment Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry made about how funny it would be for a Food Not Bombs chapter to share in front of a fast-food restaurant, Cotter and her chapter—originally consisting of only three or four people—began sharing vegan breakfast burritos every Wednesday afternoon in front of the Long Beach McDonald’s at 7th Street and Long Beach Boulevard.

    “Our idea is to bring awareness to people who are going into McDonald’s and give them a healthy choice,” Cotter explains. “Or even people who are coming out of McDonald’s and giving them a snack for later and being like, ‘Hey, this is a healthier meal than what you just ate.'”

    Apparently that practice didn’t sit well with McDonald’s management, who complained to police about Cotter and company on multiple occasions. Typically responding officers found nothing actionable. But one Wednesday afternoon LBPD Officer Armand Castellanos saw things differently.

    “The minute he came on, he grabbed my wrist, and he said (I think this is his favorite line), ‘We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way,'” Cotter recounts. “And because I remained silent and wouldn’t answer any of his questions, it pissed him off. He’s very aggro, very macho.”

    Cotter was cited for blocking the sidewalk/block access to a business, a charge she vehemently denies.

    “We never do that,” Cotter says. “We’re always to the side. And we’re not even aggressive with our language. We’re just trying to share with people ideas about healthier eating, and also the idea of free culture. Because a lot of people are so consumed by our money exchange. And so being able to give homemade food for free is really very special.”

    Ironically, the LBPD’s own photos of the incident contributed to the city prosecutor’s decision not to file charges against Cotter.

    But that didn’t clear up the matter of Cotter’s arrest for an alleged offense that typically garners only a citation. Cotter petitioned the court for a finding of factual innocence. And despite the fact that the City Prosecutor’s Office attempt to argue that “the intent as to why they were there in the first place” should be a factor in the court’s denying Cotter’s motion, Judge Dennis W. Carroll found more than enough reason to grant Cotter’s finding.

    “This does not seem to be a close case to me,” said Carroll. “It’s Constitutionally-protected speech, however unhappy McDonald’s might be with it. […] According to the photograph, even if they linked arms, they couldn’t block the sidewalk, even if they wanted to. […] The nexus of this kind of offense has to be a physical obstruction And based on what’s before me, I find it simply wasn’t possible and would be happy to find a factual finding of innocence. It seems to me the People exercised their discretion well in not taking this case to a jury, where they probably would have had their head handed to them. And this is just the next step. I don’t think it’s fair to Miss Cotter to stick her with a criminal arrest record for non-criminal conduct.”

    About a week later, the same LBPD officer was caught on video subjecting a member of Long Beach’s other Food Not Bombs chapter to similar treatment, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car, before being released a half-hour later without charge.

    “I had my camera and began filming, and the officer rushed he pulled my arm and said, ‘Gimme that. What do you think you’re doing?’ says Elliot Gonzalez. “I was forced into the car and told to shut up when I asked why this was happening.”

    Although both Long Beach Food Not Bombs chapters say they have not experienced a repeat of the August incidents (and Food Not Bombs as a whole says arrests are rare these days), they serve as reminders of the opposition anti-establishment organizations may face from the establishment even when engaging in non-criminal conduct.

    A trace of such opposition could be seen in the hearing that led to the finding of Cotter’s factual innocence, when Heng Lim, speaking on behalf of City Prosecutor’s Office, argued that “the intent as to why [Cotter and her group] were there in the first place” was part of the probable cause for Cotter’s arrest, a notion Judge Carroll dismissed outright.

    Food Not Bombs was once regularly subjected to persecution. Beginning in 1988, a quarter-century to the month before Cotter’s arrest, San Francisco police embarked on a decade-long campaign to stop one of the original Food Not Bombs chapters from sharing food in Golden Gate Park. Ironically, the 1,000+ arrests that took place transformed Food Not Bombs from a few people sharing food in just two cities to tens of thousands of food-sharers in over a thousand locations worldwide.

    “Each wave of arrests would inspire other people to start Food Not Bombs chapters,” says McHenry, who was arrested over 100 times. “And that’s really why it’s a global movement today. Other cities would suffer arrests, and that would inspire another wave of interest. It went on and on like that. It was really incredible. […] We would probably not be a global group today if it wasn’t for the arrests.”

    Strictly speaking, not all Food Not Bombs activities may be legal (although as Health Department spokesperson Jackie Hampton admits, interpreting regulations pertaining to freely giving food to the general public “gets a little tricky”). But like any Food Not Bomber, Cotter is unconcerned about whether she is committing such infractions, since doing so fulfills a higher moral purpose, saying that even if authorities attempted to crack down on the group from this angle, Food Not Bombers would persist in their work.

    “We are technically breaking the Health and Safety Code, because we are distributing food without a permit,” Cotter says, noting that the Health Department gave her chapter a notice to this effect the day of her arrest. “[But] it’s like sharing a picnic. If people don’t want the food, they won’t take it. It’s not like we’re forcing it upon anyone. And what, are you nervous to go to a potluck and not eat that food? […] I think it’s important to be able to cut the fear that people are trying to instill in us not to communicate and share with each other.”

    Additionally, Cotter feels it is important to upset the capitalist paradigm of food distribution in the United States, a system so deeply flawed that even the U.S. Department of Agriculture admits that over 30% of the food supply typically goes to waste.

    “I would definitely say that Food Not Bombs is an anti-capitalist organization,” she says. “We’re trying to reuse the waste of the gluttonous society that we live in currently.”

    Cotter is also brining a civil-rights action against the City of Long Beach for false arrest.

    “It is my belief that it is important for people to stand up for their rights, especially in the courtroom, where there is a lot of fear around legal repercussions,” she says. “I felt scared and stressed out after I was arrested, even though I knew that I had done nothing illegal. That fear is what keeps the current police state we live in place.”

    Challenging the establishment is a central tenet of Food Not Bombs, as the organization makes clear on its national Website:

    Even though we provide meals and groceries to thousands of people[,] we are not a charity. Food Not Bombs is trying to inspire the public to participate in changing society and focus our resources on solving problems like hunger, homelessness and poverty while seeking an end to war and the destruction of the environment. We are also showing by example that we can work cooperatively without leaders through volunteer effort to provide essential needs like, food, housing, education and healthcare. When over a billion people go hungry each day[,] how can we spend another dollar on war?

    It’s just that kind of debate that Cotter says her chapter’s activities help spark locally.

    “Some of the most interesting conversations are with people you wouldn’t expect to take [the food],” she says. “The idea is to share with everyone, no matter where they are within our economic system in society. […] We’re just trying to share with people ideas about healthier eating, and also the idea of free culture. Because a lot of people are so consumed by our money exchange. […] I think it’s important to be able to cut the fear that people are trying to instill in us not to communicate and share with each other. […] For Food Not Bombs activists, it is critical to shift our oppressive society in a new direction, and speaking truth to power through legal means is part of the same battle as giving access to free, healthy food to our community.”

    (Photo: Cotter (left) and Food Not Bombs members on the day of Cotter’s arrest.)

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  • The Last Romance

    By John Farrell

    Ralph Bellini takes a walk in a different direction for once in his retired life and it makes all the difference in his world.

    Well, actually Ralph makes the difference: Scott Renfro, playing Ralph, makes plenty of difference when he meets Carol Reynolds (Daryl Hogue France) at the dog park in a Hoboken, N.J. neighborhood and proceeds to woo her, The Last Romance of his life. He is assertive, even aggressive, she is reluctant, but together the sparks fly, the romance develops, and even music, operatic music provided by a young man, Mathew Ian Welch, with a rich and booming baritone, flows.

    But will the romance last? Will Ralph, in his 80s (but still able to drive at night as his sister, Rose Tagliagtelle tells Carol) be able to close the deal? Rose (the stalwart and always reliable Geraldine Fuentes) doesn’t think so, because she has a friend who lives in Carol’s building and knows something of her past.

    Ralph once successfully auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera but never found out. (Rose kept the knowledge to herself 60 years previously.) Now he just loves opera without regrets and he infects Carol with the bug, with the desire to see La Scala in Milan and hear the passionate music. But first he has to rescue her dog, which disappeared, and he has to make Rose, who starts out as an interfering sister but becomes more likeable, more understandable, each time she appears, understand his passion.

    France’s Carol is prim and proper, lovely but also lonely, and she is, perhaps unwillingly, perhaps not, roped into Ralph’s world. She decides she does want one more fling and books tickets to Italy. (more…)

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  • Cabaret

    There are two stories told in Cabaret, the musical which opened at the San Pedro Theatre Club and continues there through June 8.

    The first story is about love and life in the surreal world of Weimar Germany, which you probably know.

    The second, about the resurrection of James Blackman, is almost as interesting.

    Blackman was for several years the director and creator of the Civic Light Opera of the South Bay Cities, but ran into financial troubles with that group. He was kicked out of Redondo Beach and looking for a new home, with a large loyal fan base and more than a few folks who wanted their money back.

    Blackman wanted to perform at the Warner Grand Theatre but when that house wasn’t available he created a much smaller theater half-a-block way, the San Pedro Theatre Club, where he hoped to keep producing musicals, even if the house — at 78 seats — was much smaller than he had used elsewhere.

    It has taken more than a year, but Blackman now has his first musical onstage and a schedule of three others down the road. In Cabaret he has a hit on his hands and a good future in San Pedro, which, with three busily producing companies and a regular season at the Warner, is becoming a weekend destination again.

    Cabaret has been around since 1966 and was featured in a delightful movie version in 1972, but the actual musical is different, both darker and lighter: surprisingly direct in its anti-Nazi stance, but much more a musical vehicle than a glimpse of reality, a continually surprising look at the end of one era and the beginning of another and very violent one.

    Drew Fitzsimmons is the MC. His face is painted (but only slightly), while he is wise-cracking and playing with the audience as he introduces the Cabaret, the review’s acts, and the delicious and almost unbelievably accurate music that John Kander wrote for the score. (It is still hard to believe that “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” written by Kander with words by Fred Ebb, the Nazi’s iconic song, wasn’t written in 1928.) The seven-piece orchestra, led from the piano by Leslie Sharp, is a little scratchy, a little less than perfect, but then that is the way it would have been in Berlin’s Kit-Kat Club. (more…)

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