• Catching Up With Tenelle

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    The power to draw crowds hasn’t changed for Carson born, rhythm & blues, soul and reggae singer, Tenelle. Her devoted fans fill venues when she performs with her island flavor grooves and enchanting smile. This was the case again at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, August 11, when Tenelle performed with Vibrant Heights to a packed house.
    We sat down briefly after the show and she filled me in on some exciting highlights for her.

    Most importantly, she will have a new album coming out in late September, which is still not titled.  Her latest song is  All I Want Is You. It’s in the final stages and will be completed in September. She collaborated with Figi and Sammi J. and it will be her first full length album.

    Tenelle said all her musical support up to now has been from her singles, doing backup vocals for the band Common Kings and performing her own shows. The last time we talked in 2014, she was also a personal trainer. She still does that to help pay the bills but that’s clear with her radiant appearance.

    Tenelle has some new sights now, within the fashion world. She has her own brand and clothing line called, Ten Elle Gear. She was sporting a sexy black top from her line that evening.

    With her talent for manifesting beauty, with music and her presence, her clothing line should follow accordingly.


    Read More
  • Eat, Drink, Dance:

    Hispanic Heritage Month

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
    The period between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 is a designated time to recognize the Hispanic and Latino contributions to the American fabric we call the United States. Food, liquor, music and conversation are the best ways to learn.

    ¡Viva el Tequila!

    The Museum of Latin American Art is hosting a soirée Sept. 17 that they call ¡Viva el Tequila! —a tequila tasting event where attendees can sample a variety of Mexico’s official liquor.

    There will be an unlimited sampling of blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas.  Attendees will also get to sample mezcal and learn the difference between these two popular spirits of the agave fruit. The sampling will be complemented with Mexican food.

    The combination of the tequila, mezcal, the food and the music is what makes the Sept. 17 event particularly eclectic. Longtime East Los Angeles bands Quinto Sol and Subsuelo will be performing.

    Quinto Sol is a reggae band, whose music is deeply rooted in community and roots music from the Caribbean and Africa.

    Subsuelo is a DJ collective out of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, whose music includes musical genres of tropical funk, cumbia, hip-hop, flamenco and everything in between.

    Participating brands include Apocalypto Tequila, Don Nacho Tequila, Herradura Tequila, Hacienda de Chihuahua, Suerte Tequila, Puno de Lobos Tequila

    Mezcal:  Sangre de Vida Mezcal, Mezcal Marques, Mezcal Vago

    All guests are automatically entered for a chance to win a bottle of tequila. Attendees must be 21 and older to participate.

    Time: 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 17
    Cost: $50 to $60
    Details: Molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach

    Aquarium of the Pacific Tequila Dinner

    The Aquarium of the Pacific is putting on a tequila dinner — a sustainable farm-to-table feast paired with Casa Mexico tequilas—on the Aquarium’s roof-top veranda on Sept. 22.

    At this event the food has equal billing with the tequila.

    The amuse buche (in this case, an hors d’oeuvre paired with the ideal Casa Mexico tequila) will be the duck confit croquette with Frog Hollow Farms plum chutney, followed by a three-course meal.

    The first course will feature sustainable diver scallop crudo with pickled celery, Bebe Farms shaved radish, puffed quinoa and miso lime vinaigrette paired with Casa Mexico Blanco tequila.

    The second course will feature smoked short rib, cold smoked with a cream corn timbale and tequila barbecue sauce paired with Casa Mexico Resposado tequila.

    The dessert will feature dark chocolate mousse with California Haas avocado gelato and vanilla agave foam paired with Casa Mexico Añejo tequila.

    There will even be vegetarian pairing menu due to popular demand. Just request it by Sept. 19.

    Casa Mexico is a small batch, premium tequila company founded by Eric Buccio and his partners, Hollywood talent manager Mark Schulman, actor and television personality Mario Lopez and film and television producer Mark Roberts.

    The tequila was Buccio’s brainchild, a vision he apparently had since his start marketing the energy drink, Red Bull, in its early days.  He eventually saved enough money to purchase land in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico — a place known for growing quality blue agave, a plant native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the southern United States.

    Time:  6  to 9 p.m. Sept. 22
    Cost: $65 to $75
    Details: (562) 590-3100, http://tinyurl.com/Tequila-Dinner
    Venue: Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach

    Highlight in the Month of August

    If you can’t wait until the middle of September to get some culture into your system, you can always celebrate all things Japanese at the Yatai Food Festival on Aug. 27.

    The Japan Alliance and Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute are organizing this event, which will feature South Bay street food and a beer garden exclusively provided by Sapporo beer company.

    Time: 5 p.m. Aug. 27
    Cost: $5 to $10
    Details: https://gvjci.wufoo.com/forms/yatai-food-festival
    Venue: Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, 1964 W. 162nd St., Gardena

    Read More
  • DOUBT: A PARABLE @ International City Theatre

    “Doubt,” Father Flynn tells us in the sermon that opens John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable, “can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.” Those words echo throughout the play, as we find ourselves confronted with the question of whether Flynn is molesting one of his students, an investigation spurred by a nun guided almost entirely by suspicion.

    It’s the early 1960s, and Sister Aloysius (Eileen T’Kaye), the principal at St. Nicholas Catholic Church and School, has a hunch. She’s had vague misgivings about Father Flynn (Michael Polak), so when the credulous Sister James (Erin Anne Williams) alerts her to the special attention the school’s only Black student is receiving from Flynn, Aloysius is certain the priest is molesting the boy. She has been here before: years earlier she had reason to believe a molestation was occurring. But in that parish there was a priest she could trust. “Here,” she laments, “there’s no man I can go to. And men run everything.” Nonetheless, she is resolved to take Flynn down, no matter the cost.

    The good news: Shanley’s script is masterful. Topicality aside (it debuted in 2004, shortly after the Catholic Church was publicly exposed for its history of sexual abuse), Doubt is an affecting philosophical consideration of knowledge, responsibility, conscience, and human connection, with efficient examinations of race and gender politics thrown in for good measure. Not only does Shanley conduct touch on all of this without sacrificing plot flow, he manages also to insert quite a bit of wit into a deadly serious story.

    Now for the bad: the monochromatic tone of International City Theatre drains the play of much of its feeling. It’s clear that something is amiss from the opening scene, where Polak delivers Flynn’s sermon—which is quite a good one on the page—with little apparent cognizance of the shifting modalities. Almost the entire play, in fact, sounds like a table reading by actors who have yet to dissect what they’re saying. Not only do conversations never sound conversational, more often than not the actors give and receive their lines as if their interlocutor isn’t even in the room. This seems like a conscious choice on the part of director caryn desai, with many scenes blocked so that the characters are completely out of touch with each other.

    One consequence of the lack of flesh and blood in the delivery of the dialog is that the audience receives no help in getting the gist of things. That was painfully evident in the performance I saw, where the audience laughed in numerous places where there isn’t a trace of humor in Shanley’s script. To be sure, a percentage of clueless audience members is an occupational hazard of putting on a play with as much depth as Doubt; but when the actors don’t communicate the nuances, the blame is on both sides.

    The show’s most successful scene is a conversation between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Muller (Tamika Simpkins), the mother of the boy Aloysius believes Flynn is victimizing. Mrs. Muller is onstage only for this scene, and in all of theatre there may not be a role more impactful in so little stage time. Whilte ICT’s version suffers from the show’s general defects, because the conversation reaches such a climax of raw emotion—a task Simpkins handles relatively well—nowhere else in the play does the audience rightly connect with Shanley’s words. Simpkins received an ovation as she left the stage, even though the scene was only half over.

    For those familiar with the 2008 film version of Doubt, a tour de force featuring Shanley both screenwriting (he manages to improve on the play) and directing four world-class actors (including Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman) so they get this lines just as he intends, it seems International City Theatre’s version could not possibly measure up.  The experience may be more mixed for audience members who have never seen the film. Even so, this is a show that does not rise to the level of its source material.


    (Photo credit: Tracey Roman)

    Read More
  • Aloe Blacc Celebrates Social Justice Music

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Social justice is achieved when human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society. Protest music provokes and inspires us to act and to bring light to injustices.

    That is what singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc brought to a recent concert at the Ford Amphitheater. He and his partners have tapped into the necessity for social justice artivism and seek to activate people through their work.

    The crazy antics of our election cycle, coupled with the overwhelming numbers of unwarranted shootings of people of color, prove that we are trying to coexist in very uncertain times. To balance the scales of justice would uplift society. And, that’s what Blacc is attempting to do.

    Blacc helped create Artivist Entertainment, an  independent entertainment company dedicated to representing artists whose art and music inspire positive social change. His co-founders include his wife, Maya Jupiter, Quetzal Flores, Alberto Lopez and Veronica Gonzalez.

    As a first generation son of Panamanian parents, Blacc identifies with immigrant stories. It is part of his story. To him, immigration reform in the United States would be a positive social change. His 2013 song, Wake Me Up addresses the issue in two ways, recognizing the plight of the immigrant experience and promoting compassion toward people trying to make a better life.

    Artistically speaking, he also gives recognition to his fellow musicians. Three bands and two solo guitarists performed alongside Blacc.

    Performers included Los Angeles-based, Woody Aplanalp and Fabiano Nascimento, guitarists from Rio de Janiero. Bands on the lineup included Cambalache, The Concentrates and The Brothers Band.

    During that concert, Blacc introduced the set list as songs that have inspired him to be an artivist.

    The show opened with Aretha Franklin’s, Think. Blacc sings as though his roots are in the church and the musical  arrangements  accentuated his vocal talent. He followed with his song, Love is the Answer, a soulful praise to the sentiment from his 2013 album Lift Your Spirit.

    This set went on to showcase the Latin band, Cambalache. Made up of L.A. musicians, Cambalache’s primary concept of creating and exchange comes from building community through participatory music.

    The final number was Cambalche’s De Lingo Gringo. I do not speak Spanish, but I understood three specific words:  gentrification, beautification and migration — the dialect of Americans.

    Later, Blacc rendered a cathartic song that brought to mind the gun violence in this country. The song was Bruce Springsteen’s American Skin:

    Is it a gun, is it a knife
    Is it a wallet, this is your life
    It ain’t no secret
    It ain’t no secret
    No secret my friend
    You can get killed just for living in your               
     American skin
    The Concentrates, playing a combination of cello, violin and drums, performed John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. It was a rich interpretation, juxtaposing classical and folk sounds between the violin, cello and Blacc’s vocals.

    Rhythm and blues singer, Siedeh Garret made a special appearance to close the set. Blacc joined her in singing Michael Jackson’s, Man in the Mirror, for which she wrote the lyrics. The audience was rapt.

    The final set showcased The Brothers Band. The Los Angeles-based group’s style encompasses soul, funk and rock. Closing the show, The Brothers Band lightened things up showcasing their funky indie sound. Lead vocalist, Tutu Sweeney’s voice is surprising as a wide ranging, heavenly alto with the band’s powerful and expressive sound.

    Blacc and The Brothers Band performed Teddy Pendergrast’s Wake Up, a song that encourages people to be the agents of the change they want to see. The problem, as Blacc sees it, is the songs  that make these social appeals are in the underground.

    Speaking of underground, Blacc introduced another song as an ode to Native Americans, The Parasite by Eugene McDaniel.

    In 1971, the administration of then-President Richard Nixon pressured Atlantic Records to pull the promotion of the album that included that song. The song has been described as a stinging critique of the root of American imperialism and its relationship to the genocide of America’s native populations.

    This type of music speaks to the logic of activism, in a consumerist nation.

    “You are what you eat,” said Blacc, repeating the old adage. “If you are what you eat and you consume music, watch what you consume.”

    Details: www.aloeblacc.com


    Read More
  • Gallery Closures Change the Face of the Arts District

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
    Two high profile galleries in the San Pedro Arts District have been evicted by their landlords, a stinging reversal to a cultural blueprint that the creative community had toiled for years to realize.

    TransVagrant@Warschaw Gallery, operated by Ron Linden, and Ben and Peggy Zask’s South Bay Contemporary Gallery received eviction notices for their gallery spaces after some recent events raised concern from the landlords.

    A brazen theft precipitated the request to vacate the Warschaw Gallery. Neil Nagy’s Escondido, a 3 by 6-foot mixed media abstract piece worth $10,000, was taken off the wall on July 7 during the First Thursday Art Walk. Following more than 10 years of providing free gallery space to Linden, owner Morris Warschaw decided that the space is needed to generate income for his building on the corner of 6th St., and Pacific Ave.

    That same month a goth-punk art show at the South Bay Contemporary at the Lofts made the owners of the Loft Gallery uneasy enough to eventually evict the gallery owners Ben and Peggy Zask.

    San Pedro has earned its reputation as a haven for gifted artists. On occasion, art reviewers have noted the substantial presence of the gallery scene at the edge of Los Angeles.

    Linden’s TransVagrant@WarschawGallery has been called the crowning achievement in the San Pedro art scene. His gallery has set the bar for exhibitions in San Pedro. Highly acclaimed  artists from the greater Los Angeles area have exhibited their works at Warschaw while he’s curated the gallery.

    “One Southern California art veteran, Ron Linden, is also curating in the South Bay,” stated Los Angeles art critic Mat Gleason in a statement for the online blog DiversionsLA. “His TransVagrant @ Warschaw Gallery in San Pedro has hosted exhibitions for almost a decade now, specializing in rigorous, almost scholarly shows, primarily of painting.”

    Linden is grateful to his landlord, Morris Warschaw, who allowed him to exhibit art in the breezeway of the building.

    “Thanks to Morris Warschaw for his foresight, imagination and willingness to convert an innocuous foyer into an eccentric, and often stunning, exhibition space serving San Pedro for more than a decade,” Linden wrote in an email announcement of the closure.

    Happily, with the combined assistance of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Department, KTLA and CBS news, and Facebook, and this newspaper’s coverage, the missing painting by Neil Nagy was returned.

    Linden will go on curating under the banner of TransVagrant. He will continue to produce exhibitions and performances at various venues, including the Harbor College Fine Arts Gallery. Look for Jay McCafferty, On Being Blue, coming in September.

    The final closing exhibition of Warschaw Gallery honors the painter of the infamous stolen art, Neil Nagy. The closing celebration of Neil Nagy: An Introspective, takes place on  Aug. 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Gallery 478, 478 W. 7th St., and at  TransVagrant@Warschaw Gallery. Nagy’s abstract figurative paintings, drawings and sculptures have been exhibited internationally. His work is highly prized by galleries, museums and even uneducated art thieves.

    Linden’s space, as well as experimental gems like Cornelius Project, show the range of galleries in San Pedro — from the adventurous to the punk, Gleason wrote.

    Ironically, it was this same experimental punk spirit that brought misfortune to South Bay Contemporary Gallery. South Bay Contemporary announced a final exhibit to open Sept. 1 in the Loft Space after attendees of the exhibit, Surf/Goth and Punk, the July show, left liquor bottles and footprints on the walls, impressions leftover from a spontaneous mosh pit.

    The Loft Building’s owner, Jeff Crouthamel, has proven his commitment to the arts throughout the years by providing low-cost studios for highly regarded San Pedro artists. The tenants include nationally recognized neon artist Candice Gawne, and San Pedro treasure Muriel Olguin, but the show went beyond the limits of Crouthamel’s generosity.  The gallery was asked to leave when the damage was discovered the next morning. Crouthamel decided to give them time to find a new gallery space and to have one final exhibit.

    It will be hard to replace such an active gallery, which is known for its group shows, frequently showing 20 or 30 artists each month. The Sept. 1 art walk will mark the gallery’s final exhibit in the Loft, Post Waste. The art in the show is predominantly, if not solely, made from post-consumer waste. Gallery owners Peggy and Ben Zask hold on to plans to continue with the South Bay Contemporary project. The couple is seeking a new gallery space, preferably in San Pedro.

    Which Direction for Downtown San Pedro?

    Each month the popular First Thursday Art Walk brings 3,000 to 4,000 people into downtown San Pedro. But the question remains as to how to brand the district and how to keep artists working within the geographic area. Since the demise of the Community Redevelopment Agency, there has been  little financial assistance available to galleries from either the Property Owners Business Improvement District or the Port of Los Angeles.

    With many empty buildings, primarily on 6th Street, downtown has a deserted appearance during the 353 days of the year, when there isn’t an art walk. Artists have complained of tariffs added to rents by some property owners, which make it difficult to maintain studio space downtown.

    A recent study published by Michael Gatanz analyzed occupancy in downtown San Pedro. His study concludes that 31 percent of the downtown frontage is empty. The study also states that 6th Street has five years of currently vacant inventory—a real estate measurement that loosely means that many units have gone unrented for a long time. Many of these spaces could be utilized by the arts, which have a proven track record of revitalizing depressed urban areas.

    But landlords consistently ask for higher rents than the market will bear and often fail to negotiate rents even during recessionary times.

    The San Pedro PBID seems to have a separate agenda for downtown, apart from creating an arts district. While its website proclaims the First Thursday Art Walk in a headline banner, no one truly claims ownership of the event, since the demise of the CRA sponsored Arts, Culture and Entertainment district ran out of funding and was converted into a nonprofit 501c (3) organization.

    Nevertheless, on Thursday, Sept. 1, the organizers of L.A. Fleet Week, headed up by Arley Baker of the Port of Los Angeles and Jonathan Williams of the USS Iowa, plan to use the art walk to welcome the Navy in its inaugural L.A. Fleet Week that they predict will attract some 250,000 visitors to the waterfront.

    In a meeting called by Yolanda Regalado of Sirens Coffee and Tea, and Michael Stearns of Studio 347, business owners and artists met with Lorena Parker, the executive director of PBID, to discuss a plan to create a fitting welcome for the Navy.

    PBID has plans to close off sections of 6th and 7th streets from Mesa to Centre streets to automobile traffic, as well as provide ‘parklets’ to extend the sidewalk seating that evening. It will also allow artists to display their work outside galleries, which will help to remind visitors that, “Hey, there’s art here,” not just food trucks. Yet the inclusion of the artists in the district only happened after much of the Fleet Week events were already planned.

    Meeting attendees raised concerns about the integrity of the arts district and the Art Walk. Residents and businesses are increasingly concerned about events such as Hot Import Nights, which promotes street racing, and advertises the event as a DJ party with ‘hot import babes.’  In 2015, noise from the event, placed in the middle of the arts district, shut down businesses such as the performance of Joan of Arc at Theatricum Elysium.

    The Arts Culture and Entertainment District, recently renamed Waterfront Arts District, has chosen to finance and exhibit art on the streets, rather than studio art, through their project, Unexpected Pedro. In order to further this goal, a $30,000 mural grant was obtained from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and earmarked for a mural in the Lilyan Fiermin Walkway off of 6th St. An announcement is pending to name the winner, chosen from 46 submissions. The Waterfront District recently completed their first fundraising event and plan to continue funding artists to paint utility boxes along the streets of the downtown area, marking the perimeters of the district.

    An arts district requires benefactors, and a few have stepped forward. The Marylyn and Chuck Klaus Arts Center, a gift to Marymount University opened last year on 6th Street in downtown San Pedro. A pop-up exhibition space on 6th St., has been provided for Angels Gate Cultural Center by Eric Eisenberg of The Renaissance Group, so they can participate in the monthly art walk. Property owner and art curator Robin Hinchliffe has committed to renting to only working artists in her studios on 5th and 7th streets. Her stable rents have allowed studio artists to thrive in those buildings.

    Until recently, Hinchliffe curated Angel’s Ink Gallery in her building on 7th St., where she exhibited works on paper.

    “It is the joy of bringing ideas to people visually. I could be seeing something that makes you feel wonderful or joyful, and you can’t even figure out why,” said Hinchliffe. “When that works it is wonderful.”

    Hinchliffe regrettably closed her gem of a gallery, but it was quickly replaced by a gallery specializing in Latin American art, Menduiña Schneider Art Gallery.

    All these changes take place within the context of the proposed $100 million Ports O’ Call revitalization project, as well as the recent request for proposals to operate the Warner Grand Theatre.

    Unless you have a sponsor or a high-dollar grant to pay the bills, living in Los Angeles can be an economic roller coaster for a self-employed artist. A strong downtown San Pedro can be established by efforts to keep galleries and artists living and working in this eclectic urban center at the edge of Los Angeles.

    Read More
  • Davidson Takes SPHS Band to New Heights

    By Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaug, Editorial Intern

    The San Pedro High School band has seen more success this past year than it has in recent memory. In December, the San Pedro High School’s Golden Pirate Regiment swept first place honors at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s All City Marching Band and Drill Team championship.

    The month before, at the Southern California School Band and field Ban 1A Championships, San Pedro High won every award but music effect.

    This past April, the Pirates won first place out of 92 schools in the Winter Guard Association in Southern California Scholastic AAA competition. The Pirates’ string of successes during the 2015-16 school year were not a fluke.

    They coincided with the hiring of Darnella Davidson, who arrived in San Pedro from the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles, where she was a director of the heralded Los Angeles High School band program—winner of 25 consecutive Los Angeles Unified School District Band and Drill Team City Championships titles and three Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association gold medals.

    In addition to those awards, Davidson’s bands at Los Angeles High won three Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association 1A Division Field Band Championships, and three Southern California Drumline Division III Championships. Her concert bands have earned “superior” ratings for performance and sight-reading in SCSBOA and LAUSD Music Festivals.

    In 2014, 30 members of her Los Angeles High marching band played with Grammy winning recording artist, Pharrell, during a screening and panel discussion at the Grammy Showcase.

    With her credentials, Davidson could have gone anywhere, but because of her connection to its late band director, Paul Purdy, she came to San Pedro High.

    The world of high school band directors at the district level is small—so small that many, if not most of them, are on friendly yet competitive terms. Davidson and Purdy had known each other for about 20 years.

    Davidson was one of the few who knew of Purdy’s plans to retire before it became public knowledge. They talked about what might happen next.

    “I said, ‘Well, when you retire let me know because I might be interested in coming over and running the band program,’” Davidson recounted.

    When Purdy retired after the 2014-15 school, Davidson said, “‘OK, let me check it out.’ After some due diligence, she saw it was a good fit and interviewed for the job.

    [three_fourth_last][portfolio_slideshow][/three_fourth_last]Purdy died shortly after he retired. The school auditorium was renamed, “The Paul Fletcher Purdy Memorial Auditorium.”

    Davidson said that one of the features that attracted her to San Pedro was the band program at Dana Middle School—a program that has traditionally outshined its high school neighbor.

    “I liked the fact that there was a good feeder program,” she said. “Dana Middle School was a big draw for me to come over here.”

    Despite Los Angeles High’s better-equipped band program and its success during her 28 years as its director, Davidson said she had no misgivings about leaving.

    “I felt it was time for something new,” she said. “A friend of mine once told me ‘Make sure you have no regrets.’ I had to think about it long and hard and I have no regrets. It was time to move on.”

    Davidson started work in August 2015, the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

    “There was so much talent and potential in these kids,” Davidson said. “The kids just needed discipline and confidence to shine. The talent was here, the talent was clearly here and that was what was so exciting about coming over here.”

    Davidson noted that turning the program around was not easy.

    “Many of the kids didn’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, so I had to build that up,” Davidson said.

    Discipline was the next challenge, to rein in all the youthful energy and direct it into a positive direction.

    Davidson’s said her goal is to inspire children to believe they have unlimited potential.

    “With that mindset it encourages me to keep working,” she said.

    Davidson has also been working closely with Dana Middle School band director and Purdy protégé, Efrain Nava.

    “We talk every day about the program and just things in general and we get along very well,” Davidson said. “He does such a great job with the Dana band and our kids primarily come from Dana so it makes sense for us to work closely.”

    Davidson was a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District. In her teens, she was a drum major leading the University High School band. She was among 250 students chosen for the Los Angeles All-City Band, which annually represents LAUSD in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

    Davidson was also a drum major at Cal State Northridge, earning a degree in music, then embarking on a career of teaching and directing school bands.

    Davidson believes she still has much more to accomplish with the San Pedro High School band. She hopes to build a drum line, but needs more students to get involved in percussion first.

    Declining enrollment has significantly impacted San Pedro High. According to numbers by the California Department of Education the school’s enrollment has dropped by 30 percent from its high 2004 high to 3,576 in the 2015-16 school year.

    The resulting loss of funding has forced the school to layoff five teachers this year. Board members at a recent School Based Management meeting feared there could be more layoffs in the future.

    The enrollment decline has coincided with the rise of local charter schools such as Port of Los Angeles and Alice M. Baxter High schools.

    Davidson agrees that competition from local charter schools has had an impact on San Pedro High.

    “I think it has had an effect because when we’re trying to recruit kids, we seem to be trying to recruit the ones that tend to be going over to the charter schools,” she said.

    Davidson remains excited about the possibilities at San Pedro High School.

    “There are so many great programs here. You can be anything and everything you ever wanted to be here at San Pedro High,” she said.

    “And yet, you go to a charter and they don’t have any music program; they’re limited as far as sports are concerned and their academic offerings are no better than the ones here at San Pedro. So, I think that if we can just contact parents and change their mindsets it would be great.”

    Looking ahead, Davidson said the work of building up band program is still a work in progress.

    “It would be great to take the band on a trip out of state,” she said.  “That would be an ultimate goal for me. But that’s going to take time and money.”

    Read More
  • Lincoln Heights Jail: The City Asks for Ideas

    82,000 People Are Homeless on Any Given Night in LA County

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    I was quite surprised to read the Los Angeles Times article about the city asking for ideas on reuse possibilities for the Lincoln Heights Jail. It’s a vacant property the city has owned since 1931. It sits just north of Chinatown across the LA River.

    The jail has been closed since 1965 and has been used in various films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Night Train. The music video for Lady Gaga’s song, Telephone, was shot there.

    The jail is also the site of the Bloody Christmas of 1951—an incident that inspired the fictional film noir thriller, L.A. Confidential. It involved seven young Latino and white men who were mercilessly beaten while in the custody of Los Angeles police officers. Eight officers were eventually indicted, 39 were suspended and 54 transferred when news of the beating got out.

    The request for proposals for the jail makes me wonder just how much unused property the city owns that could be put to better purposes especially in light of the proposed $1.2 billion city bond measure to address the rising tide of homelessness.
    My first response to the article was, “Am I the only one in the entire city who sees the obvious solution?”

    Other facts about L.A.’s homeless population:

    • The average age is 40—women tend to be younger.

    • 33 to 50 percent are female. Men make up about 75 percent of the single population.

    • About 42 to 77 percent do not receive public benefits to which they are entitled.

    • 20 to 43 percent are in families, typically headed by a single mother.

    • An estimated 20 percent are physically disabled.

    • 41 percent of adults were employed within the past year.

    • 16 to 20 percent of adults are employed.

    • About 25 percent are mentally ill.

    • As children, 27 percent lived in foster care or group homes; 25 percent were physically or sexually abused

    • 33 to 66 percent of single individuals have substance abuse issues.

    • 48 percent have graduated from high school; 32 percent have a bachelor degree or higher (as compared to 45 percent and 25 percent for the population overall respectively).

    Less than a mile from the old jail is the largest homeless population in the entire county that is getting squeezed out by gentrification. There are dozens of homeless service providers on Skid Row who, with the right amount of funding and a few developers could work up a plan.

    It seems like the perfect solution for both the homeless and for those who see homelessness as a crime: convert an unused jail into the next permanent housing project.

    Well, not so fast. Even if someone at City Hall recognized the logic of this plan, it would be years before it got rebuilt.

    I wrote to City Controller Ron Galperin about my exasperation.

    “The city is asking for ‘ideas’ from the community on what to do with this derelict property is kind of amazing since not more than a few miles from this location is the highest concentration in the city of our homeless population. I am shocked that city government can’t see that the first priority for the reuse of city-owned property is to address the homeless crisis. One of the more affordable ways to address this problem would be to use and re-purpose properties that the city already owns and controls,” I wrote. Finding affordable land in the city is going to be one the major challenges in deciding where to spend the $1.2 billion.
    I then asked the question, “Just how much property does the City of LA own that could be converted to housing?”

    The answer that I received back a few weeks later from Galperin was astounding.

    “There are several thousands of properties—though not all suitable for development,” he wrote.

    He went on to tell me that the Controller’s Office is just now putting together a report listing all of these properties that the city council should consider. When I asked how much these properties might be worth, he replied, “As to their value—that’s a future project!”
    Of course, there are those who would simply just chase the homeless out of their neighborhoods and into someone else’s or perhaps throw them all in jail, because as they say, “The homeless are all drug addicts and pedophiles.”

    Yet, every law enforcement expert I’ve talked to says homelessness is not a crime and we can’t police our way out of this problem. And they shouldn’t be asked to. Policing our way out is a costlier burden. And, as you can see, it doesn’t work.
    So for those who haven’t been schooled on the problem or who are just complaining about it on Facebook, here are the facts—not from me, but by one of the leading nonprofit agencies that deals with this issue.

    According to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center, an estimated 254,000 men, women and children experience homelessness in Los Angeles County during some part of the year and about 82,000 people are homeless on any given night. Unaccompanied youth, especially in the Hollywood area, are estimated to make up from 4,800 to 10,000 of these.

    Although homeless people may be found throughout the county, the largest percentages are in South Los Angeles and Metro Los Angeles. Most are from the Los Angeles area and stay in or near the communities from which they came. About 14 to 18 percent of homeless adults in Los Angeles County are not U.S. citizens compared with 29 percent of adults overall. A high percentage—as high as 20 percent — are veterans. African Americans make up about half of the Los Angeles County homeless population—disproportionately high compared to the percentage of African Americans in the county overall (about 9 percent).

    Let me emphasize the first point: 254,000 men, women and children experience homelessness in Los Angeles County during some part of the year and about 82,000 people are homeless on any given night. That’s the real challenge and it is huge. The nonprofit and government resources that are available don’t come close to solving this problem. What has come out of LA City Council, thus far, is a patchwork of Band Aids and hammers, with a promise of $100 million per year but resources to only fund $13 million. The Controller’s Office issued a report this past year saying that the cost to the city in law enforcement was some $80 million.

    Even with the anticipated $1.2 billion city bond, it will be years before the first project gets built or renovated. No matter your take on the homeless, it’s time to recognize one truth, we can either have them living on our sidewalks, sleeping in their cars on our streets or we can push for change. The first step would be to use a few of these thousands of properties that Galperin has discovered and allow for their temporary use as emergency transition centers, you might liken them to triage facilities, for off street parking or temporary shelter where social services can be offered.

    This won’t solve 100 percent of the problem, but it beats waiting five years for the first permanent housing unit to be built and it’s better than the continued whack-a-mole enforcement deployed by Los Angeles Police Department in response to community complaints. There is no guaranteed success with trying this solution but we all know what repeating the same action that’s having no effect is called.

    Read More
  • RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN @ Little Fish Theatre

    Isms are sticky wickets. However useful your favorite ism may be as a belief system and a way of seeing, individual and societal realities are far too messy ever to be fully accounted for by it. Feminism is no different.

    Not that feminism is monadic. That’s the philosophical jumping-off point for Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, a story about how maybe you really can’t have it all, baby, but you’re an empowered being nonetheless. The first characters we’re introduced to are not dramatis personae, but Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly, whose opposing viewpoints framed much of the discourse on second-wave feminism. As we are told via piped-in, Wikipedia-like narrative just after the lights go down, while Friedan championed the idea that women had just as much right and ability as men to create a career path and need not define themselves as mothers and homemakers, Schlafly advocated the maintenance of traditional gender roles.

    After this prologue begins the play proper, with the “family or career” question front and center. Back in grad school Catherine (Suzanne Dean) won a fellowship to study for a year in London. Boyfriend Don (Patrick Rafferty) stayed behind, where her roommate Gwen (Christina Morrell) wooed and won him. Since then Catherine has become something of a rock star in the world of feminist studies, while Don and Gwen focused on domesticity: she’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids who never got her graduate degree, while he is dean at “a fourth-rate liberal-arts college,” his intellectual ambitions a thing of the past. Catherine is seeing them for the first time in a dozen years, having come back from New York to stay with her devoted mother (Mary-Margaret Lewis), who recently had a heart attack. As we soon find out, this visit was precipitated by a drunken phone call a few weeks earlier, when Catherine and Gwen confided to each other their doubts about the road taken. Catherine went so far as to say she would like to switch lives with Gwen, and now Gwen has gone further: she’s taken steps to make it a reality.

    Gionfriddo has a lot to say in Rapture, Blister, Burn (a terrible title for this play), but she doesn’t always find a good way to say it. To cram in all of the feminist philosophy she thinks she needs (and probably does need) to tell this story, Gionfriddo has come up with the awkward conceit of having Catherine teach a course in her mother’s living room, Gwen and Avery (Kimmy Shields), Gwen and Don’s 21-year-old babysitter, being the only students. This certainly provides a forum for some trigenerational takes on both Friedan and Schlafly, but it’s all woefully contrived.

    More generally, Gionfriddo never manages to make her characters sound very lifelike. Their emotions and reactions are genuine enough, but most of the dialog has a wonkiness that sounds like what a creative AI might come up with to flesh out these human-made scenarios. Director Mark Piatelli hasn’t done anything to ameliorate this. His cast seems capable of evoking genuine human interaction, but Piatelli seems to have been satisfied with their work once it got to the level of rendering the lines smoothly. That’s great if you’re doing Oscar Wilde, which is supposed to sound artificial, but it’s bad for a human drama. At one point in the show Shields flubbed a line the way people do in the heat of a back-and-forth, and that flub—and the heat that came with it, the way she flushed as she tried to get out what she meant to say—was my favorite bit of acting, giving Gionfriddo’s dialog the good kick in the ass it needs.

    Despite these shortcomings, Rapture, Blister, Burn offers much to chew on. After intermission Gionfriddo cleverly takes us in unexpected directions. The world and the people in it are messy, and perhaps in spite of herself Phyllis Schlafly may have something useful to contribute to the discussion of how women—and men, for that matter—make their way in the world. It’s a nuanced applications of feminisms and how they fit together.

    Along the way Gionfriddo drops in some good laughs, especially after intermission, particularly with the character of Avery (Shields does a nice job not being jokey with the best lines), whose supporting role could have been dismissible if Gionfriddo had not taken care to make her a full-fledged member of the story. The humor always seems organic to the goings-on. They’re jokes, but they’re never incongruous to the dramatic flow.

    Like people, like society, like the choices women often must make, Rapture, Blister, Burn is imperfect. That doesn’t mean there isn’t enough to redeem it to make it worth your time and effort, for which you will be rewarded with something that stays with you once you’ve left the confines of the little theater in which it plays out.


    (Photo credit: Mickey Elliott)

    Read More
  • Eat Dessert, Be a Sweet Tooth

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    By the age of three, I knew where to get cookies and cake in the Harbor Area. Half the time I begged to go to the First Presbyterian Church of San Pedro, just so I could go to Polly Ann’s bakery after service. My family was Catholic, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me. I was a chubby kid and a hell of a negotiator.

    There are a lot of small businesses, family-owned bakeries and the like that have been around for decades, providing homemade deliciousness to the Harbor Area. We all love those. But here are some of the new kids on the block slangin’ sugary goodness to people itching for a fix. And they ain’t just cookies neither.

    Lemon Drop Martini

    Courtesy photo.

    Drunken Cake Pops

    I’m not a huge fan of taking flavored shots at bars or shoving huge pieces of cake in my mouth. But I suppose there should be a place where the two meet in the middle. Cake pops infused with liquor is that happy medium. And I do appreciate both cake and hard liquor in small doses, so Drunken Cake Pops inside the Crafted warehouse off 22nd Street in San Pedro works for me.

    Yes, you can taste alcohol. Of course, they have a gluten-free option. But my favorites include the lemon drop martini, a lemon cake pop with vodka and a sugar coating, and the Southern Gentleman, which is slightly more potent than the others. Think Hennessy, whiskey, brandy and Southern Comfort in caramel and sea salt, then joined in a glorious dark chocolate cake pop. I’d take several Southern Gentleman — the cake pops and the literal translation.

    Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday

    Drunken Cake Pops is at Crafted, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro

    Snow Monster

    There is  a lot of food porn on Instagram, and Snow Monster is practically a dream for ice cream lovers. I’ve been eyeing Snow Monster for a while. When I saw the adorable little bear face logo go up on an unassuming sign in Belmont Shore, I knew my prayers had been answered. The day the store opened (more than several months ago) there was a line around the block and the line is still there. They’re known for shaved ice cream that essentially looks like a mound of colored snow with varying flavors and adorning sundries to sprinkle over the top. One serving is enough to feed an entire family. They also do made-to-order ice cream sandwiches with fresh macaroon cookies, all baked in-house and ready to be devoured. But the true show stoppers are their Jar Drinks— huge glass jars that are filled with milky tea and boba balls, and wrapped in a cotton candy cloud. I know. “What the hell does that even mean or look like?” Jesus! It’s something magical and I have to say the first time I saw it, I giggled. My inner fat kid came out to play with diabetes that day.

    Hours: 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily

    Snow Monster is at 5211 E.  2nd St. in Long Beach.

    Yellow Vase


    Courtesy photo

    Well, if this place isn’t just the cutest. Known for breakfast and brunch, the Yellow Vase also has tarts, cakes, pastries and plenty more to choose from. The staff is friendly, the food is good and it’s a nice place to sit and hang with a cup of coffee. One of several locations, the petite French-inspired eatery definitely brings a little bit of culture and class to the area. Although speaking of class, I did hear one lovely gentleman bitching about how he had to order at the counter. Sir, you just ordered several different pastries, so you could stand to burn a few extra calories by ordering at the counter and then walking to a table. Don’t be a petite dick.

    Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

    Yellow Vase is at 28902 S. Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes

    Gina Ruccione is a Southern California Restaurant Writers Association member. Visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com. Got a food tip? Email her at gina.rooch@gmail.com. Follow her food adventures Instagram @foodfashionfoolishfornication.

    Read More
  • Filipinos’ Straw Before the Wind

    By Christian L. Guzman, Contributing Reporter

    Walk into a hospital and there’s a strong chance you’ll see a Filipino nurse. Data from the California Healthcare Foundation reports that Filipinos, despite representing three percent of the general population, make up 18 percent of all nurses.

    Turn on the television to a show that is set in a hospital and suddenly the chance you’ll spot a Filipino nurse is a lot more … chancy.

    “You don’t see Filipinos in shows like ER or Grey’s Anatomy [even though] they dominate the nursing industry,” said playwright Felix Racelis.  “It’s as if  [T.V. and filmmakers] live on another planet.”

    Racelis wrote As Straw Before the Wind to more-accurately capture Filipino-American presence in American media. In the new play, Filipinos tell their stories. The main character, Nene Santos, is a Filipino nurse who owns and operates a convalescent home with her daughter, Pelita.

    The primary conflict in the play is due to simultaneous obstacles Nene faces. She wants to grow her business, eventually retire and bequeath the business to her daughter. However, Pelita has plans to get married and leave nursing behind. Meanwhile, Nene continues to care for patients with problems like Alzheimer’s disease and a sense of abandonment.

    On top of that, Nene deals with the trauma of being a survivor of World War II. Her experiences during the war are revealed through flashbacks, one of which has a major effect on the play’s story.

    The role of the Philippines and Filipinos in World War II is not widely known in America. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that made most Filipino soldiers and guerrillas a part of the Armed Forces. The World War II Database estimates that about 1 million Filipinos died due to the war.

    Racelis drew inspiration from his family to create Nene and her trauma. Many of the women in his family were nurses and some were survivors of World War II.  Racelis said that the memories they shared continue to haunt him.

    Because the story was so personal to him, Racelis has taken his time developing As Straw Before the Wind. He started the original draft 10 years ago, but would stop and then go back to it periodically.

    “This is probably draft number 7,” Racelis joked.

    However, this past year, Racelis answered a call of duty to move his play forward. The play’s director, Leslie Asistio, who is also Filipino, returned from a movie theater very upset with the lack of diversity in film.


    “During the trailers I saw white people doing this and doing that … saving the world, drowning … just white people,” Asistio said. “I went on a rant on Facebook asking, ‘Where [are] all the Filipinos?’”

    Asistio and Racelis knew each other from the organization First Stage LA, so Racelis reached out to Asistio with his play. It really resonated with her. When Asistio’s grandmother was pregnant with her father in the Philippines, a Japanese soldier put a gun to her face. He did not fire.

    “A lot of people don’t know about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines,” Asistio said. This play’s [historical content] and characters are special to me and I am excited to put it on stage.”

    Asistio and Racelis produced the play together. Since the play focuses on Filipino characters, they made an effort to cast talented Filipino actors. Asistio and Racelis ultimately cast Filipinos for the central characters in the play.

    Nene is played by Tita Pambid. She has acted on stage and in film for more than 25 years—locally and internationally. And, in addition to acting, Pambid is a professor of Filipino language and culture at UCLA. This made the producers of As Straw see her as especially fitting for the play and its goals.

    Pambid expressed a definite sense of pride with the play and her role.

    “In Filipino culture, we take care of the elderly and believe in hospitality,” Pambid said. “We haven’t seen that in characters or stories in [America]. But we do in this play.”

    Muni Zano is another experienced Filipino actor in As Straw Before the Wind. He plays Poncing Enrile, a veteran cared for by Nene in her convalescent home. Enrile provides the audience with additional perspective about Filipino World War II survivors. He mentions that most Filipino World War II veterans were denied benefits due to a law passed by Congress.

    Since the Philippines were a U.S. territory during the war, Filipino veterans were indeed eligible for military benefits. But in 1946, the Philippines gained independence and the U.S. Congress decided to focus funds on U.S. nationals. Passing the Rescission Act enabled the U.S. government to achieve that.

    Asistio said that although that issue is not the focus of the play, it is an example of the little-known realities that Filipinos live with.

    Racelis wrote in additional elements of Filipino culture in the details of As Straw, such as the staple dish, Pinakbet, and Tagalog (a primary Filipino language). He hopes that Filipinos will appreciate the authenticity and that other viewers will appreciate learning something new.

    Pambid shared a similar sentiment with regards to the play as a whole.

    “I want the audience to see the presence of Filipinos … to know that we have served, and are serving, the United States, which is a multicultural country,” Pambid said.

    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Sept. 4
    Cost: $12 to $20
    Details: brownpapertickets.com
    Venue: The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

    Read More
  • 1 63 64 65 262