• Lowenthal’s Conversation About America

    • 03/20/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    LONG BEACH — On March 13, Rep. Alan Lowenthal hosted A Conversation About America Town Hall at Long Beach City College.
    The town hall, which filled the school’s auditorium, included guest speakers discussing the future of the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and Medicare. The panel also discussed immigration and refugee policy under the Donald Trump administration, as well as well as the ongoing struggle to protect the environment and further civil rights for all Americans. The event was met with a small group of Trump supporters.

    Photographer Diana Lejins covered the events that took place that night.

    Rep. Alan Lowenthal addressed constituents at a town hall meeting March 13. Photo by Diana Lejins

    A handful of Trump supporters continually disrupted the Long Beach town hall meeting on March 13, waving signs, shouting and making loud noises. Photo by Diana Lejins

    The Long Beach City College auditorium was packed with more than 1,000 constituents at a town hall meeting March 13 sponsored by Rep. Alan Lowenthal. Photo by Diana Lejins

    Panelists Immigrant Rights Coalition Alicia Morales, ACLU James Gillian and Dr. Elisa Nicholas from the Long Beach Children’s Clinic answered questions from the audience at a Townhall meeting March 13 hosted by Long Beach City College. Photo by Diana Lejins

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  • Local Band Hangout Jams with Elan Atias

    • 03/17/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Music
    • Comments are off

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Elan Atias of the Wailers recently performed a special acoustic set while hanging at the Queen Mary’s Observation Bar. The jam was the third concert of Local Band Hangout, a live music series.

    Atias is best known for performing with The Wailers on and off from 1997 to 2010; he was lead their singer 1997 to 1999. His voice sounds astonishingly like Bob Marley’s. However, he has been influenced by a wide variety of artists, from Fela Kuti inspired African rhythms and 1980s new wave bands such as Depeche Mode, to The Beatles and rhythm and blues artists such as Otis Reading.

    He has been busy with several new releases including a reggae style cover of Chris Isaacs’ Wicked Game. He has also just released a single on a side project with Coldcut x On-U Sound’s album in the United Kingdom with a stream of Divide and Rule. And, his single, Sit Upon My Throne on has his own label, 1 Lion Records, is due in April.

    His material always delivers a positive message that is often inspired from everyday life occurrences.

    “I try to write very simple so that even a baby can understand, but still deep and cryptic to compel thought and so [the audience] can relate it to their own lives,” Atias said.

    One example of how he’s done that is through his encounter with Dr. Roots (Larry Singer), had come to some of the Wailers’ shows in Colorado.

    “He had the idea to incorporate traditional Jewish prayers and life experiences that related to the meaning of the prayers with English lyrics,” Atias said. “His love of reggae was enormous and our connection made the perfect sense.”

    Atias looks forward to lots of work, more releases, shows and inspiration. Doing what he loves and sharing it with the world is what is most fulfilling to him, especially when it comes to helping people get through hard times.

    Long Beach’s own folk jazz duo Queen Califia also graced the stage of the Local Band Hangout.

    “It is exciting to see music fans fill the Observation Bar each month to support these local artists in a venue that has hosted so many celebrated performers.” said Steve Sheldon, Queen Mary’s director of events and entertainment.

    Tickets are $10 and the admission ticket value can be used in the Observation Bar and at Queen Mary restaurants during the concerts.

    Details: www.queenmary.com;  http://elanmusic.com

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  • 24 Million Will Lose Health Insurance Under GOP Plan

    • 03/17/2017
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the GOP health care bill, warning that 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018, a number that would increase to 24 million by 2026.

    The CBO estimates are routinely recognized as the most authoritative basis for projecting the impact of legislation. The budget office did not address increased mortality, but the best estimates from past studies indicate that more than 1,000 additional deaths will result for every one million people without insurance.

    “The reductions in insurance coverage between 2018 and 2026 would stem in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment,” the report said. “In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”

    CBO also found that $880 billion would be cut from Medicaid by 2026 and 15 percent of Planned Parenthood patients would lose access to care. A 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay $14,600 for insurance in 2026, compared to $1,700 under Obamacare.

    “If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the week before, in a desperate preemptive attack

    But GOP attacks on the office failed to unify behind Trump once the report was announced.

    “I’m pretty encouraged,” Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters. “It actually exceeded my expectations.”

    Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price stood out by continuing the attacks.

    “We strenuously disagree with the report,” said Price, attacking the 14 million figure as “unbelievable.”

    When Price was chairman of the House Budget Committee, he was deeply involved in selecting CBO’s director, Keith Hall, in 2015. Presumably, Price believed in Hall’s analytical judgment at the time.

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    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Emmy Award-winning director Marta Houske’s film, Crows of the Desert — A Hero’s Journey through the Armenian Genocide, will be presented by the Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival on March 19 at the Warner Grand Theatre.

    Houske, the film’s producer, director and writer, has spent almost four years documenting written and photographic accounts of the atrocity, still denied by the Turkish government.

    Levon Yotnakhparian’s memoir cover

    The film is based on the memoirs of Levon Yotnakhparian. It chronicles his struggles to stay alive during multiple harrowing treks to help save thousands of fellow Armenians from near extinction during one of the 20th century’s first genocides.

    The story can be hard to understand. But Hauske transports us, presenting a clear timeline of events joined with a beautiful musical score by John Massari. The film offers viewers a grasp of the present crisis in this region and reveals how people of different religions came together to save the Armenians.

    Not long ago in America, if someone said they were Armenian, the common reply was, “What’s an Armenian?” Full disclosure: my maternal grandparents were survivors of this genocide.

    For a clearer vision, Houske provided some vetted facts by about this genocide and the history behind it. Ground central for this war is now called Israel, Jordan and Syria.

    At its peak, the powerful Ottoman Empire stretched from Vienna to Egypt and east to Russia. Yet, after 400 years of decline, it had shrunk to less than half its size while still maintaining control of the Arabian Peninsula.

    Around this time, in 1915, Constantinople (known as Istanbul  today) was full of successful Armenians. The Ottoman Turks were threatened by this and their loss of wars and territories. They came in to arrest and kill these intellectuals, marking April 24 as the genocide. Later, more Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the desert without food or water.

    Click image for trailer of the documentary

    Able-bodied men throughout the Ottoman Empire were killed except for the young men who enlisted in the army, so that there could be no resistance.

    The Young Turks, who had earlier overthrown Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid, came into power. They said the old system was corrupt. They talked of bringing equal rights, which persuaded many Armenians to join the army. This is how Levon, the hero, came in. He and other Armenians joined the army believing in The Young Turks and then it all turned against them.

    The Young Turks’ solution to the Empire’s decline was the religious and ethnic cleansing of its society. In an ultranationalist agenda, the government branded the Armenians as Christian infidels. “Turkey is only for the Turks” was their propaganda.

    The Turkish government systematically planned to use the cover of war to deport and murder its Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christian minorities. Estimates of people killed by the Ottoman Turks range from 1.5 million Armenians, 300,000 to 1 million Greeks and 3 to 400,000 Assyrians.

    Executive producer of the documentary, Paul Turpanjian shared how this story relates to the current political climate.

    “The parallels between the crises taking place today in Syria and Iraq and the events of a hundred years ago are startling,” Turpanjian said. “Once again, regional and world powers are locked in a struggle for control over the very same land resulting in a distressingly similar humanitarian crisis. The film’s examination of historical events helps underscore how current turmoil in the region is primarily motivated by nationalism and imperialist ambition, rather than religion. Yet, much like a century ago, religion is used by both sides to rationalize the conflict and justify atrocities.”

    Mutual Cooperation

    In large cities like Constantinople, Damascus or Aleppo the Druze, Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together peaceably. Leaders from these religious groups did not hesitate to use any resources available to help the Armenians escape.

    The U.S. ambassador to Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau was one of the first people to inform President Woodrow Wilson of what was happening. Morgenthau also co-founded the Near East Relief, the first international aid effort in which American people raised more than 2 billion in today’s dollars. It saved the lives of more one million Armenian, Greek and Assyrian victims.

    With Turkish forces hunting and killing Armenians, Levon asked King Hussein bin Ali, head of the ancient Hashemite Arab dynasty, for help. King Hussein had initiated an Arab revolt in 1916 amidst World War I, aligning with the British and French to fight the Ottoman Turks. Hussein agreed to protect the Armenians and issued a decree.

    The Druze have their own justice oriented religion based in part on protecting those in need. These fierce warriors lived in the Druze Mountains in Syria. Armenians found refuge there because the Ottomans did not want to cross the mountain range.

    Druze chieftain, Emir Hussein El-Attrache pledged to do everything possible for the safety and freedom of the Armenians.

    The Jewish people featured in the film, Moshe Smilansky and Sarah Aaronsohn, were witnesses. Aaronsohn, who later became a British spy, testified to seeing up to 5,000 Armenians massacred. As a writer, Smilansky wrote about the women and children refugees stranded throughout the region.

    Prince Faisal’s army controlled the Hejaz Railway. Syrian railways were used strictly for military purposes but Faisal who was King Hussein’s son offered the Armenians free transportation to the British refugee camp in Damascus.  He also ordered a decree stating that Levon Yotnakhparian was granted permission to transfer all Armenians to Damascus via any train station, free of charge.

    King Hussein said that it was their duty as Muslims to protect the persecuted and the traveler.

    There was a massive refugee crisis, poverty and starvation. Parents were killed and women were captured and taken into harems. The thousands of orphans who remained spurred this relief effort.

    “Collectively as human beings we did the right thing for once,” Houske said. “People came from their higher side to help each other. It’s important to understand that there are times in recent history when people came together instead of fighting. It speaks to the inclusive versus exclusive nature of humans.”

    Details: http://crowsofthedesert.com, www.laharborfilmfest.com

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  • Trumpcare: GOP Plan Hurts Trump Voters Most

    • 03/16/2017
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    “When you look at the Republican bill it should not be seen as a healthcare bill, because throwing millions of people off of health care is not health care legislation. What it should be seen as is a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country.”

    — Sen. Bernie Sanders

    “I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid,” Donald Trump tweeted on May 7, 2015. “Huckabee copied me.”

    For once, Trump was telling the truth — except for lying about Huckabee. He did make that promise. In fact, he made it repeatedly, in various forms.

    “I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump told 60 Minutes in September 2015. “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

    Trump also promised lower costs.

    “We’re going to replace it [Obamacare] with something that’s going to be great, that’s a lot less expensive for you, and a lot less expensive, frankly, for the government,” he told a rally in South Carolina the following month.

    But now Trump is breaking those promises by embracing the House GOP repeal plan. This could break the GOP as well, unless they’re very, very good at pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

    So far, however, people just aren’t buying it, with mobs of constituents showing up at town hall meetings and organizational opposition coming from everyone and his dog. This opposition is led by top-name groups, including the American Medical Association, AARP and the American Hospital Association, along with dozens of others representing doctors, nurses, patients and hospitals — even small business owners.

    The GOP plan — (Paul) Ryancare, Trumpcare, whatever you call it — would take coverage away from tens of millions of people, including as many as 11 million on Medicaid. It would also raise costs and cut benefits for the majority of other Americans. This includes the 44 million Americans on Medicare, who now get free preventative care under Obamacare and an average annual savings of $700.

    The 38-million-member AARP called the GOP’s bill a “bitter pill for older Americans” and a “giveaway to insurers and drug companies.” In its letter to Congress opposing the bill, AARP wrote:

    This bill would weaken Medicare’s fiscal sustainability, dramatically increase health care costs for Americans aged 50-64, and put at risk the health care of millions of children and adults with disabilities, and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program for long-term services and supports and other benefits.


    Whatever happens next, it’s bound to be messy. But there is one way to make sense of things: by contrasting what the GOP is doing now with how German conservatives created the first universal healthcare plan in the 1880s. That’s right: the very first “socialist” healthcare system was created by conservatives almost 140 years ago.

    Conservative Dysfunction

    German conservatives had always been in charge of running things, although a unified Germany was something brand new. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck decided to steal the socialists’ most popular idea — universal health care — and structure it to meet a variety of different conservative goals.  For industrial capitalists, it would make German industry more competitive (especially against England) while building worker’s company loyalty; for nationalists, it would stem emigration to America while building a national identity; and for cultural conservatives, it would strengthened paternalistic values and the Protestant work ethic. To accomplish these things, of course, it had to actually work. And it did.

    American conservatives, in contrast, haven’t held unified national power — the White House and both chambers of Congress — since the Great Depression, except for a few years under George W. Bush. This brief time in power ended so catastrophically that it created a conservative identity crisis that’s still going on today — with Tea Partiers, Wall Street conservatives, white nationalists and others each fighting for the title of “true conservative.” Despite their differences, they share one thing in common: Their principles are overwhelmingly not practical — they are expressive and ideological and thus, very ill-suited for shaping comprehensive pragmatic policy on virtually anything.  As a result, the plan the party has come up with satisfies different specific conservative factions — just as Bismarck’s plan did — but without any attention to how things actually will function in reality.

    In January, before the GOP’s plan was unveiled, a study from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University warned that repeal of two key provisions of Obamacare could lead to the loss of 2.6 million jobs in 2019 alone, rising to almost 3 million by 2021. Bismarck would have taken that study seriously. Trump and Ryan have not. Instead, here’s the reality of what they’re proposing to do:

    First, the Trump/Ryan plan is a massive tax cut for the rich. An analysis released by the Joint Committee on Taxation projected almost $600 billion in tax cuts through 2026, of which almost half would go to wealthy Americans. Those in the top 0.1 percent would get an annual average tax cut of almost $200,000.

    Second, it’s a decimating attack on the welfare state and the millions of low- and middle-income Americans it protects and serves. Medicaid cuts through 2026 — $560 billion, according the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — would almost exactly match the tax cuts. So, the poor lose their health care to line the pockets of the super-rich, with a sprinkling of crumbs for the upper middle class. The Medicaid cuts are twofold: first, the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is halted, shifting massive amounts of costs onto the states; and second, Medicaid is turned into a per-capita block-grant. It will no longer cover a fixed percentage of the states’ costs, and the block-grant’s future growth won’t keep up as those costs increase. These cuts will force millions of recipients to lose coverage; they will also severely hurt state governments, rather than empowering them, as GOP rhetoric claims to do.

    Medicare is also targeted, though more diffusely, setting it up for future attacks. In its letter, AARP noted both how Obamacare had strengthened Medicare’s solvency and how the GOP replacement would weaken it:

    According to the 2016 Medicare Trustees report, the Medicare Part A Trust fund is solvent until 2028 (11 years longer than pre-Affordable Care Act (ACA)), due in large part to changes made in the ACA.  We have serious concerns that the American Health Care Act repeals provisions in current law that have strengthened Medicare’s fiscal outlook, specifically, the repeal of the additional 0.9 percent payroll tax on higher-income workers.  Repealing this provision could hasten the insolvency of Medicare by up to 4 years and diminish Medicare’s ability to pay for services in the future.

    Third, this new act will restructure the individual insurance marketplace in a way that increases costs for most consumers, especially those who can least afford it. It also hits Trump voters the hardest. According to a Keyser Family Foundation analysis, subsidies wouldn’t decline for everyone everywhere, but subsidies would decline in 81 percent of counties that voted for Clinton in 2016 and in 93 percent of counties that voted for Trump. What’s more, those gaining $2,500 or more in subsidies split 47 to 46 for Clinton, while those set to lose $5,000 to $7,500 voted overwhelming — 60 to 35 percent — for Trump.

    The Impact of American Health Care Act

    Kaiser Family Foundation has an interactive map illustrating the impacts nationwide on a county-level basis. For a 60-year old making $75,000 or $100,000 a year, the map is all reddish brown, meaning larger tax cuts from the GOP plan. But for those making $50,000 a year, most of the map is blue, meaning smaller tax cuts. For those making $30,000 a year, only a handful of counties in Texas and Massachusetts, two in Indiana, and much of upstate New York remain reddish brown. For those making $20,000 a year, no counties remain reddish brown.

    Things are not quite as bleak for 40-year olds or 27-year olds, but that’s just the point: older people average higher health costs and should be better protected because of it. Instead, as AARP told Congress, the GOP plan imposes “an unaffordable age tax.”

    Fourth, it’s an attack on women’s health and freedom. As summarized by the Associated Press, it includes a one-year freeze (easily extended) on Planned Parenthood funding, depriving 2.5 million current patients of birth control and mammograms; it bars the use of new federal tax credits to purchase plans that cover choice in abortion; and the Medicaid cuts affect mammograms as well as prenatal and newborn care. In many places, Planned Parenthood is the only provider available for low-income women’s healthcare. For all the GOP’s constant talk about “freedom” and providing Americans with “choice,” what they have in mind for women is the exact opposite.

    Fifth, it’s an indulgence in moral scolding. Despite being so proud of how short their bill was, House Republicans devoted six of its 66 pages — almost one-tenth of the document — to “a new rule allowing states to deny Medicaid coverage to lottery winners,” a miniscule cost problem, which could have been dealt with in a single paragraph, at most.

    This last point is particularly telling for the light it sheds on the profound difference between American conservatives and conservatives elsewhere, like Bismarck. He would have handled it in single sentence.

    The GOP’s obsession with abstract values over real consequences was summed up perfectly on Meet The Press on March 12, when Chuck Todd presented the following challenge to Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price:

    In Fayette County, West Virginia, this is one example, Keyser Family Foundation estimates the following: that the $4,000 tax credit that a 60-year old making $30,000 a year will get under the American Health Care Act [Trumpcare] is almost $8,000 less than they would get under Obamacare. This is a county, by the way, that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. The point is this: You say it’s going to make it more affordable, under this plan, in this county, in this state, less money and more expensive for these folks.

    “Who knows what that 60-year-old wants?” Price said in response, “I know that the federal government doesn’t know what that 60-year-old wants. I know that he or she knows what he or she wants.”

    Who needs healthcare, when you can have freedom from government providing for the general welfare instead?


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  • North on South Central Ave.’s Drive to the Future

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer
    The long running jazz musical, North On South Central Ave. will feature some of San Pedro’s best when it arrives, March 26, at the Warner Grand Theatre.

    North on South Central Ave. is told through the flashbacks of an elderly man recalling the golden age of Los Angeles jazz on Central Avenue, while sitting at a bus stop with a teenage boy.

    The scenes move back and forth between the present day and Central Avenue’s heyday to capture the glamour and the sheer elegance of the legendary Dunbar Hotel and Club Alabam.

    The Dunbar Hotel and Club Alabam anchored a growing African American community. During the 1940s, Los Angeles filled with a thriving black-owned business community after African Americans from the South began migrating en masse toward large urban hubs in the north and west. This migration accelerated when manufacturing and steel mills required a larger labor force due to World War II.

    The Dunbar Hotel was built in 1928. It was known as the Hotel Somerville before it changed hands. Upon its opening, the hotel hosted the NAACP’s first national convention west of the Mississippi. In the early 1930s, Club Alabam opened at the Dunbar. It became the center of the Central Avenue jazz scene for the following 20 years.

    The Dunbar hosted Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Lena Horne and many other jazz legends. Other noteworthy people who stayed at the Dunbar include W. E. B. Du Bois, Joe Louis, Ray Charles and Thurgood Marshall. Former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson also ran a nightclub at the Dunbar in the 1930s.

    With the city’s growth in population and stature in the entertainment industry, the Dunbar was an important oasis during the time of Jim Crow.

    Due to the end of de jure segregation and the natural flows of demographic changes, Central Avenue no longers looks like it did then. After being renovated in the 1990s, the Dunbar is now an assisted living facility for seniors. The African American-owned businesses that once anchored the community are now mostly Latino owned businesses featuring huge colorful signs that cover the old art deco architecture.

    North On South Central Ave. waxes nostalgic with the euphoria of some of the best music ever made in the United States and exudes the pain of watching it all disappear as South Central declined.

    Storytelling serves as a means to preserve history, much like the old West African griots — traveling poets, musicians and storytellers who retold stories through songs of prominent families and important community events. The griot serves as the community’s collective memory, transmitting this information to younger generations.

    North On South Central Ave. was written and produced by the Theatre Perception Consortium, which is comprised of writers Larry James Robinson, Carla DuPree Clark and  Tu’Nook.

    Robinson came up with the idea for the musical in the 1980s as a way to pay homage to his father’s life.

    “Larry brought this idea to the table and it’s based on his father coming here from Mississippi,” Tu’ Nook said, who noted the title started out as South Central Avenue.

    Executive producer Michael Gean Curtis, who was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, discussed the personal connections to this history.

    “Having parents who have partied in Club Alabam and the other clubs on South Central Avenue, I find it interesting that it’s being revisited in the current time,” Curtis said. “It brings it to life. To see it is special. A lot of people do not realize what actually happened here at that time.”

    Curtis described the settlement location of early black Los Angeles.

    “A lot of people were raised south of all this movement on Central Avenue,” Curtis said. “Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the clubs were literally located North on South Central Avenue. The black Hollywood movement was actually in downtown Los Angeles, as far as 1st and 2nd Streets. Then it stretched down to 42nd Street and beyond.”

    The title is a reference to driving from that area, going north on South Central Avenue. All of the excitement takes place at Club Alabam and the Dunbar Hotel, which are north on South Central Avenue.

    Dupree has said that community elders are enthusiastic about this production. The youth also are excited.

    During the show’s 20-year run, it has won four NAACP Image awards for theater including Best Sound, Best Costumes, Best Ensemble and Best Director.

    The cast is filled with veteran performers who can sing the lights out anywhere.

    One of those performing is San Pedro’s Windy Barnes-Farrell, a local vocalist of unmatched talent who regularly tours the world performing. What folks may not know is that she is also an accomplished actor, songwriter, producer and choral director. Barnes-Farrell has toured extensively with Stevie Wonder, Julio Iglesias and Michael Bolton. She has also starred in various productions including Jezebel, The Wiz, Gospelrella and Voices.

    Veteran actor and playwright Melvin Johnson takes on the musical’s central character Old Willie, who recounts his life in conversation with a young man named Trayvon (played by Larney Johnson IV), a named character intended to achieve particular resonance in today’s context and remind the audience of the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

    “Prostitution and drugs — this is what is pronounced around the world when you talk about South Central LA,” Dupree said.

    Instead, the creators behind North On South Central Ave. wanted the younger character and, in turn, younger audiences to know about the productivity happening in the businesses and all the entertainment on South Central Avenue.

    Old Willie engages Trayvon at the bus stop, enlightening the younger man, who in this rendition of the musical, has been rendered physically impaired by a drive-by shooting. It proves to be an invaluable history lesson for Trayvon as his elder recreates the vitality of Los Angeles’ Central Avenue during the 1940s.

    Trayvon is not a gangster but his character is aware of the negativity around living on Central Avenue today.

    Johnson, the actor who plays Trayvon, is the author of numerous plays including Nobody Told Us and The Hero Within, which opens next month at the Wallis Annenberg PAC in Beverly Hills.

    Phillip Bell plays the younger Willie, who is known as “Bilbo” in the musical’s flashbacks. Bell has been with the musical for several years and has performed in his own one-man show.

    Aliyah Robinson, the actress playing the wife of young Willie, Birdlegs, is Larry James Robinson’s daughter. The younger Robinson reflected on playing her grandmother.

    “It’s awesome to be able to play my grandmother and tell the story of my grandmother and grandfather of as they came to California and their journey here, and their life after they came here,” she said.

    Robinson noted that her love for the 1940s period was due to the stories her grandparents told.

    Legendary figures of the era such as Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Dorothy Dandridge and Cab Calloway all make appearances in the musical and are channeled through powerhouse performers such as Kerrimah Taitt, Pat Sligh, Larney “Dapper” Johnson III and Wanda Ray Willis-Raynor.

    Wanda Ray Willis-Raynor is an 18-year veteran performer with North on South Central Ave. and a 2016 nominee for the NAACP Theatre’s Best Solo award. Willis-Raynor also wrote, produced and performed the one-woman musical Walking in Dorothy Dandridge’s Shoes … Her Final New Beginning with musical director Cal Bezemer.

    North on South Central Ave. also recalls the dance moves and the dancers that graced the stage at Club Alabam during its heyday, whether it was the Creole Dancing Revue or Club Alabam’s Rocketts. San Pedro’s Jessica Haley Clark Dance Co. along with tap dancers Pysa Noel and Adrienne Diana Curtis will add another layer of cultural history to a talent-packed show.

    Time: 5 p.m. March 26
    Cost: $26 to $41
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/North-on-SouthCentral
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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  • LBIRC Weathers the Tides of American Democracy

    • 03/16/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • Feature
    • Comments are off

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    For more than 30 years, Norma Chinchilla has been a voice for the immigrant community. As the executive director of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, also known as LBIRC, Chinchilla helps overwhelmed immigrants cut through the confusion of a strange language and systems, easing their adjustment into American life.

    “Most of us came from immigrants at one point in time,” Chinchilla said. “By a throw of the dice, I could have been somewhere else and not here.”

    As a sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach, Chinchilla knows how integral immigrants are to American society.

    “Immigrants are extremely important to our economy,” said Chinchilla. “They are important to our society. We benefit tremendously from that kind of diversity and those ideas and that entrepreneurship.”

    However, their ability to act as a mirror to modern political realities is possibly more important than their ability to diversify American society.

    “The way we treat immigrants is often an indicator of how strong our democracy is, how much we care about human rights generally,”  Chinchilla said. “When you start saying that certain people don’t even have basic human rights guaranteed by international law and international agreements, it’s a slippery slope.”

    Through the coalition, Chinchilla works alongside other city and state groups to reform immigration policy and promote justice through education, service and advocacy.

    “They’ve overcome so many obstacles and they’ve worked so hard,” Chinchilla said. “And, to say that there’s no path to legal status…. I can’t imagine any good reason that would be the case.”

    The LBIRC offers legal assistance, free ESL classes and myriad other services to guarantee immigrants “fulfilling and prosperous political, economic and social” lives. The coalition uses every resource at its disposal, often using the ESL classes to discuss issues such as combatting domestic violence, dealing with school administration, and accessing preventative healthcare.

    In this organization, Chinchilla seems to have found her calling.

    “I don’t think you always choose your path,” Chinchilla said. “Sometimes you just fall into it.”

    The Source

    Chinchilla first became involved with immigrant rights in the 1980s. After college, she spent a year in Guatemala and maintained a relationship with people there, eventually marrying one. After the first large influx of Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees fleeing civil wars arrived in the United States, Chinchilla knew that something had to be done to protect their rights.

    “We waged a big campaign to keep people from being deported, trying to get them classified as refugees with asylum,” Chinchilla said. “We were able to mount a whole campaign with sanctuary in churches and in temples and … eventually oppose Reagan’s policies.”

    Before the Illegal Immigration and Immigration Responsibility Act, or IRAIRA, which makes it almost impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain green cards, Chinchilla and her compatriots often merely stalled deportation cases until the individual qualified for green card access or citizenship. At the time, undocumented individuals could receive ‘forgiveness’: if the individual had a good record, had started a business or had a citizen spouse or children, he or she could qualify for asylum even in cases in which the asylum had originally been denied.

    “We helped the lawyers file lawsuits,” said Chinchilla. “Some of them became landmark cases in immigration. We built some institutions from scratch because the Central Americans didn’t qualify for anything. We built the Oscar Romero clinic (Clinica Monsenor Oscar Romero) from the bottom up, originally just with volunteers.”

    In the 1990s, both the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments signed peace accords, effectively ending the civil wars ravaging the two countries. Immigration to the United States diminished.

    “People went on with their lives,” Chinchilla said. “Over this time period, you’re following these people’s lives. They are friends of yours. Your kids are friends. You see what an impact it can make if you become legal.”

    Local Springs

    It was not until 2006 that Chinchilla realized the need for a local organization to promote legalization and to protect the rights of the Long Beach immigrant community. That spring, Chinchilla marched alongside millions of immigrants who converged on downtown Los Angeles to protest anti-immigration legislation. During her Blue Line ride, she realized the lack of local organizations servicing the Long Beach immigrant community. She and a fellow marcher decided to begin their own organization and the LBIRC was born.

    “We thought it would be really easy,” Chinchilla admitted. “Of course, it didn’t turn out to be easy at all. We thought it would just be a question of finding out what services were available and then linking people to the services. What we found out was that the services didn’t really exist.”

    If the services did exist, Chinchilla found that the members running the organizations often did not know if undocumented persons, or even green card holders, could qualify. Chinchilla decided to put her organizing and institution building experience from the 1980s to good use.

    “I gathered a few other people and we experimented over time,” Chinchilla said.

    Unfortunately, the same tactics of stalling legal cases no longer worked, as it became more and more difficult to classify undocumented immigrants as refugees. Despite the rise of cartel and gang violence in Mexico, which spills into El Salvador and Guatemala and creates microcosms of civil-war-level homicide rates, the U.S. government remains reluctant to grant current undocumented immigrants refugee status. Even those LGBT immigrants fleeing sexual persecution have a hard time justifying their need for asylum. However, Chinchilla says that domestic violence cases have been a little bit easier to defend, especially for Guatemalan women. In several landmark cases, judges ruled that the Guatemalan government failed to protect these women from abuse.

    “Even if they [the women] leave a relationship, they are often pursued by their lovers or husbands who want to kill them, to punish them for leaving — for dishonoring them,” Chinchilla said. “And, even if they don’t directly do it, it costs nothing to hire a killer. And of course, they don’t just kill the women; they maim them. It sends a message to all women to not leave relationships.”

    Chinchilla has acted as an expert witness in many of these cases. Sometimes, her testimony meant the difference between a new life or a death sentence for these women.

    “In asylum cases, you hear tragic stories of persecution,” Chinchilla said. “Things that keep you awake at night. You know that this person’s life is riding on the outcome of this hearing and this judge, sometimes, couldn’t care less.”

     Influence Seeping In

    Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition demonstration near the Mark Twain Library in Long Beach. Photo courtesy of LBIRC

    Things really took off for the coalition when more undocumented students began attending Cal State Long Beach after Assembly Bill 540, which allowed qualified California high school graduates to pay resident tuition fees. Essentially, AB 540 makes it so that undocumented students do not have to pay the exorbitant international student tuition rates because, of course, they are not international students. In many ways, these students were the catalyst for the organization’s success.

    “They were becoming very organized and very conscious and more and more visible,” Chinchilla said. “They wanted to join with us. That’s how we began building what we have today.”

    Chinchilla stresses the connection between immigrant rights and rights of other groups, such as LGBT and women. Some of the Dreamer leaders — the undocumented youth movement responsible for passing the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act — recently came out as gay or lesbian, solidifying the intersectionality between undocumented youth rights and the rights of the LGBT community.

    “They were the ones that were carrying the banner,” Chinchilla said. “They were the ones that were right out in front, taking the risks.”

    And yet, it took a while for many of these youth to feel comfortable to publicly express their sexuality. Many worried they would be rejected from their communities.

    “By coming out and by bringing them out in the open, we’ve been able to increase the acceptance and the understanding,” Chinchilla said. “We have a lot of immigrant parents who … understand now that … it would be better to have their son or daughter in the family. And they respect what the kids have done as leaders.”

    Chinchilla works to pass on the values that she has learned within the organization to these young adults, hoping that they will become its future leaders.

    “My goal, as I see it, is really to transition this to a well-rooted sustainable organization and pass it on to somebody else who hopefully comes from an immigrant background and has lived the experiences of the community,” said Chinchilla. “What I try to pass on is that our credibility and our reputation are the most valuable resources we have. We got there by trying to work in a way that was very trustworthy and credible. When you’re working with populations that might feel like they need to be invisible, you really have to be credible and you have to be consistent. You have to be there when people need you.”

    Cooperation is also important in building a network for the organization.

    “We try to work with a lot of different groups — that’s sort of my philosophy on organizing,” Chinchilla said. “It’s kind of a culture that we try to establish.”

    The Tides of American Sentiment

    Chinchilla said that she believes the majority of Californians are sympathetic and supportive of immigrants. She also believes that the majority of Americans are in support of legalization, although technicalities and qualifications may vary from person to person.

    “The reality is that most people are very practical,” Chinchilla said. “[Americans] don’t believe in mass deportations; they don’t really believe in deportation …  if [someone] has been living here for a long time.”

    Chinchilla said that the anti-immigrant sentiment that seems to have swelled within the past decade stems from three major factors: the recession, fear-mongering used by politicians and confusion or a lack of knowledge on the issue of immigration.

    She related a story about a misguided, or as Chinchilla puts it, “confused” woman whose grandson had told her that undocumented students receive free tuition from Cal State Long Beach, while the grandson — a U.S. citizen — had to pay. When Chinchilla gently confronted the woman, explaining to her that she worked at the university and that undocumented students were required to pay tuition the same as everyone else, the woman rebuffed her remarks, saying that this misinformation had been in the newspaper. This exchange happened shortly after Cal State Long Beach opened the DREAM Success Center, an office which offers academic support for undocumented students.

    “The messages probably got mixed up in people’s heads,” Chinchilla said.

    As a sociologist, Chinchilla also knows that American sentiment towards immigrants goes through cycles.

    “I have a whole collection of quotes from different time periods that say exactly the same horrible things about immigrants,” Chinchilla said.

    She likes to do a workshop in some of her classes: Chinchilla puts some of these quotations up on the board and has the students guess the time period these quotations come from as well as the immigrant community that they address. Despite being right or wrong, Chinchilla believes that the students learn a lot from this exercise.

    Chinchilla also believes that this cyclicality of American sentiment heads towards progress, although society is in a state of regression.

    “The march of history is in the direction of large numbers of immigrants being successfully integrated into American society and having roots here,” Chinchilla said. “It’s not on the side of those who want to prevent them.”

    In many ways, Chinchilla views the immigrant rights movement as a continuation of the work done by activists during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

    “It changes your life,” said Chinchilla of her work. “It’s kind of like people who got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. You’re never the same again…. You hear so many stories — sad stories, successful stories — and you can see so clearly how laws can make a difference and how policies can make a difference.”

    As with many other movements, it is storytelling that convinces people to support the cause.

    “It’s not an abstract issue with us in California,” said Chinchilla. “Los Angeles is home to a big percentage of immigrants in the country. These are our friends, our neighbors. They’re on soccer teams with your kids. They’re in churches. They’re fully integrated in many ways into our lives in Long Beach. But then in other ways, they’re vulnerable….  I fear the power of the federal government because immigration is something that is very much under the power of the president.”

     The Frost

    Under the Donald Trump administration, Chinchilla notes a rise in fear amongst the Long Beach immigrant community, especially in regards to the recent raids by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

    “Everybody’s afraid,” Chinchilla said. “Some of the fears can be justified and then some of them are just speculation. But once fear starts, it’s very difficult to control.”

    Chinchilla mentioned one instance when the coalition received a call that ICE agents had arrested workers at a car wash just outside of downtown Long Beach. When members of the coalition went to provide support, they found that the ICE agents had just been getting their vans washed, the same as they did every week. ICE agent sightings at Dunkin Donuts led to a similarly misguided wildfire-level of fear. Yet, Chinchilla maintains that although some individual rumors are untrue, enough confirmed reports exist to give credence to this wave of fear.

    “There were reports in some areas of ICE going with mobile fingerprint trucks, arriving at a workplace and forcing everybody to give their fingerprints,” Chinchilla said.

    ICE agents then ran the fingerprints through a database to see if the workers had a deportation order. If so, the agents can round up all the undocumented workers, claiming ‘collateral arrest’ if they were in the presence of a known criminal. Although the legality of fingerprint profiling seems suspect to civilians, police and the federal justice system maintain that it is entirely legal. Because civilians leave fingerprints in public places and get fingerprinted to receive a license, judges have ruled that fingerprints are not subject to the same privacy laws and do not require police to obtain a warrant to fingerprint an individual or group of individuals. This practice undoubtedly leads to racial profiling, essentially assuming undocumented status for collections of Latino/a individuals.

    Chinchilla said that the practice of collateral arrests presents the catch-22 of undocumented status: even if undocumented individuals refuse to cooperate by showing identification that proves their status, they can be taken in under the pretext of posing potential problems. Whether an individual gets taken in is often up to the whims of the raid’s lead ICE agent.

    However, even the so-called criminality of some of those with deportation orders should be subject to scrutiny.

    “This is what the public doesn’t understand at all — it could be 20 years ago: you had one DUI, you made one mistake,”  Chinchilla said. “If you’re a citizen, you have a chance to expunge it.… You don’t have to carry it around for all of those years. But with immigration, there’s no forgiveness.”

    Chinchilla also argues that these ICE raids endanger the safety of the entire community, immigrants and citizens alike.

    “Even the police are complaining that, all of the sudden, people don’t want to cooperate with them when they had a good relationship,” Chinchilla said. “And that’s a problem because the police need the community in solving crimes.”

     Polluted Waters

    But ICE is not the first problem the coalition has faced regarding local law enforcement.

    “The biggest problem that we’ve had was with the LA County sheriff — that’s where the biggest abuses have been,” Chinchilla said. “We’re still working hard to get them to make sure that they follow the TRUST Act…. But they’re very hard to control.”

    With the sheriff’s office, there is not the same kind of commission to hold officers accountable for their actions. Often, the immigrant community members are also not sure who they are stopped by, making cataloging complaints increasingly difficult.

    Chinchilla also said that the level of abuse seemed to depend upon the individual sheriff’s attitude towards immigrants, making it difficult to pin down whether certain harassment was departmental policy or the actions of rogue sheriffs. Chinchilla remembers one sheriff in particular as extremely abusive of the immigrant community.

    Nicknamed “El Perro” (The Dog) by the women he harassed, this sheriff was tasked with patrolling the Blue Line.

    “Instead of doing that, he goes to the local neighborhood right next to it, where immigrant parents are dropping their kids off at Roosevelt Elementary School, and he starts asking for IDs only of Latina mothers — only the mothers, never the fathers,” Chinchilla said. “He knew that they were vulnerable. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to challenge him.”

    Eventually, these women got fed up with his constant harassment, which included checking identification, towing cars (all suspiciously ended up at a single tow yard), ticketing, and searching personal belongings without probable cause. When they verbally confronted him for racially profiling them, he would make racist threats, saying that he was going to make sure they ‘went back to Mexico.’

    “Sometimes, the kids would be in the car and they would see this guy harassing their moms,” Chinchilla said.

    El Perro harassed the community for two years until the LBIRC, working in conjunction with the National Lawyers Guild, had enough formal legal complaints to present to LA County Sheriff Lee Baca.

    “Baca reassigned the guy right then and there,” Chinchilla remembered. “The guy was furious.”

    Thawing the ICE Storm

    On Jan. 25, Trump issued Executive Order 13768, cutting funds for so-called sanctuary cities and giving immigration officers unlimited discretion in instituting deportation proceedings. Whatever relationship Chinchilla believed the coalition had created between the law enforcement and the immigrant community, it disintegrated after Trump’s directives.

    “Now, it’s just kind of out of control — so different,” Chinchilla said. “[ICE agents] lie. They don’t want you to know when they’re starting a big raid. They know that we have groups all across the country.”

    Chinchilla said that the LBIRC has become involved with a network of churches who work to provide what they call “street sanctuary.” This group recruits and trains volunteers from the surrounding communities to prepare in the event of a raid. Once group members receive a text message alerting them to a raid, they converge upon the spot to act as witnesses to any arrests.

    “Hopefully, they would get badge numbers and observe the process and maybe even stop it,” Chinchilla said. “But most of them don’t happen with that kind of lead time.”

    In the wake of the Trump administration, Chinchilla and the LBIRC have their hands full keeping track of community members. If one get arrested, the LBIRC tries to keep as close tabs on the individual as possible, so as not to lose track of him or her. Chinchilla said that sometimes it takes less than 72 hours for the individual to be deported. In this situation, every second counts.

    Despite the uphill battle, Chinchilla loves her work.

    “You live this,” Chinchilla said. “It’s in your flesh and bones.”

    This month, the LBIRC is hosting its own month of action. Community members are invited to join the organization at its general meeting on March 22 or at the Humane Immigration Reform Rally on March 30 to find out ways to get involved and help immigrant community members.

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  • The Challenge for LA Dems

    • 03/16/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Winning with a historically low turnout

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Los Angeles is solidly Democratic and has voted so twice in the past five months to prove it. However, it is a sad commentary on both the democratic leadership and our city that an overwhelming majority of voters reelected the mayor and six city councilmen, as well as stopped Measure S in its tracks and they did so with one of the lowest voter turnouts in history.  It was a landslide, but from a very small hill.

    So what can be taken away from this kind of municipal triumph? Clearly the Berniecrats who were inspired to vote for a social democrat last June were not similarly inspired to vote out the Democratic leadership in a sanctuary city opposing #45notmypresident.  This is a dilemma for party leadership here in the desert-city-by-the-sea, a city that likes to see its reflection as Hollywood and LA LA Land, but not Watts or Wilmington.

    The challenge for Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino, who seem to be connected at the hip, is how to play their roles on the national stage while remaining relevant to the multitude of neighborhoods they represent. After all, Los Angeles is a collection of towns looking to find a city.  Every mayor since Tom Bradley has tried creating a Los Angeles epicenter, but  this hasn’t made those on the periphery very happy.  Just look at the backlash to gentrification in Venice or East Los Angeles or the reactions to continued industrialization at the Port of Los Angeles and the expansion of LAX.  There are deep dissatisfaction in the hoods that are distant from city hall and that harbors an even deeper distrust of the “city family” — a distrust that this election has not resolved.

    However, grassroots democracy is not dead in this city. It’s just waiting for a vacant seat in which to run without the weight of an incumbent blocking the path. Council District 7 is a prime example in which 22 candidates ran for office. All of them learned the hard way about the impediments the city places in the path to running for elected office — not the least of which are the 500 qualified signatures of registered voters needed to get on the ballot. It only takes 50 signatures to qualify for elected offices at the county or state level. But the Los Angeles city clerk’s office can’t even get the petition forms right!

    With the city bureaucracy protecting the superstructure of incumbency and money-in-politics, those who vote with campaign donations often don’t actually reside in the city, but  lean heavily on those in power. This was the issue proponents of Measure S made in this past election over spot zoning. While losing 66.72 to 31.28 percent in this election, Garcetti had to realize that nearly 250,000 Angelinos were not happy and he immediately issued an executive order banning ex parte meetings with developers by commissioners. Does that also apply to city councilmembers?

    I seriously doubt that we will ever really eradicate the influence of money in politics, but what we can do is vote for those who are highly resistant to legal bribery.  Give us candidates who actually work for the greater good of the city’s citizens, rather than those who aspire to higher office.  I sometimes wonder, if Jesus was elected mayor, just how long it would take for the Pharisees of this city to tempt him.  All we can hope for is that the people we elect prioritize  the greater good over pocketing the money that’s there before them.  It’s not inconceivable. It’s just improbable considering that Los Angeles’ current power structure perceives criticism as a threat.

    Just one week after Measure S went down in defeat, Vincent Bertoni, Garcetti’s latest hero in the Department of City Planning came to San Pedro for an early morning chat with the local Chamber of Commerce. He has a great grasp on the challenges of city planning. He  even has some profoundly good ideas on how to fix them. Yet, he said something quite peculiar. He said, “LA is a place.”

    Now, the only time that I, as a lifetime citizen of Los Angeles, have self-identified as an Angeleno is when I travel to some place abroad.  If you go to Paris, France or Mexico City and someone asks, “where are you from”?  It’s easier to say LA because everyone knows where that is. But it’s relatively meaningless because LA is not A PLACE—it’s a collection of places each with their own identities, cultural references, landmarks and history.  And that is the challenge to citywide planning: one size doesn’t fit all.

    The problem in city planning is the same problem all the other departments have, which is how to have consistent rules and ordinances across the city when there are some reasons, possibly 35 (read community plans) or more, to have exceptions to these rules.  This is the raison d’etre for the 95 neighborhood councils; this is amongst the many reasons for the growing dissatisfaction with city hall—too much government and too little democracy.  And perhaps this is also the explanation for Donald Trump and the Democrat’s inability to effectively resolve his curious rise to power with their own inadequacies.

    Los Angeles just may be the testing ground for a new form of democratic politics called version 20.18. Clearly, this will not happen if only 10 percent of the citizens continue to turn out to vote in city elections. For as is said, all politics are local. If you want city hall to pay attention to your part of this metropolis, you gotta turn up the heat at the ballot box!

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  • Celebrate St. Patrick’s with Rob Klopfenstein at The Whale & Ale

    • 03/16/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Calendar
    • Comments are off


    March 17
    Rob on the Piano
    Enjoy great food, great fun and maybe make a swing past the piano to say hi to Rob.
    Time: 7 p.m. March 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 832-0363
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    March 17
    Broadway in Concert
    Musical Theatre West presents Susan Egan with special guest Deedee Lyn Mango Hall. Egan’s Tony-nominated Belle takes the stage in a one-night-only concert event The Real Housewife of Broadway.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 17
    Cost: $40 to $60
    Details: (562) 856-1999 ext. 4; www.musical.org
    Venue: The Beverly O’Neill Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    March 18
    Mana Trio
    Classical Crossroads’ The Interludes concert series present Beverly Hills National Auditions winner, the Mana Trio. The soprano and alto saxophone, with their unmatched communicative sonorities, fall within the central ranges of the violin and cello of the classical piano trio, thus opening its rich repertoire to the compelling ensemble sound.
    Time: 3 p.m. March 18
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 316-5574; www.palosverdes.com/ClassicalCrossroads/TheInterludes.htm
    Venue: First Lutheran Church & School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    March 18
    Markus Carlton
    Carlton is a lifelong musician who has worn out many guitars playing gigs, writing and recording. Carlton will entertain you with new material, as well as jazz and blues standards.
    Time: 6:30 p.m. March 18
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 832-0363
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    March 19
    Mike Posner
    Best known for his Grammy-nominated album, At Night, Alone and his top 10 single I Took a Pill in Ibiza, Posner is stopping in to celebrate his new book of poetry, Tear Drops & Balloons. Posner will be mixing an acoustic performance, a poetry reading and Q-and-A.
    Time: 5 p.m. March 19
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 433-4996
    Venue: Fingerprints Music, 420 E. 4th St., Long Beach

    March 19
    Cabaret Flamenco
    A sensational evening of classical Spanish Flamenco music and dance starring Oscar Vero and Ricardo Chavez with Sarah Parra, Marcelo Montaro, Vico Cortes, Cante – Jose Cortes, Guitarist Jose Tanaka.
    Time: 2 p.m. March 19
    Cost: $30 to $180
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/ElCabaretFlamenco
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    March 24
    Get out your grooviest 70s gear and get ready to dance. Led by Grammy award-winner Fred Liams, Funkalicious is the New Generation of Funk Music, taking you back to the fun times of the 70s and 80s, while also delivering their original dance funk creations.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 24
    Cost: $16 to $101
    Details: http://wgt.tix.com/Event.aspx?EventCode=948756
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    March 25
    El Segundo 100th Anniversary Concert
    Two-thousand-seventeen marks the 100th anniversary of the City of El Segundo. To help celebrate this tremendous milestone the El Segundo Concert Band and the South Bay Music Association present the El Segundo 100th Anniversary Concert. The celebration will focus on music from the era the city was founded.
    Time: 7 p.m. March 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.esconcertband.org
    Venue: El Segundo High School Auditorium, 640 Main St., El Segundo

    March 25
    Perla Batalla sings Leonard Cohen

    The Grammy-nominated vocalist wraps her exquisite voice around the Leonard Cohen songbook. Batalla was once a back-up singer for k.d. lang, Iggy Pop, The Gipsy Kings and Cohen.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 25
    Cost: $25 to $55
    Details: (310) 833-4813; www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro


    March 17
    She Kills Monsters

    The California State University Dominguez Hills Department of Theatre and Dance presents She Kills Monsters, a comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games written by Vietnamese American playwright Qui Nguyen.
    She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons and Dragons notebook, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 17 and 18, and 2 p.m. March 19
    Cost: $10 to $15
    Details: (310) 243-3589; http://cah.csudh.edu/theatre
    Venue: CSUDH University Theatre, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    March 18
    The Perfect American
    Long Beach Opera will present the U.S. premiere of Philip Glass’ The Perfect American, a fictionalized version of the final days of Walt Disney. The opera will be directed by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Andreas Mitisek. Therole of Walt Disney will be sung by baritone Justin Ryan.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 18
    Cost: $49 to $150
    Details: www.longbeachopera.org/tickets
    Venue: Terrace Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    March 18
    Sketchily Ever After
    Held2gether, Improv for Life is returning for a fourth year as a part of the Collaborative at the Long Beach Playhouse, with its’ latest set of original sketches, Sketchily Ever After.
    The Saturday Night Live style event has become an annual favorite and a staple of the theatre’s Studio Collaborative season.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through March 18
    Cost: $15
    Details: (562) 494-1014; lbplayhouse.org.
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    March 24
    Musical Theatre West presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical masterpiece.
    Carousel explores the timeless messages of love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 24, 25 and 31, and April 1, 6, 7 and 8; 1 p.m. March 26, April 2 and 9; and 2 p.m. April 2 and 8
    Cost: $20
    Details: (562) 856-1999, ext. 4; www.musical.org,
    Venue: Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

    March 25
    In a large, tastefully appointed townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe farce attack. Despite being his tenth wedding anniversary party, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. The lawyer and his wife must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 25
    Cost: $14 to $20
    Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    March 31
    Romeo and Juliet Rehearsals
    You are invited to Elysium for each and every Romeo and Juliet rehearsal.
    Time:  6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, until March 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.fearlessartists.org/box-office-1
    Venue: Elysium, 729 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

    April 2
    Letters From Young Gay Men
    Letters from Young Gay Men is a project that was inspired by Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It is show that brings a unique intimacy between the gay youth and elders of the community.
    Time: 8 p.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays through April 2
    Cost: $25
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/letterstogaymen
    Venue: Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles


    April 3
    The exhibition Threesome featuring multimedia artist Brian Bernhard, ceramic artist Nora Chen and mixed media and digital artist Miyuki Sena opens at the Artists’ Studio Gallery at the Promenade on the Peninsula on April 3.  The exhibition continues until May 14.
    There will be an opening reception from 4 to 8 p.m. on April 8.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, through May 14
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592; artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Promenade on the Peninsula, 550 Deep Valley Drive, #159, Rolling Hills Estates

    April 9
    Frank Brothers: The Store That Modernized Modern
    The exhibition relates the story of Southern California’s largest and most prominent mid-century retailer of modern furniture and design. Based in Long Beach from 1938 – 1982, Frank Bros. embodied the optimistic postwar ethos of the American consumer.
    Date: 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, through April 9
    Cost: Free
    Details: csulb.edu/org/uam
    Venue: California State University Long Beach, University Art Museum, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach

    April 16
    Wearable Expressions

    Wearable Expressions explores the unbreakable bond between Art and Fashion portraying boundary-pushing works in fiber, jewelry and accessories by creative minds from around the globe.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 16
    Cost: Free
    Details: wearableexpressions.com
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 W. Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    April 26
    Creative Expressions
    Creative Expressions, featuring glass artist Howard Schneider, local painter Kathie Reis and abstract artist Lois Olsen opens at the Artists’ Studio Gallery at the Promenade on the Peninsula. An opening reception is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. March 4.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 16
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592; www.artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center/Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education, at 5400 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    April 30
    Ann Weber, Sculpture
    TransVagrant and Gallery 478 present Ann Weber, Sculpture. Ann Weber’s organic sculpture is abstract, formally elegant and composed of inelegant salvaged cardboard. There are abundant hints of figuration and recognizable objects: think chess pieces, balloons, human torsos, plant forms, and graphic ciphers.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through April 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 600-4873; www.transvagrant.com
    Venue: Gallery 478, 478 W. 4th St., San Pedro

    May 6
    The Artist Co-Op is proud to announce the opening of Bits, a four-person exhibition. Both two- and three-dimensional works by Ivan Deavy Zapien, Angelica Fegley, Keith Fegley and Katie Stubblefield will be presented.
    Time: through May 6
    Cost: Free
    Details: kestubblefield@verizon.net
    Venue: Artist Co-Op, 1330 Gladys Ave., Long Beach

    May 21
    The Museum of Latin American Art presents a retrospective of the work of one of the original Los Four founders, Frank Romero in the exhibition entitled Dreamland. Romero’s most iconic works, including his mural work, such as Driving to the Olympics on the Hollywood Freeway, address life in the barrios of Los Angeles.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, through May 21
    Cost: $7 to $10
    Details: (562) 437-1689; molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach


    March 18
    Some Enchanted Evening
    Once again, Grand Vision celebrates music, history and our San Pedro community at the 2017 Gathering for the Grand. This year’s event honors Harbor Area arts patrons, Scott Donnelly and Dr Wade Nishimoto. The theme is Some Enchanted Evening (from the film South Pacific) and will feature colorful Tiki decor, cocktails, appetizers, a delicious dinner, a silent and live auction, music and dancing.
    Time: 5 p.m. March 18
    Cost: $175 to $185
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro

    March 19
    We Can Swing
    Arts Alive in partnership with People’s Place and Palace, will be hosting the We Can Swing Spring Fundraiser.  Celebrate Arts Alive’s 17th birthday.
    Time: 3 to 7 p.m. March 19
    Cost: Free
    Details: kingsandclowns.com
    Venue: People’s Place San Pedro, 365 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    March 23
    Open Conversations: Public Art
    Join the Arts Council for Long Beach for presentations by three local artists, Susan Logoreci, Craig Stone and Terry Braunstein, followed by a discussion about public art in our city. The Arts Council looks forward to growing a civic arts program that is expansive and inclusive.
    Time: 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 23
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/OpenConversations-PublicArt
    Venue: The Art Exchange, 356 E. 3rd St., Long Beach

    March 25
    Rancho Days
    Be part of Rancho Day on the Rancho San Pedro. Experience life in the 1800s before California became part of the United States. This fun and interactive day will focus on what life was like on the Rancho San Pedro in Alta California.
    Time: 12 to 4 p.m. March 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 895-5736; www.dominguezrancho.org
    Venue: Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, 18127 S. Alameda St., Rancho Dominguez

    March 25
    Long Beach Live
    Councilman Roberto Uranga invites to support talented local performers, including singers, comics, poets, dancers and storytellers for a free public event.
    Time: 7 to 10 p.m. March 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/LongBeachLive
    Venue: The Mirage Grill, 539 E. Bixby, Long Beach

    March 29
    Meet the Grunions
    Grunions are small sardine-size fish of the silversides family, which are one of the few fish species in the world that actually come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches.  They are found from central California through Baja California, with Cabrillo Beach being one of the better places to observe the fish.
    Time: 8 p.m. March 29
    Cost: $5
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    March 30
    CITT Town Hall Meeting
    The Center for International Trade and Transportation will commemorate its 20th anniversary with a State of the Trade and Transportation Industry Town Hall meeting. People who work within the trade and transportation industries are encouraged to attend. Seating is limited.
    Time: 6 to 8 p.m. March 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/CITTTownHall
    Venue: CSULB, Gerald Daniel Recital Hall, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach


    March 30
    Spit ’n’ Argue
    Enjoy an evening at Harvey Milk Park by taking part in a debate club.
    Time: 6 to 8 p.m. March 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://innovatelb.com/showcase
    Venue: Harvey Milk Park, E. 3rd St., Long Beach

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  • Philip Glass’s THE PERFECT AMERICAN @ Long Beach Opera

    Philip Glass just won’t go away. That’s a good thing. In this 21st century of ours opera needs a guy who can marry classical orchestral paradigms with the computer age, all strange loops and binary repetitions and cold confusing realities, some new to modernity, some as old as wishing upon a star.

    And God bless him, Glass could not have picked a better subject for such operatic treatment than Walter Elias Disney, a perfect American: ambitious, controlling, cunning, imaginative, needy, obsessive, pragmatic, self-righteous, bigger than life and wanting to live forever.

    That’s where Glass and librettist Rudy Wurlitzer drop us in: terminally-ill Walt (Justin Ryan) is living out his last months in a shiny hospital ward, where he drifts between the present and the past, revisiting ghosts and demons, justifying himself to the living and the dead and leaving instructions about what to do with his body if he dies. Walt always adds “if” when he utters of the D word. His desire to triumph over the D word is a definer of his life.

    Wurlitzer’s plainspoken libretto could not serve the story better. The Perfect American is chock full of recitative (a technique that’s always jarring to my ears, but less so within Glass’s minimalism), and this ain’t no poetry (show me a libretto that is), but Wurlitzer makes the most of librettism’s (anyone got a better word for that?) clumsiness to give us the necessary broad strokes of backstory and theme. But there’s also art in his artisanship, making clever turns like Act 1’s remembrance/beatification of Disney’s boyhood Marceline and its “Main Street, USA” (as Disney would reify it in his magic kingdom). But nothing beats, “Americans never say die, and tomorrow is only a miracle away,” which in 11 words synopsizes the philosophy and desire of the dying man in front of us. Wurlitzer neatly tailors the expression of his ideas (inspired by or drawn from Peter Stephan Jungk’s Der König von Amerika) to fit Glass’s minimalist ethos from start to finish.

    For his part, Glass has never been better, and maybe never this good. You always know what you get with Glass: dark tones and space and note cycles spinning like plates on sticks. But here the plates wobble at all the right moments, wobble together to open up new spaces where snares and tympani, triangles and tambourines sing out and create aether of their own (there are three percussionists in Long Beach this week who are damn happy campers). Sure, there’s repetition aplenty (Glass is every Cure fan’s dream orchestral composer), but it’s maximally effective here, rarely drifting into redundancy. Plus, we get a few left turns into grand bursts of choir. (Do I even hear the occasional major chords? Phil, you devil!)

    Special mention should be made of those choir parts. You can almost dispense with vocals in a Philip Glass opera. They’re usually the least interesting feature compositionally, and sometimes they seem needlessly (were it not for the text) lain atop the music. But the choral parts never feel like that. Instead, they are thunderbursts, and beams of sunlight streaming through the parting clouds, and the wind that carries distant memories to the present before they drift away forever.

    Long Beach Opera won half the battle by landing The Perfect American (the American premiere, no less!). Then they won the other half by how they staged it. I found myself a little distracted early on wondering about production costs. That it’s beautiful is beyond question, all grays and silvers and chrome, lit with striking nuance (kudos, David Jacques). There are quality video projections and puppetry and shadowplay (both front- and back-projected). There’s a big metal façade gridded with dimmable white neon. There’s a gorgeously curving sculpture of a bank of five overhead OR lights looking down on the proceedings like benign versions of the War of the Worlds Martians.

    I got to wondering about cost not because I care, but because a striking feature of Long Beach Opera’s staging is its perfect economy. Every aspect of performance and design, every moment and square foot is featured in the best possible light, literally and figuratively; every element is framed for maximum effect. Just like Glass does compositionally, sometimes you get more with less. However much there is to this production, what’s more salient is how much Long Beach Opera gets out of it.

    That’s largely a tribute to Kevin Newbury, who has directed the shit out of this show. With assistance from choreographer Chloe Treat, Newbury expertly and unfailingly links movement to music and text, managing novel ways to engage us without ever breaking the crepuscular spell Glass casts onto Disney’s final days and the miasma of his mind. One of the Newbury’s masterstrokes is to turn several songs into distinct set pieces. Disney’s 65th birthday is an early example, where a stark change in lighting mimics Glass’s modal shift. But the debate between Walt and the animatronically skeletal Abraham Lincoln (brought to life with puppetry so fine in stretches that the lip sync matches not just syllables but mouth shape. Truly eerie) will almost push all the other great set pieces out of your mind.

    Newbury has the luxury of getting to work with a perfect mise en scène. The Lincoln puppet, the scenery (best use of x-rays ever), the costumes, the video…And we’ve already talked about those lights. The elements fall into place so organically that you don’t know whether form is following function or the other way around. Zane Pihlström’s hauntingly beautiful steampunk owl costume seems to dictate how the wearer moves. Everything is like that: as if it could have been neither built nor employed in any other way. Remember that choir? Of course they’d be dressed as something between Mousketeers and schoolchildren from The Wall and stand in unison and be lit up from time to time through a cutaway in that big façade. You couldn’t not do that, right?

    Unlike most operas, The Perfect American is not about soloists—the singing is just one of the summed parts—but the principals are strong basically across the board. In the lead role, Justin Ryan doesn’t have a moment to rest, but he brings the requisite energy and presence from start to finish, playing Walt in a way David Lynch would appreciate (there’s a Lynchian aesthetic to the whole show). Among the supporting roles, Zeffin Quinn Hollis is particularly strong as his brother Roy. (He and Scott Ramsay, as a chief Disney animator fired after trying to organize a union, have a great back-and-forth during an argument about the Disney contract.)

    The music, meanwhile, is always center stage, and Andreas Mitisek has a hell of an orchestra with which to do Glass’s score the justice it deserves. Whether somnolent, meditative, or driving, you almost take the musical performance for granted because of how well it envelops you, a bit like how you stop feeling the water when the Jacuzzi temp is just right. You’re just immersed in the microclimate, and you let the current carry you along.

    In the hands of Long Beach Opera, The Perfect American is that perfect marriage of text and execution, where the seams binding the two parts are imperceptible from the outside. That The Perfect American is American-premiering in Southern California, where we have such an up-close-and-personal relationship with Walt Disney and world, is almost too good to be true. Literally, because this is a two-performance run, and there is only one left. I’ll never be able to generally recommend an opera more highly. Go.


    (Photo credit: Keith Ian Polakoff)

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