• RLn ANNOUNCEMENTS: June 15, 2016

    June 25
    B.A.R.K. Dogs
    BARK Dogs will be at the Los Altos Library on June 25. The program encourages children to better their reading skills by reading aloud to certified therapy dogs.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 25
    Venue: Los Altos Library, 5614 E. Britton Drive, Long Beach
    June 25
    I Dig Long Beach 10th Street Tree Planting
    New trees are coming to 10th Street June 25. The Port of Long Beach has provided funding to plant 6,000 trees in Long Beach neighborhoods through 2020. Help plant them
    Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. June 25
    Venue: Northgate Gonzalez Market, 2038 E. 10th St., Long Beach
    June 29
    CASA Information Session
    CASA is hosting a volunteer information session from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 29 at Total Wine in Long Beach. RSVP.
    Details: (323) 859-2888; volunteer@casala.org
    Venue: Total Wine Long Beach, Long Beach Towne Center, 7400 Carson Blvd., Long Beach
    June 30
    Leadership Long Beach is Accepting Applications
    Applications are now being accepted for class of the Leadership Long Beach Institute program, which will begin in August 2016. Deadline is June 30. The program creates relationships for the participants to learn directly from those who see and face the challenges and opportunities for the community.
    Cost: $25
    Details: www.leadershiplb.org
    Venue: Leadership Long Beach, 743 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
    Fitness Classes at Plaza Park
    From May 30 to Aug. 26, Plaza Park is offering free summer exercise classes throughout the week. Tuesdays are dedicated to the Run Club, with an early morning boot camp on Wednesdays; CrossFit Kids meets on Friday and Saturday has early morning “Glute Camp,” as well as yoga later in the day.
    Time: Tuesdays 5 p.m.; Wednesdays 6:45 a.m.; Friday 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
    Venue: Plaza Park, 7000 S. Beacon St., San Pedro

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  • News

    RL NEWS Roundups: June 14, 2016

    News: LA Council Approves San Pedro Public Market Lease

    SAN PEDRO — On June 10, the Los Angeles City Council approved the 50-year ground lease for the San Pedro Public Market.
    Proponents of the redevelopment are hoping the $150 million project on 30-acres will transform the waterfront into a tourist destination.
    The approval came three days after the Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved the lease.
    The development is expected to include retail, restaurants, park areas and office space. Construction is slated to begin in 2017.

    Man Killed in Long Beach Car Collision

    LONG BEACH — A man was killed in a traffic collision at the intersection of Carson Street and San Anseline Avenue.
    The crash took place at 12:01 a.m. on June 11. The other driver, a 26-year old Lakewood resident, was rear-ended by a motorcyclist. The car veered off the roadway, hitting a wall, while the motorcyclist was thrown forward into the road.
    Long Beach Fire Department Paramedics responded and determined the cyclist was dead at the scene. The woman sustained minor injuries and was transported to the hospital.
    At this time, the motorcyclist is not being identified pending notification of next of kin.
    Anyone with information is asked to call (562) 570-5520 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.

    Man Murdered in North Long Beach

    LONG BEACH — A 20-year-old man was murdered near the 6400 block of Coronado Avenue in Long Beach.
    The incident took place at about 4 a.m. June 9. Police officers responded to shot calls. When they arrived they found that two men who had been shot in the upper torso. One man was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition. The other, Wylee Pritchett, a Lakewood resident, was killed at the scene.
    The motive for the shooting is under investigation. However, police do not believe the shooting was gang related.
    Anyone with information is asked to call (562) 570-7244 or visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.

    Long Beach Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Filing False Tax Return

    LONG BEACH — On June 8, Carl A. Kemp, 43, the owner of The Kemp group, a public relations firm, was charged June 7 for filing a false tax return for the year 2012.
    Kemp also failed to report more than $200,000 in income received from illegal marijuana stores located in Long Beach.
    In a plea agreement filed, Kemp agreed to plea guilty to the tax offense. Kemp now owes $210,661 to the Internal Revenue Service to cover the back taxes due for the past six years. He also received a civil fraud penalty. The charge of subscribing to false tax returns is punishable by three years in federal prison.
    Kemp will be directed by the court to appear for an arraignment later this month.

    Calderon to Plead Guilty to Federal Corruption

    LOS ANGELES – On June 13, Former California Sen. Ronald S. Calderon agreed to plead guilty to a federal corruption charge.
    He admitted in a plea agreement filed that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for performing official acts as a legislator.
    Calderon, 58, of Montebello, agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud through the deprivation of honest services to resolve a case against him that was filed in 2014. The plea agreement comes several weeks before Calderon was scheduled to go on trial on charges contained in a 24-count indictment.
    In the plea agreement, Ron Calderon admits accepting bribe payments from the owner of a Long Beach hospital who wanted a law to remain in effect so he could continue to reap millions of dollars in illicit profits from a separate fraud scheme and from undercover FBI agents who were posing as independent filmmakers who wanted changes to California’s Film Tax Credit program.
    Calderon’s brother, Thomas M. Calderon, 62, also of Montebello, a former member of the California State Assembly who became a political consultant, pleaded guilty June 6 to a federal money laundering charge for allowing bribe money earmarked for his brother to be funneled through his firm.
    In the plea agreement, Ron Calderon admitted participating in a bribery scheme involving two areas of legislation and the hiring of a staffer at the behest of those paying bribes.
    In the first part of the bribery scheme, Ron Calderon took bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, which was a major provider of spinal surgeries that were often paid by workers’ compensation programs. (The spinal surgeries are at the center of a massive healthcare fraud scheme that Drobot orchestrated and to which he previously pleaded guilty. Ron Calderon is not implicated in the healthcare fraud scheme.) Drobot was a client of Tom Calderon’s political consulting firm.
    California law known as the “spinal pass-through” legislation allowed a hospital to pass on to insurance companies the full cost it had paid for medical hardware it used during spinal surgeries. As Drobot admitted in court, his hospital exploited this law, typically by using hardware that had been purchased at highly-inflated prices from companies that Drobot controlled and passing this cost along to insurance providers. Drobot bribed Ron Calderon so that he would use his public office to preserve this law that helped Drobot maintain a long-running and lucrative healthcare fraud scheme, which included Ron Calderon asking a fellow senator to introduce legislation favorable to Drobot. The payments from Drobot came in the form of summer employment for Ron Calderon’s son, who was hired as a summer file clerk at Pacific Hospital and received a total of $30,000 over the course of three years, despite the son doing little actual work at the hospital.
    In another part of the bribery scheme, Ron Calderon accepted bribes from people he thought were associated with an independent film studio, but who were in fact undercover FBI agents. In exchange for the payments – including $3,000 monthly payments to Ron Calderon’s daughter for services she never provided – Ron Calderon agreed to support an expansion of a state law that gave tax credits to studios that produced independent films in California. The Film Tax Credit applied to productions of at least $1 million, but, in exchange for bribes, Ron Calderon agreed to support new legislation to reduce this threshold to $750,000, according to the plea agreement.
    Ron Calderon took several official actions with respect to reducing the threshold for the Film Tax Credit. Ron Calderon signed a letter on his official Senate letterhead indicating that he would propose legislation lowering the threshold, introduced a “spot bill” he told an undercover agent would be used to propose such legislation, and promised that he would vote in favor of that proposed legislation.
    In addition to the payments to his daughter for work she did not do, Ron Calderon had one of the undercover agents make a $5,000 payment toward his son’s college tuition and a $25,000 payment to Californians for Diversity, a non-profit entity that Ron Calderon and his brother used to improperly pay themselves.
    As part of the agreement with the undercover agents, Ron Calderon performed official acts that led to the hiring of another undercover agent as a staffer in his district office at an annual salary of $45,105.
    As part of Ron Calderon’s plea agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed not to seek a sentence of more than 70 months in federal prison, a term that is expected to be within the United States Sentencing Guidelines advisory range for this case. However, Judge Snyder would not be bound by any sentencing recommendation and could sentence Ron Calderon up to statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
    Tom Calderon pleaded guilty last week to money laundering and admitted that he agreed to conceal bribe payments for his brother from the two undercover FBI agents by having the money go through his company, the Calderon Group. Tom Calderon allowed payments to be made to the Calderon Group “to conceal and disguise the fact that the money represented the proceeds of bribery,” according to his plea agreement.
    Tom Calderon “deposited the $30,000 bribe payment from [the undercover agent] into the Calderon Group’s bank account and then wrote a check for $9,000 from the Calderon Group’s bank account to Ronald S. Calderon’s daughter,” Tom Calderon admitted in his plea agreement.
    As part of Tom Calderon’s plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than one year in prison, which is expected to be within the United States Sentencing Guideline advisory range for the offense. However, when Judge Snyder sentencing Tom Calderon of September 12, she could impose a term of up to 20 years in prison, which is the statutory maximum penalty for the money laundering count.

    Hahn’s Pipeline Reform

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Hahn’s pipeline reform provision was up for vote on the House Floor on June 8.
    Rep. Hahn has been vocal about the need to protect communities that face the threat of pipeline accidents, such as Wilmington.
    S. 2267, the PIPES Act of 2016, would make sure that the Secretary of Transportation issues formal guidance clarifying pipeline status. The provision would specify the status of pipelines and ensure they get regular inspections that would prevent oil spills.
    “Residents of Wilmington and communities like it across the country need to know that they can trust the system to protect them,” Hahn said. “And for too long the system has failed.

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  • journalism

    Walking the Thin Line Between Advocacy and Journalism

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    On June 12, I woke up to terrible news. Twenty people killed in the early-morning hours by a lone gunman in Orlando, Fla. The incident took place at gay club on Latino night, during a month of celebration for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

    My first instinct was denial. I did not want to read further. I went to get my morning coffee and headed to the gym. As I drove back I found out that the number of deaths were at least 50 with an additional 53 injured. With sadness, I fought the tears fighting to burst.

    But that sadness soon turned into anger, as diffused information included details about the shooter’s homophobia and soundbites of police officials quoted them saying the incident was under “investigation.” They could not call it a hate crime, an act of terrorism or even an act of violence at the time. Reporters were also careful to not call the incident anything other than what officials told them.

    What? Excuse me? Fifty people killed at a gay club by a known homophobe with radical ideas about Islam and we can’t call it anything until the president of the United States denounces the crimes 12 hours later? Are you serious? Now, I’m walking a very thin line in writing this post. As journalist I am supposed to remain neutral in reporting the news cycle. So, let me be clear. I am not writing this post as the co-president of NLGJA-LA, I am not writing this as bisexual man; I am not writing this as a Latino; I am writing this post as both a journalist and a human being — two identities that can’t always be separated, and shouldn’t, in my opinion.

    Journalism Ethics

    I became a journalist to add my grain of salt onto the world through information and for the betterment of humanity. And, while I don’t consider my work anything close to the work of well-known and prestigious investigative journalist. I sincerely believe my work makes a difference, however small. If you knew me, you’d know that I have the upmost respect for my career and that I avoid conflicts of interests and ethical missteps.

    And, while I admire newsrooms who maintain themselves at a distance, I often wonder what makes political endorsement acceptable, but support through truth and information unethical.

    I applaud National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association’s mission to help ensure fair and accurate coverage. The organization has stated that it is not an advocacy group. It wants to help journalists with questions about how to cover the LGBT community, and it has provided some tips as to how to do so at http://tinyurl.com/NLGJA-OpenLetter-Orlando. Here are a few tips, as well as some information from NLGJA’s stylebook on how to handle terminology while covering this story. There’s even more on our website, NLGJA.org.

    1. Don’t assume someone’s sexual orientation. If it’s germane to the story (likely, in covering the Orlando shooting), ask how the person identifies.
    2. Don’t assume someone’s gender identity. If it’s germane to the story (possibly, in covering the Orlando shooting), ask how the person identifies.
    3. Don’t use gay to include lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It’s OK to use “gay” in headlines for space, but make sure to explain it further in the story.

    To assist journalists, NLGJA offers a stylebook on common word choice and tipsheets on issues that affect our communities. You can find both at nlgja.org/resources. NLGJA also has professional development available through its Newsroom Outreach Program. The project was designed to help newsrooms better understand the complexities of covering our diverse communities, while remaining unbiased. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of assistance. The organization has members in local, national and international newsrooms who are experienced covering these issues.

    Human Choice

    However, it’s not enough. I have decided to take a stand today and call for action, not silence. I am sincerely offering condolences to the survivors of the deceased. I am asking that as a community of not just LGBT people, or journalists, but as humans, we open our hearts, and if possible, our pockets, to the injured and the family of the deceased. I am calling for unity. I am advocating for visibility and strength. I am calling all of us to fight xenophobia. We must not allow this horrible incident to drive a wedge within our communities.

    I wear many labels some by choice and some by birth, but as a human being I must act according to my conscience. I have a position and an opinion about many things, including gun control, religion and culture. And, while I still honor my job as a journalist by working hard to not allow those opinions to influence my reporting, I believe that as a Latino, and as member of LGBT community and humanity, I have the responsibility to acknowledge this act of horror as a devastating tragedy, condemn the actions of people who fuel hate in our communities, offer my condolences and offer any help I am able to provide, including simple information about how to help. It is the least I can do.

    Visit Equality Florida’s Go Fund Me page and give.

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  • Nation Unites in the Wake of Orlando Tragedy

    Shows of solidarity are being evidenced across the nation in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, which left 50 people dead, and another 53 wounded.

    The nation is voicing its support of the victims of the shooting from the Tony Awards, to late night host John Oliver the message is clear: “We are one.” Hundreds of people lined up to donate blood to the surviving injured, for example.

    The attack came during Pride month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969. But this week’s pride parades, usually a colorful and celebratory affair, turned markedly somber.

    While the impact was felt around the nation, fear did not dissuade the community from coming together in West Hollywood. The parade went on as planned amid amped up security and the arrest of a 20-year-old, with a car full of weapons, who reportedly was on the way to the festival. Many participants held signs proclaiming, “We are Orlando.” Throughout the country, vigils are taking place in honor of the victims.


    Many elected representative reacted to the massacre in official statements:

    “This act of anti-LGBTQ hate violence stole the lives of over 50 people and left many seriously injured. Our hearts are with the friends and loved ones of those who are mourning today…. As many of us are celebrating Pride month, we must remember that there is still hate and discrimination against many races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities. During this time we must remain unified. We must not allow those that are filled with hate to drive a wedge into our communities.”
    Porter Gilberg, executive director of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach

    “I am horrified by this shooting and senseless act of mass murder. I am so angry and my heart breaks for the victims and their families.”
    —Mayor Robert Garcia, Long Beach

    “Our hearts go out to victims of this terrible act of terror and their families as they cope with this senseless tragedy. This shooting appears to have been motivated by homophobia. As such, it is a reminder that homophobia is dangerous and can be deadly….. Today, we extend that love to our brothers and sisters in Orlando and [we] march in solidarity with them.”
    —Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin

    “Once again, a shocking act of violence forces us to reflect on the price of allowing easy access to fearsome weaponry. We must distinguish between the freedom to bear arms and the irresponsible policies that open the way, again and again, for our enemies to turn their hatred into explosions of deadly mass violence.”
    —Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

    “This was not just an attack on the LGBT community; it was an attack on our nation and its values… Our hearts ache deeply for the victims and their loved ones with the pain and shared sense of loss that all of us feel when innocent people fall victim to senseless violence. We Stand with Orlando.”
    —George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs


    Here are few stories that have surfaced in the wake of the tragedy:

    These are the Victims of the Orlando Massacre

    Orlando FacesRead more at Fusion.com and the Orlando Sentinel

    ‘He’s Not a Terrorist, Just an American Homophobe’

    By Grant Stearn
    The horrifying massacre in Orlando … was clearly a hate crime, not an Islamic terrorist attack.
    Read more at OccupyDemocrats.com

    Hate Speech Lit the Fuse

    By Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon
    Every anti-gay politician, every bigoted preacher, every self-hating bully has blood on his hands.
    Read more at DesertSun.com

    Clinton Calls Orlando Attack ‘Radical Islam’

    By Nick Gass
    Hillary Clinton … broke from President Barack Obama in referring to the terrorist attack as “radical Islamism,” countering Donald Trump’s accusations that both she and Obama are weak on tackling terrorist threats.
    Read more at Politico.com

    Equality Florida has set up a Go Fund Me page to help victims and the families of Orlando Massacre

    ABC News Timeline:

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  • VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE @ International City Theatre

    I must be a very dour fellow. There I was, sitting in the lovely Beverly O’Neill Theatre as a solid cast acted out the 2013 Tony-winner for Best Play on one of International City Theatre’s typically fine sets, the audience around me awwwing with empathy and giggling with delight…and I felt nothing.

    Fiftysomething siblings Vanya (Stephen Rockwell) and Sonia (Jennifer Parsons) still cohabit their childhood home and lament that their lives seem to have passed them by sans adventure. Enjoying morning coffee in the dayroom is pretty much the highlight of their day, that and looking out for the blue loon that makes a daily visit to the lake beyond their rear window. Were it not for the melodramatic prophesying of their housekeeper Cassandra (Murielle Zuker), their lives would be colorless. But today will be different: Masha (Leslie Stevens), their younger sister and a jet-setting movie star, is coming for a visit, her twentysomething boy-toy Spike (Connor McRaith) in tow.

    If you like your comedy with a dash of subtlety, Christopher Durang ain’t your guy, and giving a character named Cassandra psychic powers is the least of it. It’s not enough for Durang to incorporate elements straight from multiple Chekhov plays, he’s got to have his eponymous sibs given their Chekhovian names by theatre-loving parents (Sonia was adopted at 8, actually, by which point kids already have names, but let that go), and they’ve got to talk explicitly about Chekhov and do bits from Chekhov and live on a lot with a cherry orchard. It almost shocking that we aren’t shown a gun in Act 1 that will finally be used in Act 2.

    It may be fitting, then, that there’s nothing subtle in any of the performances. When Cassandra prophesizes, Zuker seems straight out of an episode of I Love Lucy. Stevens plays Masha as a by-the-book comedy prima donna. McRaith’s Spike is reminiscent of Joey from Friends. Although Vanya and Sonia are quieter characters, their reserve shouldn’t be confused with subtlety. Everything about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is obvious.

    But Durang has proven expert at getting laughs. He was a big deal way back in the 1980s, and he’s a big deal today. I may not have any idea why the woman in the front row cackled when one of the characters said, “Lions and tigers and bears—oh my,” but she did. And I give Durang this much credit: he aimed to throw in all this Chekhov stuff and yet create a play that could be enjoyed by those completely ignorant of Russia’s national playwright, and he hit his mark.

    I’ve got to take back something I said. There is one subtle element to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, one that does in fact take a bit of knowledge of Chekhov to appreciate. Chekhov’s onstage characters are prototypes of quiet despair. Vanya and Sonia immediately show themselves to be cut from that cloth, as does Masha ultimately. Durang’s inspiration is to deliver these characters from despair—a move directly counter to Chekhov’s aesthetic. It may not be as clever a conceit as what Tom Stoppard does with Shakespeare in Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, but it does provide Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike with an unexpected dimension (even if the liteness of the play means their desperation lacks gravity).

    That’s not going to be enough to redeem it for you if you don’t like the comedy. You know how some you simply adore Christopher Guest films, while the rest of us just shrug? It’s not that we don’t get what Guest is doing or even appreciate it to some degree; we just don’t find Guest funny. Some of us don’t find Christopher Durang funny, either. But we may be in the minority.


    (Photo credit: CaughtintheMoment.com)

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  • Dave Widow

    Widow and Pearl, Together Again in Pedro

    Dave Widow and Bernie Pearl Reunite at the Grand Annex

    By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude

    Funky Blues ​rocker Dave Widow and The Line Up is returning to The Grand Annex with veteran blues artist Bernie Pearl on June 18. Pearl is opening the show with an acoustic set.
    Although the Widow and Pearl are power hitters on the blues scene, the Line Up are awesome in their own right.
    Popular session drummer and musician James Gadson will be laying down a groove on this night. He has played with the greatest, from Marvin Gaye to Paul McCartney, and has been a part of 500 gold selling records.
    One of the great bass players working the Los Angeles music scene Michael Be Holden, is joining the Line Up on this date.
    Also featured is special guest blues guitarist Kirk Fletcher whose resume includes playing with the legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa.
    If you were privileged enough to have been at this year’s Doheny Blues festival a few weeks ago, you would have seen a tour de force performance that concluded with a standing ovation for Fletcher. His brilliant string is talked about globally. This will be a very unique evening for blues fans, witnessing an impressive array of talent across the board.
    Bernie Pearl is one of the true American treasures, his wealth of knowledge and experience has set him a cut above others who play the country ­ or really any style ­ of blues acoustic or electric.
    Dave Widow and the Line Up tore up The Grand Annex with two blistering sets with his guest Bill Champlin (Chicago and The Sons of Champlin) in 2015. At the time, the versatile Gadson had the room jumping with his version of Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lou.” Bassist James “Hutch” Hutcherson (Bonnie Raitt) just added to the excitement .
    Widow and Pearl’s performance at The Grand Annex last year sold­ out was sold out. Tickets for their return engagement are expected to sell out quickly​.​ On the night of the show, door tickets will be $5.00 more than if your purchased them in advance at all ticket levels. Online sales ends at 7:00 pm, day of show.
    Time: 8 p.m., June 18
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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  • Negroni Cocktails:

    It’s for A Good Cause

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer
    Some of us don’t need an excuse to drink cocktails, but if I could be so bold, here’s a good one. It’s called Negroni Week and this year it lands between June 6 and 12. It’s a benign week for most people, but anybody in the “industry” — of course, I mean the food and beverage industry — knows all about this lovely little week of fun and friendly competition.

    Negroni Week was launched in 2013 as a celebration to raise money for charitable causes around the world. Venues select a local charity and then pledge to donate $1 from the sale of each Negroni.

    Let’s address the obvious: the Negroni cocktail. It is made from equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari, then garnished with an orange peel for aromatics. The classic aperitivo, or before-dinner drink, is said to prepare the stomach for the meal to follow. It is one of the few cocktails that dates back to the early 20th century. Named after Count Camillo Negroni, who asked his bartender to strengthen his usual drink by replacing soda water with gin, the cocktail has remained unchanged throughout the years. But bartenders are starting to add their own twists and turns to the spirited beverage.

    The Negroni Movement

    What started as a handful of participants has sparked a global Negroni movement. Participation ranges across thousands of bars and restaurants in over 28 countries, and features local competitions among bartenders and drinkers. There are prizes for the bartenders who put their own spin on the beverage, and the financial haul is counted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.The bar that sells the most Negron-inspired cocktails will receive an extra $10,000 dollars from Campari to donate to their charity. Imbibe magazine also throws down some serious cash to the winner.

    Some of our favorite bars and restaurants in the Harbor Area are also getting on board. J. Trani’s in San Pedro will be featuring a special Negroni aged with vanilla bean, and will be donating to the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor.

    Michael’s Restaurant Group in Long Beach will be featuring two Negroni cocktails, one with an Aperol foam garnish. The bartenders at James Republic, Anthony Jackson and Todd Deckinger, came up with a trio of Negroni-inspired cocktails: Il Padrino, Il Figlio, and Il Sprito Santo, featuring rum, tequila and gin, respectively. Nathan McCoullough of Padre in Long Beach will be doing his classic take on a Negroni, adding a few subtle changes like cherry wood smoke and a bit of coffee concentrate.

    I see a Negroni bar crawl in my future, and I use the word “crawl” here, loosely. The goal is to leave each bar in an upright position.



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  • CASA: Someone to Call ‘Home’

    By Zamná Avila, Assistant Editor

    Lisa Slayton had a rough start at life.

    Her mother was paranoid-schizophrenic and was unable to take care of her. The identity of her biological father and his whereabouts is unknown. Her maternal grandmother took care of her, but when Slayton was 10, her grandmother died.

    In total, Slayton has lived in eight foster homes and about five group homes. She said some of her experiences were positive, but others were not.

    “Some foster homes…take you in as their own, but some…have kids and you can feel the difference,” Slayton said. “And, in group homes, some of the staff they come in just because it’s their job. They really don’t care about the situations of the kids in the system. It’s like a paycheck to them.”

    She was alone. Ironically, that is, until she became a ward of the court at the age of 14. That’s when she met Sam Herod.

    Someone to Call “CASA”

    CASA Sam Herod

    Sam Herod received the G.F. Bettineski Child Advocate of the Year Award for his service to foster children in Los Angeles County

    “When I first met him, he came on very strong,” Slayton remembers. “I was blowing him away. I didn’t want him around. My grandma had just passed. I didn’t want to be around nobody. I was like, ‘Why is this person coming into my life? Why is he so interested and wants to know so much about me?’ But he kept dropping off clothes and food. Until one day, I finally opened up.”

    Herod is part of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program, also known as a CASA. The primary source of National CASA Association’s funding is a community funded organization. Operating funds come from donations and grants from private and government organizations.

    Judges appoint difficult cases to CASA volunteers so they can advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.

    “It’s kind of like they’re a godfather or a godmother,” said Dilys Garcia, the executive director of CASA Los Angeles. “They’re acting like a surrogate parent in some matters that normally a parent would take care of.”

    Herod agrees.

    “My first job is making sure they get everything that’s coming to them through the court system,” said Herod, 60, who has a 41-year-old son, a 35-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old granddaughter of his own. “My second job is to form a relationship where they can trust me, and sometimes, that trust takes me down that road where they look at me as the father they never had.”

    Long Beach resident Maureen Wharton, another CASA volunteer, agrees. She’s been a volunteer for about 10 years. Wharton describes her work as an investigation in which the volunteer tries to learn as much as possible about the child and the people who surround that child.

    Wharton has handled some of the toughest cases, including the case of 14-year-old child who ended up being trafficked for four months after she ran away from her foster home. She was able to get mental health help and an attorney. She also got her enrolled in a residential treatment school paid for by the Long Beach Unified School District.

    “It’s been a very complicated, long case,” Wharton said. “If I wasn’t on the case — I’m not giving myself kudos; I was an extra person on the case — she might not have ever gone to a residential school or succeeded to go to high school and get her diploma.”

    Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe,  permanent home.

    “It’s kind of a big responsibility for a volunteer, but it’s such a rewarding thing,” Wharton said.

    Herod is a retired audio visual specialist from Los Angeles. He started volunteering with CASA in 2000. Growing up around several foster children in his neighborhood during the 60s inspired him to become a volunteer. It’s also why he had the patience to keep coming back to Slayton.

    “Lisa was a very special case,” Herod said. “She had a lot of letdowns from providers that promised her a lot of stuff and didn’t come through…. I love this population of kids because they’re so resilient… They have their faults, like most kids. But when they get knocked down they get up really quick.”

    If you are wondering what the difference between a CASA volunteer and social worker, Slayton makes it simple.

    “The CASA is only really for you,” she said. “It’s somebody you know you can just call and will always answer…. CASAs can have two to three mentees at a time. They can really focus and really get to know you.”

    Social workers often have big caseloads. While they do check on children in their caseloads, they often are unable to provide the emotional support that a CASA volunteer provides.

    “The system is very overburdened,” Garcia said. “Social workers and attorneys have very high caseloads, as do judges….[CASA volunteers] work with the social worker and the attorney and the judge… They’re part of that group, but they become an extra head, an extra heart, an extra set of eyes and ears.”

    Slayton said Herod has helped her find the best school, individual educational plans, self-maintenance, therapy and job preparation.

    “[Sam] is the only person who has been consistent in my life since I was 14,” Slayton said. “I’m now 20 and he’s still there for me. He always wants the best for me.”

    Today, Slayton is working to get herself and her 3-month old son into transitional housing. Her case will be closed when she turns 21, but she plans to continue school, where she is studying child family education. Her goal is to own a daycare for infants or perhaps study to become a child therapist.

    She said Herod will forever be part of her life.

    “I really didn’t have a family,” she said. “I don’t know if I have any relatives. If Sam never came… I don’t know who would be in my life or where I would be.”

    Garcia said Long Beach has a great need for CASAs, considering the number of foster youth in the community.

    “There are only six CASA volunteers in Long Beach… In the Long Beach Unified School District alone there are 840 foster youth,” Garcia said. “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 30,000 foster children in all of Los Angeles County, of which our volunteers also help as many as possible.”

    Slayton hopes her story will inspire others to volunteer.

    “There are a lot of us… who really don’t have anybody to talk to or depend on,” Slayton said. “If people volunteer and want to open up and come work with us, come hear our story and hear us out. We may change your life and you can change our life. You can… be that one person. Sam changed my life.”

    CASA is hosting a volunteer information session from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 29 at Total Wine in Long Beach. RSVP.
    Details: (323) 859-2888; volunteer@casala.org
    Venue: Total Wine Long Beach, Long Beach Towne Center, 7400 Carson Blvd., Long Beach




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  • Clinton Hosts Rally in Long Beach

    On June 6, in a last-minute effort to sway California voters in this year’s primary election, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton scheduled “Get Out the Vote” stops in Lynwood, Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    Clinton’s campaign hoped to beat a recent poll from CBS News showing Clinton up only two points over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    Ramped up security activity, crowds of people and traffic congestion heralded the rally at the Long Beach City College Liberal Arts Campus. Thousands of supporters started lining up at 7 a.m. and waited hours in the hot sun for a glimpse of the contender.  Only 1,600 were allowed into the crowded gymnasium at 6 p.m., said Long Beach Deputy Fire Chief Rich Brandt.

    About 10 Bernie Sanders supporters demonstrated with signs, while Military Families Speak Out made their presence known with signs and chants about ending wars.

    Notable guests included LBCC President Eloy Oakley, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Senate President Kevin de León and actress Busy Philipps.

    Clinton focused on the key issues of raising incomes for California families, lowering health costs, improving education, climate change and the environment, equal pay and womens’ rights, marriage equality and affordable college education.  Regarding over-incarceration and mental illness, she stated that no one belongs in prison for sickness or drug addiction.  She said that one of the first issues she plans to tackle as president is immigration reform.

    Clinton’s comments about her Republican opposition, Donald Trump, were summed up in her statement: “He is not mentally fit to run this country.”

    — Diana Lejins, Contributing Writer, Photographer

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  • Wondem Awakens Brotherly Love

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Wondem, Dexter Story’s debut on Soundway Records, is a love letter to Ethiopia.

    Wondem (pronounced “Windem”) means “brother” in Amharic. But the music on Wondem is adorned with distinctive elements derived from a variety of other East African nations. The result blends Story’s wide-ranging background in soul, funk, jazz and folk with the sounds of Ethiopia,  Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. The album is a personal one and Story’s voice comes through.

    The music is infectious, getting inside you like a celebration. The feeling is  apparent on the album cover: An old black-and-white photo of a young man (a teenaged Dexter Story), leaning to the side, seated on a brick wall bench. Holding his guitar, he wears a huge grin and aviator shades on the purple covered album.

    Hand clapping is a big part of Wondem’s musical formula, contributing a sense of joyfulness to the overall.

    “It is said that the drum and voice were the first instruments,” Story said. “I would bet that clapping hands were also among the original musical devices. The more I immerse myself  into African music and culture, the more I realize the power of the communal circle where people of all ages expressed themselves through singing, dancing, drumming and clapping.”

    Handclapping served an important role in his creative process.

    “Clapping transported me, put me in the right headspace to journey musically,” Story said. “When you listen to music from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the clap is dominant. When you see the indigenous eskista dance of Ethiopia, a fast outstretched clap is an unmistakable aspect of the art form. And, we applaud to express our enjoyment and often rhythmically accentuate the stronger beats in the west with clapping. Clapping is universal.”

    Story collaborated with musicians from Los Angeles and Africa. This blend of east and west brought the original and infectious sound to this heavily percussive album. An abundant circle of local musicians contributed, including, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Carlos Nino, Nia Andrews, Mark de Clive-Lowe and Todd Simon.

    Wondem’s unique arrangements are tightly engineered but share a warmth. It’s filled with percussion, brass, woodwind and strings, an upright piano or vibraphone in some places and a Wurlitzer electric piano as well as synthesizers. You can also hear African instruments. If you listen closely, you will hear the kebero drum and Ethiopian chordophone krar, which sounds similar to a harp.

    Story wanted indigenous language on Wondem. The African artists featured on the album are Alsarah Elgadi and Yared Teshale. Elgadi sung in Arabic on Without an Address, which focuses on the refugee issues in her native Sudan. Teshale sang Sidet Eskemeche, which means, “we will remember,” or “it will never be forgotten,” in Amharic.

    Story sings on a few numbers including, A New Day. His voice sounds like part of the instrumentation. This happens on Merkato Star. It has a great clapping and horn introduction. Yene Konjo, the last track on the album, includes piano played by Mark de Clive-Lowe. Story said that since he doesn’t speak Amharic or Arabic, he was concerned that too much English singing would detract from the authenticity he was trying to convey. He created chant-styled parts allowing him to blend with the instrumentation more smoothly.

    Wondem is a multitude of unique sounds that will leave you desiring more. Story has deftly blended the indigenous with the orchestral, and the melodic with energy driven rhythms.

    “I hope that I can continue to create music that honors and celebrates the African continent and the diaspora,” Story said. “This is only the beginning for me. Wondem feels like a rebirth.”

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