• LBCCD Board Member Campaigns to Keep Seat

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Irma Archuleta isn’t afraid of a challenge, especially when it comes to wearing different hats in her profession.

    She’s been a recruitment specialist, an outreach coordinator, a college instructor and a vice president of student affairs at a community college, as well as other position in the education realm. She now is meeting another challenge. She is campaigning to keep her seat as a board member for the Long Beach Community College District Area 2 representative against longshore worker and journalism instructor Vivian Malauulu.

    “I always take life as a challenge,” Archuleta, 63, said. “It’s about the challenges you take and the challenges that you are able to conquer.”

    Archuleta retired as vice president of student affairs at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. this past October. She said she is running because she believes her professional and personal experience has helped qualify her for the position.

    “What I bring to the table is my experience as an educator, my understanding of the community college system from all perspectives,” she said. “My opponent teaches one class. Her scope and breadth are very limited.”

    Malauulu recently addressed that critique in a Facebook posting, citing her education and work experience as a journalist, administrator and teacher and her work as a longshore worker.

    “The breadth and depth of my unique life experiences will enhance my service to students, staff, and the community of our local college board,” Malauulu wrote.

    In a recent profile, Malauulu also alluded to Archulta’s appointment as suspect and “controversial.”

    Archuleta explained that a community college has two options when a position is vacated: run an election, which would be extremely costly for college, especially if it is going to be only be for a term-and-a-half and only one seat, or, appoint someone, which is less costly and more expedient.

    “That being said, people had the option to apply,” she said. “It wasn’t like it was handed to me. I had to compete for it.”

    As a board member she is charged with helping to establish standards for the community college, addressing the needs of the college ensuring that the institution is operationally within federal and regulations through the president-superintendent. However, the college itself handles its day-to-day operation.

    “The district that I represent — especially in the west side, central Long Beach — has the largest population of first-generation, lower-income [people],” Archuleta said. When we talk about the achievement gap, meaning that in the state of California the students who are progressing at a larger pace are the Asian students, are the white students. The Latino students, the African-American students are lagging behind. So the question is, ‘Why are these students lagging behind?’ As a board member, my job is to ask, ‘Why?’”

    She believes community colleges are facing tough competition from private institution because they don’t cater as well to people who have no option but to work for a living.

    “We are losing a lot students to these proprietary school, which will train in six weeks, 10 weeks, charge you hundreds of thousands of dollars and you end up in debt,” Archuleta said. “But the reason these schools are successful is because they cater to the students’ schedule so that the students can do what they need to do.

    “We need to learn to cater to the students’ schedule, so that the student doesn’t lose out.”

    In her time as a board member the Wrigley neighborhood resident has voted to expand the college free tuition program from one semester to a year, initiate a project labor agreement with local unions to train students and for the college to hire local labor in time of construction, and to undergo another bond measure to construct new buildings and update the college’s facilities.

    If elected, she want ensure greater access to programs and services, help students to reach their educational objectives within a reasonable time frame, work with educational partners to help subsidize the price of textbooks and provide services to undocumented students.

    “Until all students have access to education, regardless of their residence status, we are not going to have equality or equity … in education,” she said.

    College education is very near and dear to the second-generation Chicana. As young child her maternal grandmother, and family matriarch, instilled the importance of education to all of her children and grandchildren. But growing up in the 60s, in a time when education for people color was not encouraged in the school systems, made reaching her goals more difficult.

    “The Chicano movement was gaining momentum, inspired by, of course, the black movement,” Archuleta said.  “The students had walked out of Roosevelt High School, Garfield High School, demanding quality education.”

    She remembers being one of two Latinos who were in English and Algebra at Paramount High School.

    “The girls were put into typing and shorthand … and the guys were put into auto mechanics and woodshop, but none of us were being tracked into college prep courses.”

    She ended up becoming the first Chicana to receive the Pell Grant scholarship in her high school. That year, she received other scholarships, but her counselors never spoke to her or any of her Latino classmates about going to college.

    “Never said, what we had to do, what the admission process was, nada, nada, nada,” Archuleta said.

    Had it not been for a woman who she met at a scholarship reception, Archuleta wouldn’t have even known that she needed to enroll in a college in order to receive her scholarships. The next day the woman showed up at her door with a bunch of pamphlets and helped guide her to enroll at Compton Community College.

    Archuleta’s campaign site: www.IrmaArcheleta.com

    Malauulu’s campaign site:  vivianmalauulu.nationbuilder.com

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  • Former Carson Commissioner Seeks LBCCD Seat

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Vivian Malauulu, whose resume already includes experience as a Carson commissioner and Random Lengths reporter, is campaigning to unseat Irma Archuleta on the April 12 elections for the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees.

    “I have diverse unique experience that no other board member has,” said Malauulu about her hopes to represent Area 2, which borders Carson. “I’m an educator, I’m a longshoreman, and I’m a journalist. All three are very unique careers. I can breathe some fresh air into the board.”

    Malauulu, who is a journalism professor at Long Beach City College, said she knows first-hand what issues are facing the district. She says 35 percent of students have less than a 2.1 GPA, and only 19 percent of students graduate within two years.

    Born Vivian Ramirez in Honduras, Malauulu came at age seven to the United States in 1981. She lived in Carson with her African-American stepfather, who adopted her, making her name Vivian Williams. She attended Banning High School and started teaching there at age 22.

    In 1998, Malauulu was appointed to Carson’s public relations commission by then-mayor Mike Mitoma.

    “Many people told me I was the youngest commissioner ever [in Carson],” she recalled.

    She continued to teach full-time even after her name was drawn in the 1997 longshoreman lottery. She worked first as a casual, and later she worked full-time. Her campaign bio says she’s a member of ILWU Local 13, where “I have served as an elected officer to the Executive Board, as a delegate to the Southern California District Council, and as the chair of the local’s Public Relations Committee.”

    Her husband, George, is also from Carson and a longshoreman. They and their four children now live in LBCCD Area 2 adjacent to Carson. She is no longer a commissioner in Carson but serves on Long Beach’s Commission for Youth and Children.

    Archuleta, the incumbent, was appointed in September 2014 to replace Roberto Uranga, who won the District 7 Long Beach City Council seat that same year.

    Malauulu describes Archuleta’s appointment as “very controversial” because the board appointed Archuleta instead of calling an election, even though there were two years left on Uranga’s term. Malauulu questions why the board appointed Archuleta, who had to divide time between Long Beach and serving as vice president of Student Affairs at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. Archuleta resigned the Evergreen position in October 2015.

    “I am the best candidate to represent the district because I have been representing the district,” Archuleta responded. “I have served as an effective and accessible advocate for advancing the progressive values of my community. I helped to expand the Long Beach Promise scholarship program from one semester to one year.  I have brought new attention to the needs of immigrant and undocumented students and helped secure the path for the district’s first every [ever] Project Labor Agreement to ensure projects are completed with local workforce, on budget and on time.”

    Before becoming a vice president at Evergreen Valley College, Archuleta says she served as adjunct faculty at El Camino College and Cal State University Long Beach.

    She co-founded Leticia A Network in 1984, as an advocacy group in support of undocumented immigrants’ access to college. According to the lbcc.edu site, Archuleta has “has a deep-rooted passion for social justice and an unwavering commitment for undocumented immigrants.”

    Malauulu’s campaign site:  vivianmalauulu.nationbuilder.com

    Archuleta’s campaign site: www.IrmaArcheleta.com

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  • Changes are Coming to SP Waterfront Restaurants

    By Gina Ruccione, Restaurant and Cuisine Writer

    Ports O’ Call has been an iconic waterfront dining destination for generations. Since its inception, families from all over Southern California have been coming to San Pedro to dine. While the façade seems to lack luster, hope for the future of the waterfront is bright. 

    Phase One of development has all but been approved for several berths north of the classic Ports O’ Call Restaurant. The dining scene will be changing.

    The restaurant business is fickle at best. Consumers and diners are constantly looking for the next best eatery, but San Pedro — perhaps more than any other area in Los Angeles County — holds fast to tradition and appreciates local, family-owned businesses more than almost anywhere. It’s only appropriate that we take care of our community treasures, and not let them depreciate into dilapidated buildings and storefronts.

    I recently spent several hours wandering around Ports O’ Call trying to picture what changes might bring to the businesses at the waterfront and had the pleasure of dining at one of San Pedro’s oldest dining establishments, Ports O’ Call Restaurant — which has been in the same location for more than 55 years. I was able to chat at length with Noramae Munster, the culinary director for the restaurant. She was able to provide some wonderful insight about the upcoming changes to the area.

    Munster, who was originally brought on as a consultant 10 years ago, fell in love with the waterfront and has been with the restaurant since. While the restaurant has seen its ups and downs, she maintains a positive disposition. She assured me that they are at the top of their game — and she’s correct. Reviews and ratings for the restaurant are higher than ever and the feedback from patrons is positive.

    Currently, the brand of the waterfront seems to project one that is old, broken and undesirable. What most don’t realize is that the waterfront is actually quite successful in its own right, despite having a less-than-glamorous exterior appearance. Ports O’ Call Restaurant did more than $5 million in sales this past year.  And the San Pedro Fish Market just down the way? It reportedly made about $15 million in revenue. That’s nothing to scoff at.

    Munster believes the development of the waterfront couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only is it greatly appreciated but it’s been a long time coming. While the immediate development and construction doesn’t directly affect the Ports O’ Call Restaurant property, she looks forward to seeing the other areas develop. She believes it will help paint an accurate depiction of what to expect moving forward.

    Details: www.portsocalldining.com.

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. She also is a member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association. You can visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

     

     

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  • ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Finally Convicted

    By Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

    On March 29, Radovan Karadzic, the “Butcher of Bosnia,” was sentenced to 40 years for his crimes during the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian conflict.

    The International Criminal Tribune of the Former Yugoslavia convicted him on 10 of 11 charges in The Hague. These included murder as a war crime, crimes against humanity and genocide.

    The Bosnian War was preceded by the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from the former Yugoslav Republic in 1991 and formed the multi-ethnic Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Serbs, who boycotted the referendum that led to the declaration of independence, rejected the new republic and formed their own, the Republika Sprska.

    The Bosnian Serb uprising took place shortly after the establishment of an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. During this time, Karadzic was an influential party leader. This took place shortly after the symbolic dissolution of the Soviet Empire.  Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina have long been persecuted, going back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.

    Karadzic was the former leader of the Serbian Democratic Party, as well as the first president of the Republika Sprska. He was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilian Bosniak Muslims and Bosnian Croats within a four-year period.

    Rebel armies quickly formed after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, creating an unpredictable and politically-enraged population that was split between Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims).

    Bosnian Serb forces, backed by the mostly Serbian Yugoslav army, began to take control of the countryside. Hundreds of thousands of natives were forced out of their homes and neighborhoods.  It took almost four years of fighting before American involvement finally declared the end of the Bosnian War in 1995.

    Karadzic went into hiding in 1996. He’d been missing for more than a decade. He was captured and arrested in 2008, while he was posing as a practitioner of alternative medicine and psychology in Belgrade.  During this time, he used multiple pseudonyms to stay in the public eye, such as “DD David,” which he used as a new age practitioner.

    Karadzic was hardly alone in his atrocities.  Two of his greatest accomplices included a war general and another Serbian politician.  Slobodan Milosevic was the party leader and president of Serbia from 1989 to 1997.  Milosevic was arrested in 2001 and charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.  He died in 2006 while still on trial for his war crimes.

    Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb war general, was arguably as complicit as Karadzic in orchestrating ethnic cleansing in the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina as early as 1992.  Mladic was the leader of the Bosnian Serb revolting army. He has been held responsible, along with Karadzic and Milosevic, for the loss of about 100,000 Serbian, Bosniak and Croatian lives. The war is considered the worst genocide since Nazi Germany.  Mladic was placed on trial in 2011, but his case was indefinitely suspended due to prosecution errors. The case was reopened in 2015, in light of new evidence.

    Bosnian Serb military commander Zdravko Tolimir, who served directly under Mladic in his army, was also convicted in 2012 of “war crimes against the Bosniak Muslim population,” according to court documents. He was sentenced to life in prison but died in February at a detention center in The Hague.

     

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  • The Chouinard Legacy is Carried Forward

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

     
    “Art has always been my passion since I was a child… as I started to get older my love for art increased and I knew that this was going to save me from a difficult life.”
    —Gustavo “Curly” Fernandez

    Anyone with a passing familiarity with cultural history of the arts in Los Angeles has heard the name Chouinard (pronounced shuh-nard).

    The influential art school counts some of the most innovative names — from painter Ed Ruscha, to Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head— as its alumnae. The school operated from 1921 to 1972.

    I grew up hearing the name because my father graduated from the Chouinard Art School on the G.I. Bill following World War II. Nonetheless, I had no idea the school single-handedly created the West Coast art scene.

    My father was not a fine artist. He was a lucky man who found his way out of an impoverished life in the southern New Mexico copper mines and into a solid career as an illustrator in the nascent California aerospace industry. His luck and talent led him to create fantastical artistic presentations of the race to the moon. The journey from the copper mines to the Mission Gemini project was amazing.

    Much of this luck was made possible by a kind-hearted woman named Nelbert Murphy Chouinard, who dedicated her life to training artists and bringing life to the barren 20th century Los Angeles cultural landscape.

    My father would have related to Curly Fernandez, a boy looking towards art for salvation.

    Curly is the subject of an award-winning film, Curly, which documents his journey and the story of the iconic art school that changed the Los Angeles culture.

    In 1972, the school closed when it was contentiously consumed in the creation of CalArts and the Disney Corp.

    Through an accident of good fortune, the history of the school was unearthed by artist Dave Tourjé. Tourjé purchased Nelbert Chouinard’s former home and began to research her place in the art world.

    In 1999, Bob Perine and Tourjé created the Chouinard Foundation. From its inception, the Chouinard Foundation’s purpose was to illuminate the legacy of Chouinard and bring it to public consciousness. Through this effort, the seeds of Fernandez’s future were planted.

    From 2006 to 2009 the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks hosted affordable art classes in partnership with Chouinard Art Foundation, where Fernandez received his first training in the arts. Curly Fernandez served as an archetype for thousands of young artists, including my father, who sought salvation through the arts. The Chouinard Foundation carries the torch for them all.

    The film follows the young man as he journeys from tagging street graffiti to life drawing classes. His self-esteem begins to grow as he develops the identity of a talented artist, away from a life in the streets.

    “That’s what art gave me: stability,” Fernandez said in the film. “It’s like a drug to me. Art is my fix.”

    Fernandez carries his portfolio of street art to local businesses and occasionally receives permission to create legal ‘tags’ in his neighborhood of South Los Angeles.

    In the film Fernandez meets with Chaz Bojorquez, a Chouinard graduate and a highly acclaimed Chicano artist. Bojorquez lives in the inner city. He began his career in the 1950s, much like Fernandez, painting graffiti.

    The seasoned artist mentors the young apprentice in the ways of the streets. He provides wisdom that comes with lessons learned from the hood. Chaz was one of the first graffiti writers from Los Angeles with his own style. After more than a decade of tagging in the streets in the 1970s and early 1980s, came a deeper need to understand, why do we do graffiti?

    Many other legendary alumni from Chouinard are included in the film, through rare in-studio interviews.

    South Bay artist, John Van Hamersveld, also a Chouinard alumni and a famed designer of iconic posters and murals, serves on the board directors for the Chouinard Foundation.

    “Bringing children in those neighborhoods into classes and learning how to draw is in a sense pulling them into the idea of ‘drawing the idea,’ and from there they get to relate to a larger culture,” Van Hamersveld said.

    Unfortunately, the foundation no longer has funds to provide classes through the Recreation and Parks Department, but they have found new life through the release of this film.

    “This all started when I bought Nelbert Chouinard’s home by accident,” Tourjé said. “We chose to make this film as a way to communicate our mission to the world. I see it as a public trust.”

    The foundation has created a library documenting the history of the school and the careers of the renowned alumni. The film, which continues to win awards at film festivals around the world, can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/126462248.

     

     

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  • End of the Dream or a New Beginning?

    Los Angeles has changed but will it also embrace a new reality?

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    I remember traveling one hot July day in 1955 to the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. For the “happiest place on earth,” that day was a disaster.

    When Disneyland’s gates opened for the first time, the park unveiling  was plagued with epic traffic jams, counterfeit tickets, broken rides, food shortages and a lack of water on a 100-degree day.

    It was a bold move opening a theme park in the outer-reaches of Orange County—an event that heralded the urban sprawl that has now become epic in Southern California.

    Gone now are the orange groves, vineyards and dairy pastures that once fanned out across the southland from places like Torrance, Lomita, Gardena and even San Pedro. San Pedro locals still remember Lochman Farms Dairy on Western Avenue.

    Los Angeles County was once the largest agricultural region in the state. All of it has been divided and subdivided by freeways and thoroughfares, housing communities and shopping malls except for the last piece of vacant Lochman Farms land that’s to be developed known as Ponte Vista.

    This was part of the “dream” of an ever-expanding future. Disneyland and Hollywood fueled those dreams until they hit the brick wall of the Watts Riots in the summer of 1965. The hard reality set in that some parts of sunny California weren’t a part of the “happiest place on earth.”  I watched the fires burn on TV from the hills of Palos Verdes and wondered.

    There is a lot more to this narrative that leads right up to Los Angeles today being the capital of homelessness that makes me believe that what we are witnessing is the demise of this dream. That all of the anger expressed by the Tea Party and the Donald Trump hostility on one side and the “enough is enough” campaign of Bernie Sanders are part of the same reaction to the squeeze.

    More symbolic to this end were the recent deaths of both former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

    With the first being a champion of the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign and the latter a constitutional “originalist” appointee to the Supreme, both were extensions of President Ronald Reagan’s dubious legacy.

    The worldview of this Reagan triad that started back when he was governor of California and continued with his now discredited “trickle down economics” in the 1980s. This has persisted as a legacy up until President Barack Obama got his signature Affordable Care Act passed.

    The ACA continues to be a thorn in the side of conservative Republicans, Tea Partiers and neo-Trumpites even though it has survived three Supreme Court challenges, massively exceeded expectations, and has covered millions of Americans for whom the “dream” has slipped from their grasp along with their last middle-class job.

    What we are clearly witnessing in this curious presidential campaign year is the end of the Reaganomics era and the beginning of something else. That’s what the real debate is about. What’s the alternative to trickle down economics, free trade and inequitable wage compensation?

    Both Trump and Sanders criticize the free trade deals as a gambit that ships manufacturing jobs overseas, but clearly Sanders has the better grasp of the complexity of the issue and only recently has Hillary Clinton signed on to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

    The TPP treaty is only understood by some 10 percent of the California electorate, but conservatives and liberals alike oppose it once it is explained. It is a curious phenomenon that in a time in which Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything that voters both left and right oppose the TPP. This probably has something to do with the growing realization that “the dream” is slowing slipping from both hands.

    Back here in the Los Angeles Harbor Area we also have these dreams of waterfront development and of saving San Pedro. Perhaps someone will make a hat that reads “make Pedro great again.” Yet, the issue of a few hundred homeless people camped out on our streets or the slow boating of waterfront development are only a veneer of the true problems that plague many parts of this great metropolis by the sea. Sustainable jobs, lack of faster public transportation to the rest of Los Angeles and better access to capital investment for small business is the cure.

    The one key element that’s missing from the current plan to expand the MTA’s light rail system over the next 20 years is the connection from LAX to the Port of Los Angeles.

    This one change in the transportation plan would solve two of the three causes listed here for poor economics and would improve the lives of millions of county residents who live south of the 405 Freeway, as reported on in the LA Weekly. Read the story at http://tinyurl.com/Suburbs-Fight-MTA-Transit-Plan.  Supervisor Don Knabe and Mayor Eric Garcetti need to hear from you.

    In the end, what’s needed for this new era is a different dream that is not predicated on more freeways, more cars or more urban sprawl as we ship jobs overseas. What is needed is for city governments to connect residents to themselves and to their city both physically and technologically.  What is needed are cities committed to being both economically and environmentally sustainable while ensuring shelter for everyone, even those who have the least.

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  • ILWU Endorses Bernie

    Bernie Gets ILWU Endorsement, Landslide Wins in Three States

    ILWU President Robert McEllrath stands side-by-side with Sen. Bernie Sanders, March 24, after the union’s executive board endorsement of Sanders for president.  Photo courtesy of the ILWU
    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Leadership followed rank-and-file on March 24, when the International ILWU executive board endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders as their candidate for president in the upcoming election. With an online  ILWU rank-and-file for Bernie Sanders movement, Sanders’ primary wins in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska by wide margins seems to reflect that fact.

    He won at least 71 percent of the vote in each state, including 82 percent in Alaska.

    “Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for America’s working families,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.

    “Bernie is best on the issues that matter most to American workers: better trade agreements, support for unions, fair wages, tuition for students and public colleges, Medicare for all, fighting a corrupt campaign finance system and confronting the power of Wall Street that’s making life harder for most Americans.”

    “The reason we are doing well is because we are talking about the real issues facing America and we’re telling the truth,” said Sanders in a victory speech in Wisconsin.

    The union represents roughly 50,000 workers in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.

    Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman, noted that the rank-and-file backing for Sanders is clear.

    “The support was significant at the grassroots level,” Merrilees said. “Many local bodies throughout the union had already recommended endorsements.”

    Caney Arnold, one of the administrators of  L.A. South Bay for Bernie and L.A. Harbor for Bernie Facebook pages echoed Merrilees.

    “As opposed to many other labor unions making decisions on their own, the ILWU-local and national are listening to their members and the members know who they can count on. They know they can count on Bernie.”

    Arnold’s Facebook pages has been the face of the local grass roots support for Sander’s campaign and has been on a mission of pushing forward the ideas encapsulated in Sander’s campaign, such as combating income and wealth inequality and getting big money out of politics.

    Ray Cordova of the Communications Workers of America believes Sanders can take California and New York from Clinton.

    “That endorsement was big potatoes,” Cordova said. “A lot of people are talking about Clinton locking up all of the super delegates. In the entire time we’ve had elections, I don’t care what they say, they have never made a difference in an election and I don’t see that happening now. There are two places in play right now: California and New York. She [Clinton] may not get it.”

    Cordova went on to say that Clinton’s connection to the [Bill Clinton] administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement and the jobs it cost as one significant reason labor is siding with Sanders.

    Cordova doesn’t expect too many labor leaders campaigning against Clinton as much as simply campaigning for Sanders.

    Cordova noted that it wasn’t the ILWU that was first to endorse Sanders, but rather the Los Angeles County Federation.

    “We endorsed Sanders a longtime ago,” Cordova said. “I think most of labor will stay on the sidelines. I don’t see them jumping on either side, which I think is fair enough.”

    The ILWU is the fifth major union to endorse Sanders, following the Amalgamated Transit Union, which declared its backing for him the week prior. Sanders’ strong support for single-payer healthcare earned him a strong early endorsement from National Nurses United, whose precursor, the California Nurses Association was central in thwarting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s anti-union agenda a decade ago. More than 20 unions, however, have lined up behind Clinton, including the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

     

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  • Court Rejects SCIG EIR

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In a 200-page ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barry P. Goode voided BNSF’s Southern California International Gateway’s environmental impact report on March 30.

    Further approval by the Los Angeles City Council and the Port of Los Angeles’ subsequent “Site Preparation and Access Agreement and Permit” with BNSF also were voided.

    The details involving the claims of the seven groups of plaintiffs involved in the suit remain to be worked out in the months ahead. A new EIR will have to be drafted in order for the project to move forward.

    “I am elated that our environmental justice communities, which would be significantly impacted by the BNSF SCIG project, have the Port of Los Angeles, the largest container port in the U.S.,” said the founder of Communities for a Safe Environment, Jesse Marquez, in a released statement.

    Marquez was one of the chief litigants in the lawsuit against the project.

    Marquez noted that the new railroad yard intermodal facility would produce more air pollution, noise and truck traffic and would impact Wilmington, Carson and Long Beach residents who would live near the facility and connecting railroad tracks.

    “I am disappointed that Los Angeles Mayor [Eric] Garcetti took no leadership role to meet with his own city residents in the environmental lawsuit and our neighboring cities to help guide the Port of LA to a pre-court settlement,” Marquez said. “We claimed throughout the public hearing process that the environmental impact report was inadequate and failed to contain all required information on the project’s negative environmental and public health impacts and what mitigation measures that were available.”

    Among other thing, the ruling found that “The EIR declines to analyze impacts that may arise with regard to [the maintenance facility] Hobart and Sheila. As a result, it does not adequately apprise either the public or decision-makers of the reasonably foreseeable indirect impacts,” that “The EIR’s analysis of ambient air quality dispersion impacts (AQ-4) is wanting,” that the the EIR’s greenhouse gas analysis “is deficient because it omits to consider Hobart,” and that “The Cumulative Impacts section of the EIR failed to consider (or show it considered) the cumulative impacts on air quality from the operation of SCIG and ICTF combined.”

    Click here to read the courts opinion.

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  • Evolve Creates Change through the Power of Theater

    Jackson Alexander Kelly as Daniel in the stage production of Choosing Us. Photo by Francis Gacad Theatre & Dance Photography, Courtesy of Evolve Theatre

    By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

    Evolve Theatre Co. is on a mission to create positive social change. Its production, Choosing Us, is a testament to that undertaking.

    The production took place at the Studio Theatre of the Long Beach Playhouse. Choosing Us was a response to Leelah Alcorn’s suicide. Leelah was only 17 years old when she died on Dec. 28, 2014.  The transgender girl’s suicide attracted international attention.

    Leelah, who was assigned to the male gender at birth, had asked her parents for permission to undergo transition treatment but they refused. Instead, her parents forced her to take antidepressant medications and sent her conversion therapists. They withdrew her from school and removed access to social networks.

    After years of unhappiness, Leelah took action. She posted a suicide note to her Tumblr blog, writing about societal standards affecting transgender people and expressing the hope that her death would create a dialogue about discrimination, abuse and lack of support for transgender people.

    On Dec. 28, 2014,  Leelah ended her life by getting in traffic on Interstate 71 in Lebanon, Ohio, where a semi-trailer hit her. She died at the scene.

    Ultimately, Leelah’s voice was heard. By Dec. 31, her suicide note was republished in Tumblr 200,000 times.

    A petition calling for “Leelah’s Law,” a ban on conversion therapy in the Unites States, was created by the Transgender Human Rights Institute to raise awareness on the psychologically harmful effects of such practices. With 330,009 signatures it started a series of events eventually leading to President Barack Obama. In April 2015, the White House gave an official response to the petition stating, “We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects.”

    Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. became the first two cities to outright ban the practice of conversion. California banned the practice in 2012. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two cases challenging the legalities of the ban and the law took effect.

    But work still needs to be done. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a study released in 2012 by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force states, transgender people are twice as likely to become homeless or turn to street-based economies, they are 85 percent more likely to become incarcerated, and twice as likely to become infected with HIV.

    According to the Human Rights Campaign,  21 transgender women were murdered in the United States in 2015, more than any other year on record. In fact, on March 23, news outlets reported the murder of Kourtney Yochum in Los Angeles. It was the first transgender murder in 2016.

    Leelah’s death struck a chord with director Ryan Weible. He followed Leelah’s directive that her death mean something. Weible, who used to teach high school, found out that one of his former students had committed suicide a couple years after graduating.

    Leelah’s death occurred at the same time that Weible struggled with the suicide of his former student. Leelah’s suicide was a result of her struggle with gender identity, trying to fit in and trying be accepted by her family. He believes his former student also struggled with those issues.

    “It made it so clear to me in that moment that this was the first piece we needed to take on as a theater company,” Weible said. “Leelah’s last few words in her suicide note was, ‘fix society… please.’ Something about that was a major call to action for me.”

    Weible said that he wants to use the privilege he has as a straight white, cisgender man to open opportunities for underrepresented communities. He wants to give these communities an outlet where their voices can be heard.

    One way he is doing this is by displaying series of watercolor and ink drawings at the theater that Los Angeles queer artist, K. Ryan Henisey, created. Henisey painted a numbered series of each transgender woman who was murdered in 2015 titled, #sayhername. It’s the first thing people see when they come into the lobby.

    Evolve put out a commission to find transgender writers to tell the story of what is happening in the transgender community. Two writers were found: Rain Valdez and Lino Martinez.

    Valdez wanted to pursue something lighter.  Martinez wanted to be truthful, gritty, darker and heavier. So, a third playwright, Vanessa Espino, was brought in to help make the disparate stories come together in a cohesive way. Espino is the one playwright who is not transgender. They did not expect to have two transgender writers perform as lead actors. Weible said having the writers play the characters that they had written, based loosely on their own life experiences, makes this production especially meaningful and impactful.

    Choosing Us has two story lines: one told from the perspective of a teenage boy coming to grips with his transgender identity, while the other is from the perspective of a successful artist and photographer who denies her transgender identity.

    Choosing US

    Bryon Scott Adams as Chase, and Rain Valdez as Mia. Photo by Francis Gacad Theatre & Dance Photography, Courtesy of Evolve Theatre

    Valdez said Mia had been living “stealth” for a several years as a successful artist and photographer. Stealth is a term used in the transgender community to describe when someone disassociates from being transgender and just wants to live a normal cisgender identity, or the gender they were born into, Valdez explained.

    “As a co-writer I basically put a lot of my experiences into this character,” Valdez said. “I didn’t know I’d be playing her but I thought, if I was going to write something, I was going to write from my experiences and my truth.”

    At one point in the play, Valdez’s character, Mia, realizes she has done a disservice to her community by denying her transgender identity. In a moment of epiphany, she scraps her originally planned exhibit of black-and-white architecture photographs. Instead, she interviews and photographs subjects from her community as a way to serve them better. One of the most impactful scenes in the play involves Mia’s interview with the siblings of a transgender person who was murdered.

    “It’s one of the interviews that gets very deep into the tragedies that happen in our community,” Valdez said. “Even though it’s timely, with what is happening in the world, it’s still a play that we really haven’t quite seen yet.”

    Weible hopes that the play will be effective. Weible is especially sensitive to issues impacting transgender women of color, in addition to the suicide rates that impact the community as a whole. But he tried to balance these issues with some levity.

    “If you sort of immediately beat them over the head with heavy tragic stuff you almost rob them,” Weible said. “It doesn’t start that way, it’s mostly infused with the opposite and I think because of that, when those intense moments do come, they hit in a significant way.”

    When the Long Beach Playhouse offered Evolve Theatre a spot in the Long Beach Playhouse’s annual collaborative season, Managing Director Kenny Allen jumped at it.

    Evolve has been talking with Housing Long Beach and Latino’s In Action to find out if there can be a potential collaboration project with them. It wants to respond to community needs in all sorts of issues throughout Long Beach.

    It’s been a labor of love for the people who put together this play.  While the writers and designers were paid for their work, Weible, the producers and the publicist are not taking fees for their work. The biggest thing Weible hopes to convey is how important it is for this kind of theater to be supported.

    “It’s incredibly important work that has to be supported or else it will cease to exist,” Weible said. “So I guess my call to action is to come. Entertainment is not the purpose of this work. The purpose is for you to have an experience that makes you more understanding and empathetic and kind to one another. There is so much hate in the world and not to get political [but] it’s time for us to let the pendulum start to swing back the other way and start to find things that we have in common.”

    Details: http://evolvetheater.org

     

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  • Long Beach Got Humped

    By Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

    The 11th annual Hump! Film Festival recently returned to Southern California. On its third international tour, the festival will make a pit stop at the Art Theatre in Long Beach, on March 24, with all other showings in Los Angeles.

    Hosted by Dan Savage, Hump! featured 22 short films by amateurs of all genders, races and sexualities.  Together, the films were a combination of funny, stupid and intimate. While the films may be uncomfortable for some people, they also pushed audiences to explore their own sexuality and to open themselves to things they otherwise would never consider.  There’s also plenty of references to Mike Huckabee’s infamous book, God, Guns, Grits & Gravy, if you’re into that.

    Hysterical Bullshit opened with a woman sitting at a desk, the camera shooting her from the desk up, dressed in a librarian outfit.  Reading passages from God, Guns, Grits & Gravy, she slowly starts breathing heavily, squirming and giggling periodically.  At one point, she clutches the table edges with both hands while reading a passage about The Andy Griffith Show and southerners. She finishes with one last sigh before shutting the book.

    The Collector follows Harold, a “normal 31-year-old American” who collects seamen in jars and containers around his house.  His girlfriend is not amused. Some memorably awkward scenes ensue with plenty of pop culture references to go around.

    Let’s Try to Fuck parodies old ‘50s educational videos shot in black and white. It follows our protagonist through numerous sexual fantasies. He also shouts out Mike Huckabee’s masterpiece.

    2016 HUMP! Teaser from HUMP! Film Festival on Vimeo.

    Porn Star of the Year was another comedic video.  The story is about Fuck Rogers, a man who submits a video for “Porn Star of the Year.” The film shows off a bunch of fictional characters reading cheesy porn lines. His porn mustache and smooth line delivery are sure to woo all the ladies.

    If you’re a fan of penis puppets, then Film Bonoir has everything you need, including gay role playing and unexpected plot twists.  The tagline reads: “Danger! Excitement! Dicks!”  What more needs to be said?

    Orgies Happening Tonight is another comedy short, with a satisfying arc.  It starts with two coworkers talking at the office, when one suggests he get back at his wife by going to an orgy. A cast of strange deviants are met along the way and one character undergoes a serious change of heart.

    Video game fans will have a soft spot for Level Up.  The main protagonist has to fight cat-calling bros, predatory surgeons, and three men called “the patriarchy,” with a surprising ending that will be hard to predict.

    DICK is a song that may not leave your head if you’re a fan of cheesy ‘80s music videos.  It’s loaded with dated synthesizers, bad outfits, comedic lyrics, and of course, dicks.

    Many of the most memorable films this year weren’t comedic.  Some of them were intense portrayals of sexual and self-exploration.

    Blown will be hard to forget if you’re not expecting its subject matter.  It may be hard to tell what you are watching for the first few minutes. You probably won’t see many other films this year about transgender men stimulating each other’s clitorises for five minutes.

    Some of the films are outrageous.  Cake Boss is a foodie’s fantasy, full of shots of genital egg-beating, chocolate ass-glazing and plenty of fornicating. I Fist a Grrrl is a parody of the Katy Perry smash hit. It’s full of colorful manga costumes and full-on fisting. It also includes an overture about “cunts.”

    Audiences surely had something to talk about among their friends and lovers.

    Visit https://humptour.boldtypetickets.com for more info.

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