Nov28

Faithful Central and Metro

metro

L.A.’s Metropolitan Transport Authority and megachurch Faithful Central Bible Church sat down last month for a series of meetings to finally settle the dispute the church raised against the agency over its plans to bring the proposed Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor light rail extension through their Inglewood campus.

With as many as 400 trains a day coming through at 35-55 mph per hour “at grade,” or at street level, church leadership became concerned for safety of it’s members; an average of 4-5,000 of which attend church on any given Sunday.

The conflict emerged—according to Faithful Central’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, Marc Little—when Metro failed to send Faithful Central the Environment Impact Report (EIR), which is supposed to be distributed within the communities affected to give anyone the chance to voice their concerns.

 


“If you don’t get it, you can’t respond to it. If you don’t respond to it, you don’t have a voice,” says Little. “They have the church listed as having received it, but I never got it.”

“The church was blindsided,” says Executive Director and Chair of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition Damian Goodmon.

A community advocate who believes at grade construction down Crenshaw will destroy the small businesses located there, Goodman thinks these issues point to a larger problem.

“They [Metro] just don’t address community concerns wherever they’re building these lines,” accuses Goodmon. “They’re listening to developers, they’re listening to contractors, and that’s it. They don’t have much respect for our community despite the fact that it’s our tax dollars that goes toward building these.”

Metro representatives say that just isn’t true. In fact, hearing and addressing the community’s concerns is to Metro’s benefit, according to Rob Ball, Project Director for Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail.

Says, Ball, “I always tell the community when we talk to them, and we do talk to the community often, that they have made this project so much better than when it started off.”

As far as the EIR goes, Balls contends that Metro upheld the agency’s side of the obligation.

“We do post the environmental documents online,” says Ball. “We do send out notices indicating where the public can view them, like libraries for example. They may not have actually gotten a copy sent to them directly, but they did receive notices of it being available.”

Ball confirms that Metro has had a relationship with church since the planning phase.

“We had some community planning meeting in their facilities,” says Ball. “They would have actually had the opportunity to comment, and they did comment in some of the community workshops that were held on their facilities.”

But the Environmental Impact Report isn’t the only reason Faithful Central took issue with Metro officials. Upon hiring their own team of experts, which included real estate consultants, a traffic consult, and a rail engineer, Little says the church found shocking evidence.

“We learned that Metro, just based on the EIR, hadn’t even studied this intersection properly,” says Little. “They didn’t have the right pedestrian counts. They didn’t have the right vehicular counts. They didn’t have the right community description.”

“That’s the opinion by the church. We have our own experts within Metro and consultants that would probably differ in opinion,” states Ball, who also says that Metro has met with and continues to dialogue with the church’s consultants.

“We still want to be a good partner and we continue the dialogue with them at every chance we get,” says Ball.

After a pre-trial hearing conference that essentially went nowhere and the threat of publicly opposing Measure J which, in short, adds 30 years to funding and accelerates the existing transit projects by adding another $90 billion in sales tax revenue, a resolution was found during a series of meetings that included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has four seats on the MTA board; Mike Antonovich, board chair; as well as advocates on behalf of the church.

As result of the meetings, Metro will put a grade-separated pedestrian crosswalk on the Faithful Central campus, meaning there will be a well-lit and safe underpass for foot traffic.

“We actually proposed that to the church as a way of trying to partner with the church to come up with a solution on that was a win-win for both of us,” says Ball.

“We have prevailed in a way that no one thought we could,” says Little. “The people on the board of the MTA, specifically Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa saw our challenges, appreciated the danger that we described and decided that it would be good idea to compromise with us.”

Nov28

On Verge of Bankruptcy, Inglewood Unified Taken Over

jerry brown

On Verge of Bankruptcy, Inglewood Unified Taken Over

Following Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of Senate Bill 533 last month, Inglewood Unified School District is set to be taken over by the state education department.

"The Governor's action was necessary to keep Inglewood's public schools operating and serving students despite the district's extreme financial difficulties," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Peter Somberg, president of the Inglewood Teachers Association stated, “We are relieved that the governor has recognized that ongoing mismanagement by the IUSD school board and upper management has left the students of Inglewood with only one hope: state intervention that wrests control away from people who have abused their power and the public trust. “

This April, Inglewood Unified was notified by the Los Angeles County Office of Education that its budget had received a negative certification. A negative certification is assigned when the Office of Education finds that a school district will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the current or subsequent fiscal year. 

It was determined that IUSD would run out of funds three months into 2013. Previous estimates suggested that might happen at the end of 2012. The bill provides up to $55 million emergencies state loans. 

The trade off of the loan is that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will assume control of the school district until the loan has been repaid and the district is in good financial shape, as determined by the State Superintendent. The loan must be repaid in twenty years.

Senator Roderick D. Wright, whose represented district includes Inglewood, stated that the Inglewood’s bailout was no reason to celebrate.

"It is bittersweet, but clearly necessary to ensure that the students of Inglewood receive the quality of education it is our duty to provide,” said Wright, who authored the bill.

 “No one is celebrating today,” said Somberg. “Inglewood teachers are deeply sorry that this had to happen. However, we finally see an opportunity to put our district back on track and to once again make student achievement a priority for everyone, including those who run the district.”

Formed in 1954, Inglewood Unified is the first L.A. County School to lose local control due to budget deficiencies in twenty years.

 “I am heartened by the knowledge that my good friend, Superintendent Tom Torlakson, and the other professionals that will be overseeing this process are equally committed to our children, and to listening to the voices of parents, teachers, students and staff as we move forward."

Said Torlakson, "The Department of Education will consult with the Los Angeles County Office of Education to name an experienced administrator to oversee the long and difficult process of returning the district to solvency and, ultimately, local control."

With the aid of the County Office Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a recovery plan will be drawn up. In additional to addressing the financial problems of the district, the plan will also focus on community relations, student achievement, facilities management and other issues pertaining to IUSD’s overall health.

Other goals for the appointed administrator will be to improve student attendance and parental involvement, lowering the drop-out rate and attracting and retaining quality teachers.

"The students of Inglewood deserve to receive the same quality education afforded every student in this state, one that is not interrupted or marginalized by financial failings not of their making," said Wright. 

"This loan will close a painful chapter in the Inglewood Unified School District’s recent history and allow staff to get back to the business of educating the next generation of community leaders."

Nov28

Editor's View

The Political Okey-Doke

Aw…the sweet smell of politics. 

Well, actually, lately it stinks. Between the lies, the race-baiting, the personal attacks, double talk, broken promises, ever changing polls and theatrics, politicians seem to have less and less time to deal with the real issues affecting Americans (and we are all too painfully aware of what they are).

What I don’t understand is how we let them get away with it…and that goes for both parties. Why is it that we don’t demand more of our candidates—more accountability, more respect and more sticking to the issues?

One of my favorite lines in the movie, “The American President” is when an angered Michael Douglas—portraying a bachelor president whose love life has become the target of the Senator campaigning against him for re-election—holds an impromptu press briefing.

“We have serious problems to solve.” he says, “and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

It’s political okey-doke, plain and simple, and yet it makes up most of what we see in election season, particularly those as emotionally charged as this one.

The race to the White House should not be a popularity contest—who’s got the best-looking family or who looks most like me—it should be about who actually can do the job.

President Obama is a great man, hands down and First Lady Michelle is the bomb. And,—sorry to say for those of you who hate to hear it—but from all indications, Romney is an accomplished man as well. Neither deserves to be demonized.

For years, black people demonized Condoleeze Rice, who energized the GOP convention with her speech in which she reminded us that “the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion.  It is an idea.  And what an idea it is.  That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going...

“On a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham.  The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at Woolworth’s, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.” 

Call her what you like, but know that Condoleezza Rice represents the best of us and to characterize her as anything less says more about who you are than who she is.

Another black woman took to the political stage this week. Ironically enough, she is a Mormon. But from listening to her it’s easy to see why as Condoleeza Rice put it, “one's status of birth is not a permanent condition”.

“Let me tell you about the America I know,” Sarasota Springs, Utah Mayor Mia Love told the GOP convention. “My parents immigrated to the U.S. with ten dollars in their pocket, believing that the America they had heard about really did exist. When times got tough they didn't look to Washington, they looked within.”

“So the America I came to know was centered in personal responsibility and filled with the American dream. 

“The America I know is grounded in the determination found in patriots and pioneers, in small business owners with big ideas, in the farmers who work in the beauty of our landscape, in our heroic military and Olympians. It's in every child who looks at the seemingly impossible and says, ‘I can do that.’ That is the America I know!

The fact that she is a Mormon and married to a white man will, no doubt, make her a prime target for demonization for too many blacks who spend a great deal more time tearing things down than building them up. And that is why, my friends, when we look at our communities, there is so much work to be done.

As we go to press, it’s hard not to be revved up about the Democratic convention Charlotte with a list of speakers that includes Newark Mayor Cory Booker, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. And then there’s former President Bill Clinton. 

(Heck, just give him four more years).

Keep the faith.

Nov28

Naima Lett and Husband Face Death, God Says Not Yet

The year was 2002 and things couldn't have been going better for Naima Lett. The aspiring actress who'd graduated from Howard University drama program with top honors and spent time at the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre, the British American Drama Academy at Oxford and the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, before traveling with her own highly-acclaimed one-woman plays about women of the Bible, had just married the love of her life, Kevin Lett, a music producer, songwriter and certified audio engineer.

"By our sixth month anniversary he was in constant pain," says Lett. "He started losing weight and had night sweats. Because we were in our twenties, the doctor kept mis- diagnosing him, never thinking it could be cancer."
"Our first really big argument was about him going back to the doctor. He wasn't getting any better, so I made my own appointment to go to his doctor as well and told him we need- ed to find out what was wrong with my husband. He was like, 'Wait, you made an appointment just to talk to me?' That was the first time he began to take it seriously and run the right tests."
With her husband's job transfer came a move to Dallas and a new doctor.
"By that Thursday we found out he had stage four Hodgkin's Disease (cancer of the blood) and was dying," recalls the actress whose onscreen credits include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fox's Prison Break, BBC America's Wire in the Blood and Lifetime's Inspector Mom. "When we went to one of our fol- low up meetings with our new doc- tor in Dallas, I told her that I 'm so angry with the doctor from the east coast for misdiagnosing my husband. She was the one that said to me, ' A doctor is only as good as their test. I may have misdiagnosed because you're so young. In your 20s you don't think cancer. I might have even misdiagnosed. Thank God you all kept coming back'. That's when she explained that each person is in charge of his or her own health care.

"I learned a whole different way to pray for my friends and the people in our congregation who ask for prayer with regard to sickness," Lett continues. "I pray the Lord will reveal the truth. That whatever is going on in their bodies will be known quickly and I call upon this spirit to reveal it. God loves to answer to that prayer. He is the truth."
The revelation, however, hadn't made things any easier for Lett, whose 6'2" husband once weighed 190, had lost 45 to 50 pounds was fading fast, and because her Mom had died from cancer, it was a really scary place for her.
Ironically, the actress says she didn't truly become saved until her mom passed away from stomach cancer.
"I was going through immense grief and could not handle my mom passing. I did go back to school but I began to leak through the cracks so to speak. I was a sophomore at Howard and remember having that moment of saying, 'Okay Lord, if you're real, I really need you.' That's when my faith became real for me and not just me vicariously living through my mom's faith. When I prayed there was a comfort. I felt his holy spirit and knew that He was indeed real."
But even that didn't prepare the actress/writer/producer and the first graduate with a Masters in Media and Communications from Dallas Theological Seminary for what was to come.
"We had a community of faith praying for us, still it was really hard. With proper and early diagnosis, there was a high rate of survival, but they told us that we had to get him in chemo immediately because the cancer was moving rapid- ly and was already in his bone marrow. We were fighting for our lives," recalls the actress whose mission is to offer audi- ences hope.
"I would be up every night until 3am crying. I cried because we hadn't even been married a year. I was saying Lord where are you? I'd been around the world ministering his gospel.
"In the third month, I couldn't handle it. I had to face that my husband might be taken home and if that's the case, somehow God will get us through it. There were times I did- n't even have a prayer. I would just sing John 11:4 back to the Lord. Our lives were truly devastated."
"The chemo totally wiped out the cancer and a whole lot of other things," When he would lose his hair, I grieved. When they said we might not be able to have children, I grieved. Everything was just a grieving process. I make the analogy of us living through an earthquake. Everyday was an exercise in depending on God, but by Thanksgiving that year he was can- cer free.
"We had another scare where they said he had to have a
complete bone marrow transplant and the Lord worked that out as well and then we went through a year of marriage counseling.
Counselors likened the couple's experience to them hav- ing survived a war but still bleeding from a wound they could- n't see. That was ten years ago and every Thanksgiving they celebrate Kevin's healing.
"Coming out of that is when we looked at each other and said whatever God has given us to do, we have a second chance."
With that second chance they created Lett's Rise Productions, whose goal it is to create inspirational films, the- atre and music that spur audiences toward truth and hope; Hollywood Christian ministries to help artists and profession- als find their God-given purpose and follow their dreams without losing their faith; and Hope In The Hills, a weekly Bible fellowship.
"We just filmed the promo for my upcoming book release, Confessions of a Hollywood Christian and we're going to do the film for it," Lett reports. "The book is a part of a series."
Baptized at the age of eight in an Augusta, Georgia Baptist church where her Dad led the men's ministry and her mom was in charge of the prayer ministry, Lett's parents raised she and her three bothers to believe that they could do anything, and the actress whose acting debut came at the age of four as "Toto in the Wiz," believed them.
"They put me in dance classes when I was three," Lett recalls. "From fifth to twelfth grade I was in performing arts all day everyday so it wasn't a surprise when I said I wanted to major in acting and got a full four-year academic scholar- ship."
It was however in seminary that a professors advised her to think about Hollywood. Following his lead, she sent out her headshots and resume and landed several interviews with agents. Within a month she had her first couple of auditions and was working. Needless to say, she never looked back.
"The number one question I get is, "how can you be a Christian in Hollywood?" I'm not sure why people think you're going to be beat down if you have some sort of convic- tion. Everybody out here deals with that and for the most part people don't really care that much. I've probably faced more turmoil within the body of Christ than in Hollywood. I tell people, you have to be able to live the truth. People respect that," says Lett, who co-pastors Hope In The Hills with her husband as she finishes up her doctorate in ministry and preaching at the school of theology at Biola University.
"God didn't call Hollywood to be the light. He called us to be the light. So if the light is not here, if it's dark then it's because we are not fulfilling our purpose.
"Going through the cancer gave us the fire to really get it done. We didn't know how much time we'd get together. Just because you're in your twenties doesn't mean you get another day. We faced death and God said not yet. So as long as he's saying not yet, with every breath we have we will use it doing exactly what God has called us to do."

Nov28

Parents Unrelenting in Pursuit of Justice

kenneth mcdade

Kenneth McDade spends a great deal of his days pretending. Pretending to be okay. Pretending to focus. Pretending that the words those who mean well are helping. He can even manage a smile here and there.

Nights, however, are not so easy. "At the end of the day when I get to the house", he says, tears streaming down his face, "this is where I'm at." Over and over again he replays the events of March 24, 2012 almost as if the outcome won't be the same. And night after night, he wakes up with the realization that his 19-year old son, Kendrec is indeed dead.
Fact is, things will never return to normal for McDade, whose life's purpose—at least for now— is getting to the bottom of what happened that night.

His real-life nightmare began a day later, early the morning of March 25 when he went to his front porch to have coffee and noticed a police helicopter hovering above. Curious, he was walking around the corner to see what was going on when a friend tells him that there has been a shooting and his son might have been involved. "I get around the corner and everything is blocked off—police tape and everything," McDade recounts. "I'm asking police on the scene what was going on, but they were just telling me to get back. Overhearing the exchange, a news reporter approaches McDade.
"I told her who I was and that I was looking for my son who was about 19 years old and had- n't come home last night. She started telling me what she knew—that a crime had gone down and one of the guys involved was killed and the other one had been arrested."

McDade then goes back to the police and a detective finally comes to talk to him, escorting him back to his home to verify his identification. On the subsequent ride to the police station, McDade gets the police account of what hap- pened. Police had been responding to false 9-1-1 call of an armed robbery by Oscar Carrillo, whose car, it turns out, had been burglarized. Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez claimed to be in possession of a videotape shot near the taco truck where the alleged theft occurred showing a 17-year-old minor reaching into Carrillo's car and allegedly grabbing both a backpack and a laptop computer while McDade acts as a lookout.

McDade, a college student and high school football standout, was spotted by police two blocks from the site of the alleged burglary and reportedly ran from police until one of the officers used the police car to block his path. Neither the cruiser's sirens or lights—which reportedly would have activated the car's video camera—were on. "He said that Kendrec was reaching for a waist- band and the officer thought he saw a gun. One police shot out the window and the other police shot from behind. I never heard of a police officer shoot- ing out of a car—that's a drive by to me all day, and then he rode down the street and posted up".

McDade felt uneasy about what police were say- ing from the very beginning.
"Everything he was saying was incriminating— like my son's a criminal and I know better," he says of the teen who lived with his Mom in Azuza while visiting his Dad in Pasadena most weekends. "I never had no problem out of him like that. Regardless of the fact of what he tried to tell me, I know my kid and I know how these officers are. They'll just lie to cover their selves and that's what he was doing the whole time. "The [police] chief came to the hospital that night and he was telling me that he had kids and this, that and the other. Like I told him all this is just like something scripted you're used to saying all the time, you can save all that." McDade was more interested in answers to ques- tions that were surfacing. Why were the officer's headlights not on. Had they actually identified themselves as police before they started shooting? Why no police video? Why handcuff his dying son, instead of providing medical assistance? Why shoot him seven times —most of the bullets shot at a downward trajectory as if the teen was falling at the time of the shooting or while surrendering to police in a kneeling position? Perhaps most importantly, what threat had his son ever really posed to police?
"They know the answers. Tell us, if you're not try- ing to hide anything."

He wasn't alone in his desire for answers as the shooting—which occurred less than a week after Trayvon Martin's death exploded on the national news scene— captured the attention of local news, the Pasadena NAACP and the likes of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, sparking independ- ent investigations by the FBI, the Pasadena Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Officer Involved Shooting team.

In their own efforts to get to the truth, McDade and Kendrec's mother, Anya Slaughter, retained

Nov28

To Spank or not to Spank - That is the question.

Danielle C. Belton

I can count the number of "whoopins" I had as a child on one hand, and in the end – I only remember
one of them. Oh, there were threats of whoopins. But rarely was one doled out. Yet, my sisters and I were all freakishly well-behaved, respectful chil- dren. My parents – who both grew up in pro-whippin' households – were very reluc- tant to hit us, as they felt a lot of kid behavior could be controlled in other ways without resorting to that.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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