Ourweekly top cover stories of 2012

Cynthia E. Griffin | 1/2/2013, 5 p.m.

Aside from the glamor and fame, her focus was on helping others

As the world mourned the untimely death of international pop icon Whitney Houston, broadcast media continued to reiterate the 48-year-old's rise to fame, public battle with drug addiction and tumultuous marriage to entertainer Bobby Brown.

But those portrayals were just one side of the Newark, N.J., native.

Like her powerful voice, Houston was a multifaceted woman whose world did not start and end in the entertainment industry.

The former teen church choir member--who died Saturday night in a fourth-floor room at the Beverly Hilton, possibly from combining alcohol with the powerful anti-anxiety drug Xanax and a warm bath, was laid to rest on Saturday, Feb. 19. Houston was also a social activist and philanthropist whose fundraising abilities helped a long list of organizations.

She was particularly interested in helping children, and the words from her song the "Greatest Love of All" probably aptly sum up her efforts.

Born Whitney Elizabeth Houston on Aug. 9, 1963, she followed in the footsteps of her mother Cissy Houston by singing in church at age 11.

At 14, she was singing backup, first with Michael Zager's band on the single "Life's a Party," and then the next year with Chaka Khan on her single "I'm Every Woman,"

Years later in 1992, she would remake the song on the blockbuster "Bodyguard" soundtrack.
But before that, in the early 1980s, Houston would spend a stint as a fashion model.

She was one of the first women of color to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine. She also appeared in layouts for Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Young Miss.

And it was during her years as a popular teen model that Houston's other side began to emerge. While modeling, she refused to work for agencies that did business in South Africa during its apartheid era, and she was one of the performers at a 1988 concert in London to celebrate the 70th birthday of then-still-incarcerated South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

That concert added significantly to the international pressure being brought to bear on the South African government, and would play a key role in Mandela gaining his freedom.

The unkindest cuts?

The redistricting battle over South Los Angeles

By Stanley O. Williford
OW Editor

The relationship between the Los Angeles City Council's three African American members--Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry on the one side and Herb J. Wesson on the other--showed signs of combusting into an inferno that could deplete much of what political capital the city's African American community has left.

The latest debacle was over the way Parks and Perry's districts were redrawn, and other sectors of the city also had a beef with the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission.

An earlier point of contention was over Parks and Perry not voting for, or being present, when Wesson was made president of the City Council, the first Black to achieve that status. Subsequent to that, Wesson removed the two from prime committee assignments.

On Sunday, March 2, Parks, councilman for the 8th District, took his complaint concerning the redrawn maps before the congregation at Crenshaw Christian Center, the largest Black church in his district. That church is one of more than 200 he said he had contacted over the redistricting issue, most by mail. Parks spoke to the congregation about 15 minutes, showing several maps on the church's big screens and explaining how the new map eviscerated his district of revenue sources and turned it into what he termed a "poverty pit." He explained that the same thing was happening in Perry's district.