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.

He appealed to the 5,000-plus members in attendance to make their voices heard by filling up the emails and the fax machines of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 10th District Councilman Wesson. He also urged them to attend the City Council Rules Committee hearing at City Hall March 16.

Throwing Rice at the Benghazi problem

The U.N. ambassador is on the hot seat

By William Covington
OW Contributor

The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 followed a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, over a low-budget anti-Muslim film made in the United States.
It initially appeared to the intelligence community around the world that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was another spontaneous response to that film.

But senior U.S. officials and Middle East analysts later raised questions about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call seeking to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network.
During the attack, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and three others–Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods–were killed.

On Sept. 16, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five Sunday news shows at the request of the White House and the State Department to say that the assault was a “spontaneous protest” prompted by a “hateful video,” not a terror attack.

That was all the Republicans needed to begin stirring up opposition to Rice’s rumored nomination as a successor to Hilary Clinton. On Dec. 13, after all the furor surrounding her possible nomination, Rice withdrew her name from consideration as secretary of state.

Stone cold marketing

Selling alcohol to young African Americans

By William Covington
OW Contributor

The marketing of alcoholic beverages to African Americans, especially the youth, has become a lot more sophisticated than when the former owner of the Payless Market in South Los Angeles happened upon the idea to put an old claw-foot bathtub filled with bottles of malt liquor under crushed ice in the middle of his store. His crude marketing ploy worked, and malt liquor sales increased by 60 percent.

Today, references to alcohol beverages have been noted in rap music lyrics throughout its existence. Given that listening to music is the one of the primary leisure-time activities of adolescents, and the fact that most teenagers know nearly all of the lyrics to their favorite songs, music is one potential source from which young consumers of popular culture receive information about alcohol.

Jay Z, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Ludacris are among the Hip Hop luminaries who have promoted alcohol, according to Johnson.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco counselor Tony Lavaughn Johnson has heard it all. Johnson feels young African Americans 12- to 20-years-old see far more alcohol ads on television and in magazines than youth in general.

Candidates for L.A. mayor

There are four so far, so take your pick

By Stanley O. Williford
OW Editor

You can call her “Valley girl” if you like, because Wendy Greuel has lived in the San Fernando Valley all her life. She’s also proud of the 10 years she spent working for Mayor Tom Bradley, where she developed her love of politics.

“Everything that I am today was [from] that time working for Mayor Bradley,” said Greuel. “My gut of what to do and how to solve problems came from him.”

Eric Garcetti studied in Europe, and worked in Africa and Burma. He has a district that includes enclaves of Latinos, Filipinos, Armenians, Thais and others. He has lived in the Valley, but now resides in Silver Lake. His grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in East Los Angeles, but his father grew up in South Los Angeles. He has Russian-Jewish, Mexican-Italian and Irish blood running through his veins.

Jan Perry is all about building, and she has the resume to show for it. She has been a mover and shaker behind the Staple Center, L.A. Live, the Nokia, and the JW Marriott, which were all in the downtown portion of her 9th District. Building means jobs, and Perry claims 90,000 over the past 10 years.
Perry has also been the force behind establishing the Downtown Women’s Center amd many other local projects.

Kevin James grew up in Norman, Okla., and Texas. At the University of Oklahoma, he studied accounting, and he holds a law degree from the University of Houston. In 1987, at 23 years old, he headed West to what he calls “the land of opportunity.”

In 1988, he joined the huge global law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, before being hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant U.S. attorney.

They are the four major candidates for mayor.

The legacy of LAX

Remembering Bradley’s contribution to the airport

By Merdies Hayes
OW Contributor

Rising about 132 feet above the tarmac, the new Tom Bradley terminal at Los Angeles International Airport–or el-a-ex (LAX), as it is more popularly known–evokes thoughts of a cresting wave breaking to the west. The new terminal is part of a $4.11-billion upgrade of one of the world’s busiest airports.

It could easily be symbolic of the great wave of prosperity and growth that swept over the city during Bradley’s 20-year term as mayor, from 1973 to 1993.

This second terminal is another tribute to the longest tenured mayor in Los Angeles history, and at least one of the greatest champions of the airport. In fact, Bradley could be termed the “transportation mayor,” having not only fostered expansion of the airport into the international terminus it came to be, but also having fought for a subway system, which has morphed into the light rail system that Angelenos now enjoy.

Additionally, during the Bradley years, the Port of Los Angeles reportedly became the largest and most productive in the nation. He has been called by some “the mayor who reshaped L.A.”
“He was a prism through which we can see both the rise of Los Angeles as an international city and the reemergence of a vibrant Black community that reaches back to the very beginnings of the pueblo …,” said a biography on Black America On Line. “His mayoralty was a time in which Los Angeles reconfigured itself, redefined itself.”

“This airport has always been a point of pride for the city,” said airport spokesman Albert Rodriguez. “We believe these improvements will carry us well into the 21st century. The Pacific Rim is vital. The Chinese market is opening up. Citizens there can travel more, and that means more local tourism and trade. We are looking forward to a bright future.”

Bradley, proved somewhat prophetic in focusing on the strategic importance of the Pacific Rim. He courted Latin and Asian countries, traveling to Pacific Rim nations often in his attempt to “position Los Angeles as its unofficial capital for an era of growing trade.”

The Olympic hurdle

Race has always been a part of the Games

By William Covington
OW Contributor

For the last few days of the Olympic Games a buzz remained about Serena William’s celebratory “Crip walk” dance, or the disparaging comments about gymnast Gabrielle Douglas’ hair–not made by Whites–and a faux pas commercial that showed a monkey on the Olympic rings immediately after Douglas won the Women’s Individual All-Round gold medal.
Stuff happens.

But a harsher buzz has extended down through history in connection with the Olympics–from the first Black allowed to participate in the Games, until today.

Since the dawn of the ancient Olympics 700 years before the birth of Christ, African athletes have been studied by spectators in the same way, and race has always played a part in the Olympic Games.

When the first African charioteer secured his chest plate while lining up his rig with those of the Romans and Greeks, he was considered an anomaly. Spectators contemplated how he had arrived at such an auspicious position, and wondered who had mentored him?

Sport was in Greece above all a domain of the free, and slaves could barely participate,” according to the abstract “Ancient Olympics” by Sofie Remijsen.

When African slaves competed, their pay for participation was not the large amounts given citizens of Greece and Rome. Still, it is hard to deny that some of the winning chariots at those early Games were driven by African slaves, since such depictions are recorded in ancient Greek vase artwork. However, since the owner of the chariot and horse was the victor and the charioteer unimportant in the opinion of the Greeks, we know very little about African-Greek charioteers.

Like those African charioteers, the first Black athlete to compete at the modern Olympics must have also appeared as an anomaly to spectators.

William DeHart Hubbard became the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event–the running long jump at the 1924 Paris Summer Games.

Under expansion

History, trends and urgent needs butt heads in USC’s proposed new development
By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Managing Editor

A plan by USC to redevelop University Village into a mixed-use retail, residential and educational complex turned the spotlight on one of the region’s most pressing problems–the need to create and maintain affordable housing.

Called the USC University Park Specific Plan, the development was discussed at meeting of the L.A. City Council Planning and Land Use Management committee (PLUM) held in late August that lasted more than two hours, featured a hour of testimony from a parade of witnesses and resulted in consideration of the item being continued.

City departments were supposed to bring back answers to a laundry list of questions committee members had about the project; many of them revolving around the impact the project will have on affordable housing in the community surrounding the university.

As proposed, the University Park Specific Plan accomplishes a two-fold purpose, according Craig Keys, vice president for civic engagement at USC. It would replace the outdated University Village shopping center with one that better meets the needs of community residents, students and the university community; and it could, over of the course of 20 years and depending on demand, add up to 5,200 new student beds to the area. At least 1,000 of those would be built in the first phase of redevelopment.

Additionally, the new center was proposed to include 250,000 square feet of retail, a 150-room hotel and a 50,000-square-foot conference center.

Plans for the development have been in the works since at least 2005, and were put together in part with input from community members via a master plan advisory committee made of representatives from various neighborhood organizations, churches, museums and other stakeholders.

The committee was chaired by Jackie Dupont Walker, head of the Ward A.M.E. Economic Development Corp.

The new development is being planned in the midst of historical and current trends that have many community organizations and residents concerned and, in fact, a number of them combined forces to release a Rapid Health Impact Assessment of the plan.

However, late in December the groups reached an agreement with USC that will include $20 million in affordable housing funds, create a legal clinic for tenants as well as fund job training and placement services and local business assistance.

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.

He appealed to the 5,000-plus members in attendance to make their voices heard by filling up the emails and the fax machines of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 10th District Councilman Wesson. He also urged them to attend the City Council Rules Committee hearing at City Hall March 16.

Throwing Rice at the Benghazi problem

The U.N. ambassador is on the hot seat

By William Covington
OW Contributor

The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 followed a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, over a low-budget anti-Muslim film made in the United States.
It initially appeared to the intelligence community around the world that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was another spontaneous response to that film.

But senior U.S. officials and Middle East analysts later raised questions about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call seeking to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network.

During the attack, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and three others–Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods–were killed.

On Sept. 16, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five Sunday news shows at the request of the White House and the State Department to say that the assault was a “spontaneous protest” prompted by a “hateful video,” not a terror attack.

That was all the Republicans needed to begin stirring up opposition to Rice’s rumored nomination as a successor to Hilary Clinton. On Dec. 13, after all the furor surrounding her possible nomination, Rice withdrew her name from consideration as secretary of state.

Stone cold marketing

Selling alcohol to young African Americans

By William Covington
OW Contributor

The marketing of alcoholic beverages to African Americans, especially the youth, has become a lot more sophisticated than when the former owner of the Payless Market in South Los Angeles happened upon the idea to put an old claw-foot bathtub filled with bottles of malt liquor under crushed ice in the middle of his store. His crude marketing ploy worked, and malt liquor sales increased by 60 percent.

Today, references to alcohol beverages have been noted in rap music lyrics throughout its existence. Given that listening to music is the one of the primary leisure-time activities of adolescents, and the fact that most teenagers know nearly all of the lyrics to their favorite songs, music is one potential source from which young consumers of popular culture receive information about alcohol.

Jay Z, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Ludacris are among the Hip Hop luminaries who have promoted alcohol, according to Johnson.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco counselor Tony Lavaughn Johnson has heard it all. Johnson feels young African Americans 12- to 20-years-old see far more alcohol ads on television and in magazines than youth in general.

Candidates for L.A. mayor

There are four so far, so take your pick

By Stanley O. Williford
OW Editor

You can call her “Valley girl” if you like, because Wendy Greuel has lived in the San Fernando Valley all her life. She’s also proud of the 10 years she spent working for Mayor Tom Bradley, where she developed her love of politics.

“Everything that I am today was [from] that time working for Mayor Bradley,” said Greuel. “My gut of what to do and how to solve problems came from him.”

Eric Garcetti studied in Europe, and worked in Africa and Burma. He has a district that includes enclaves of Latinos, Filipinos, Armenians, Thais and others. He has lived in the Valley, but now resides in Silver Lake. His grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in East Los Angeles, but his father grew up in South Los Angeles. He has Russian-Jewish, Mexican-Italian and Irish blood running through his veins.

Jan Perry is all about building, and she has the resume to show for it. She has been a mover and shaker behind the Staple Center, L.A. Live, the Nokia, and the JW Marriott, which were all in the downtown portion of her 9th District. Building means jobs, and Perry claims 90,000 over the past 10 years.

Perry has also been the force behind establishing the Downtown Women’s Center amd many other local projects.

Kevin James grew up in Norman, Okla., and Texas. At the University of Oklahoma, he studied accounting, and he holds a law degree from the University of Houston. In 1987, at 23 years old, he headed West to what he calls “the land of opportunity.”

In 1988, he joined the huge global law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, before being hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant U.S. attorney.
They are the four major candidates for mayor.


The winner and still champion!

Voters give the president four more years

By David L. Horne, Ph.D.
OW Contributor

President Barack H. Obama triumphed again against unrelenting opposition, some of it far beyond mere campaign rhetoric, for the highest political office in the country, and was re-elected to a second term as president of the United States.

Although President Obama’s electoral count was very, very substantial, Republican comments in the aftermath of the election seemed to show they did not regard the president’s victory as a mandate that they needed to respect and take to heart.

Moving on, the president, according to his acceptance speech election night, sees his major mandate as finishing the job he started in rescuing the nation’s economy and attracting more jobs, along with other projects that will come up. In his election night speech, he said:

“By itself the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.”

“But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over, and whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you have made me a better president.”

Preying on the church

Controversy surfaced during A.M.E. shuffle

By Stanley O. Williford
OW Editor

When the church doors opened on a Sunday in early November at the First African American Episcopal church in Los Angeles–known simply as FAME–many in the congregation delighted in a desired change. Gone was their former pastor for the past eight years, the Rev. John J. Hunter.

Some members of the church, located at 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., no doubt raised their hands skyward in praise because after the A.M.E.’s Fifth Episcopal District’s annual meeting ended, Hunter, the source of much controversy at the church, was reassigned. He was supposed to go to Bethel A.M.E. Church in San Francisco, but the congregation there rejected him.

For some, there was a revolving-door similarity to the controversies involving a number of A.M.E. churches and the way some Catholic priests were shuffled from one parish to another.

The A.M.E. Fifth District presiding prelate, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland Sr., in explaining the reassignments, said the Methodist church is made up of an itinerant/traveling ministry. “Once they take their vows, which we do each year, you go where you are sent.”

Kirkland said that pastors are put where they are best needed, and each one takes a vow to go wherever the bishop and the presiding elders send them.