King Day: A day on, not a day off

On April 8, 1968, four days after Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (an African American Democrat from Michigan), and U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, (an African American Republican from Massachusetts), introduced a bill in Congress to make King’s birthday a national holiday.

More than a decade later, after years of sermons, lectures and meetings by a number of preachers, politicians, activists and celebrities, the bill was first brought to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. It fell five votes short of passage.

In 1980, Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, testified before the Senate to establish a national historic site for her late husband as part of the King Center that she established in Atlanta. The King Center found support within the corporate community, and with the aid of Stevie Wonder’s hit single “Happy Birthday,” they were able to collect six million signatures for a petition to Congress to pass the bill.

On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to create the federal holiday to honor Dr. King, with the initial observance taking place in January 1986.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act, which designated that King’s birthday was not only a national holiday, but also a day of service. The federal holiday commission, which Mrs. King chaired, had the responsibility to build programming throughout the country around community service. The goal was “To make it a day on, not a day off.”

Honoring Dr. King on his birthday was not designed to simply give Americans a day off from work, but it was to encourage people to go out in their communities and participate in community service projects, which is what Dr. King dedicated his life to.

“The holiday was not only meant to honor Dr. King, but also the spirit of the movment that he led and represented,” said Ernest Brooks III, Special Assistant to the CEO at the King Center. “So that as a country, we had a permanent day in our nation’s history, annually, to recognize the accomplishments and leadership of Dr. King and those in the Civil Rights Movement. To advocate for civil rights, human rights, and social justice in America. To remind us that this was not always the case. That it was a hard and long fought struggle. People, including Dr. King, gave their lives for that work.

“This isn’t just another holiday to take off of work, but it’s to remember the sacrifices of Dr. King and others, and to continue to work to make America the place that it claims to be,” Brooks continued. “Which is a place of liberty and justice for all freedom and inequality.”

Walmart: An economic super power retrenches

The economic impact of the closure of Walmart that is expected to hit the Baldwin Hills Mall is bad and inevitable, according to Stuart Rosenthal, an urban economics professor at the University of Syracuse.

Rosenthal believes that “when one large department store leaves a mall or shopping center, other occupants may follow and according to the economist, “this is a geographical area that was just beginning to show promise of recovering from the riots of 1992.”

Rosenthal compared Crenshaw to other main inner city boulevards like Western and Vermont avenues.

Rosenthal said that he is familiar with South Los Angeles and has worked on various urban city projects; his first was as consultant with the Dunbar Hotel Economic Council in the 1970s; then he worked with the National Housing Services of Los Angeles in the 1980s with former director Marcia Hampton; and finally recently as a former consultant to Capri Capital LLC (owners Baldwin Hills Mall).

Rumors are running rampant in the community that Macy’s and Sears may follow suit and close their Baldwin Hills locations as well.

Professor Rosenthal said that the rumors could be very accurate at some point in time. However, he said the Baldwin Hills Macy’s did not make the list of projected closures, according to a recent BusinessWire report dated Jan. 6.

Rosenthal refers to Walmart’s departure as a failed experiment with a smaller-than-usual version of Walmart, known within the Walmart company as mini urban store. He says the company’s decision to create mini urban stores as opposed to super stores was a theory that may have backfired.

“Walmart mini or urban stores are one fourth the size of the larger stores, and when you locate smaller stores in urban areas as opposed to the larger suburban stores, it creates distrust within the community. These urban communities already have a distrust when it comes to products sold in their community. They (the shoppers) believe the stock is substandard and Walmarts outside their community in suburbia might have a better selection of goods since their stores are and have a wider range of product selections.

Rosenthal believes that in order to lease out the space Walmart has vacated requires thinking outside of the box. He said you have to think about who will come to Baldwin Hills mall and remain.

Drug abuse begins with ‘fun’ experience but usually results in agony, tragedy

Heroin use and addiction is reportedly skyrocketing in Los Angeles County and across the nation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported in late 2014 that an increasing number of teens and adults in southern California are using heroin. As well, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reported initiations (first-time users) of heroin have increased by 80 percent among teens ages 12 to 17 years. The increase in heroin use is largely attributed to the drug’s low cost and easy availability.

“Heroin use has become a particular concern for the DEA because we’re seeing people using heroin at such a young age,” said DEA Agent Sarah Pullen. She said high school counselors in Los Angeles and Orange counties are reporting an increase in heroin use among teenagers, and also in covert sales on campus.

In an eerie similarity to the crack epidemic that swept through the nation’s inner cities during the 1980s and 1990s, heroin use has led to an increasing number of drug addiction-related deaths in wealthy suburbs as teenagers and upscale adults gain more access to prescription medicine such as OxyContin (a synthetic opioid) and are getting hooked. As the money dwindles, they are turning to a more affordable high: heroin (also an opioid). One 80-milligram OxyContin pill may cost as much as $100, while a bag of heroin can be purchased at the low price of $10, according to California Watch, a nonprofit center for investigative reporting.

OxyContin abuse has apparently decreased now that the painkiller has been reformulated to make it more difficult to misuse. The DEA says that many people who once abused OxyContin have switched to heroin, supplied primarily via Mexican and South American drug cartels.

Addiction is a complicated affliction, affecting people of all ages, intelligence levels, social status and backgrounds. No expert to date has determined exactly what causes some people to be more prone to addiction than others, but it is usually a mix of many factors, from family backgrounds, genetics, environment, stress and personality traits. Americans are reportedly dying because of drug addiction more frequently than ever before, in part because of NIDA findings reveal that only one in 10 persons with a substance abuse problem receives the help they need. If you, a family member or friend believe that you are addicted to drugs, alcohol or any obsessive compulsive disorder, help is available through a variety of services in practically every town in America.

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