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Endeavouring to Find Opportunities for Communities in the Wake of the Shuttle’s Passage

"My Lungs Matter More Than Tiles" reads a sign on one of the doomed trees along Crenshaw Blvd.

“That’s a lot of wood,” mused Ben Caldwell of the 400 trees on the chopping block along the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s route to the Science Center.

I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain.

Founder of the Kaos Network in Leimert Park, life-long artist, and community activist, Caldwell had moved past the gloom-and-doom lamentations over the loss of the trees and had begun thinking about the opportunities that the moment presented.

Amazingly, there hadn’t been much in the way of planning with regard to what would happen to the wood, he told me. Apparently, the only plan in place is to turn it into compost.

What if it could be salvaged, he wanted to know.

Finding alternative uses for the wood would help to diminish the pain of the loss of the trees while providing the community with valuable materials that could be used to enhance their already vibrant celebrations. Tree trunks could be made into drums. Eucalyptus trees could be made into didgeridoos. Pine and other white wood trees could become cajones. Caldwell pointed to some of the paintings on the walls around his studio. What about creating other art materials out of the wood?

It could even be turned into mulch for gardens and to be placed around new trees, he suggested. Letting the wood go to waste would just add insult to injury. Read more…

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Science Center Given Approval to Remove Nearly 400 Trees to Make Way for Shuttle

Flyers mark trees for removal along Crenshaw Blvd. (photo: sahra)

When I first reported on the notices posted on trees along Crenshaw Blvd. back in July, I did not realize that those notices were more or less the extent of the outreach the Science Center had done with the communities that the Space Shuttle Endeavour would be traveling through.

Speaking with KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez last week, Leimert Park neighborhood council member Lark Galloway-Gilliam said that she had only found out about the planned cutting of the trees by accident. The Science Center, where the Shuttle will be housed, never contacted the communities directly to let them know or discuss their plans.

The oversight was disrespectful, many felt, not only given the detrimental impact to the property values that the loss of old trees would have, but also because of the emotional value of the trees for the community. Fourteen of those originally slated for removal had been planted in January of 1990 by community members as part of a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King. Twenty-two years later, they now stand over forty feet high, in large part because of the care that community members dedicated to them every month.

Moreover, there was no study of the environmental impact, noted Galloway-Gilliam, despite the fact that 400 trees were on the chopping block in park-poor communities with high asthma rates. Something cyclists will no doubt find ironic, given that the striping of bike lanes — a benefit to the environment — can be held up because of environmental impact concerns.

The L.A. Times reports that the Science Center was finally given the green light to remove the nearly 400 trees (119 of which are in South Los Angeles) after a three-hour Public Works meeting yesterday at City Hall.

The advocacy efforts of the affected communities pushed the Science Center to promise more benefits to residents. Read more…

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Healthy Food Walk Around USC Neighborhood Unearths Tensions Between the University and the Community

Tafarai Bayne of TRUST South L.A. and RideSouthLA explains the goals of the day. (c) sahra

If you were one of the participants in the South L.A. Healthy Food Ride/Walk this past weekend, you could be forgiven if you walked away a little confused about the purpose of the walk.

It started out simple enough.

The group – largely comprised of super-motivated teens from South L.A. vying for a spot on the Youth Action Coalition run by Building Healthy Communities South L.A. — met at Mercado La Paloma, the new home of Community Services Unlimited’s (CSU) Village Market Place.

Tafarai Bayne, of TRUST South L.A. and RideSouthLA (a partnership between the Mobile Urban Mapping project at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and TRUST South L.A.), laid out the plan for the day.

Participants were being tasked with helping the RideSouthLA team collect data and map the neighborhood. Specifically, they were asked to “take pictures of things that are healthy and unhealthy” (with regard to food choices) and “things that are safe or unsafe” (with regard to walking or biking conditions). The cellphone photos were to be sent in to the event site, to help compile a visual record of the walk. Read more…

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A Party and Ride/Walk Linked to Fresh Food Opportunities Just South of USC this Weekend

Ali helps a neighbor at CSU's produce stand at King Blvd. and Bill Robertson Ave. (c) sahra

If you’ve been paying attention to our calendar, you already know that RideSouthLA and Community Services Unlimited, Inc. (CSU) are holding a Healthy Food Ride this Sunday, Sept 9. The ride/walk event is designed to take participants on a tour through the neighborhood and show them the fresh food opportunities that do exist in the area. The ride/walk meet-up site is Mercado La Paloma (3655 S Grand Ave), and the event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What you may not know is that CSU has only recently moved its offices into Mercado La Paloma in order to be able to provide neighbors with easily accessible, fresh, and sustainable produce. The 1,300 lbs of produce they handle in any given week are grown in their own set of urban farms and sourced from local farmers. They hope that the new space will move them towards their goal of helping 1,000 local families access high-quality organic foods on a weekly basis.

On Saturday, Sept. 8, they will be celebrating this expansion of their Village Market Place program. They invite you to come by between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. for music, cooking demonstrations, and tastings. They will also have a number of products for sale, including their jams, sauces, pickles, herb-infused oils, and vinegars, and baked goods. Proceeds go toward helping pay for their move to the new space and supporting their other programs. Click here for more about CSU, their work, and their indiegogo campaign to raise funds for their move.

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CicLAvia South East: Building a Movement Ride by Ride

Riders pause at the Watts Towers for a group photo (photo: sahra).

“Oh yeah, I just saw maybe 50 or 60 riders go by. Yeah, it was pretty cool.” said a security guard at Plaza Mexico.

“I think there were 500 or 600 bikers,” said a flower vendor, smiling. “There were a lot!”

In order to ask people along the route what they thought of seeing a large group of cyclists go by and of the idea of a CicLAvia in the area, I had foregone joining the CicLAvia South East group at the start of the ride. A fact that had not gone unnoticed by the youth of Los Ryderz.

“Nice of you to make it,” teased Troy with a smile when I met up with riders at the halfway point.

“You were late!” shouted Rosie.

I explained I was trying to write a story that went beyond, “On the seventh day, people rode their bicycles. And it was good.”

They nodded but looked a little skeptical. They seemed worried I wouldn’t be taking enough photos. I am one of those upon whose shoulders the job of documenting our South L.A. family of riders has unofficially fallen, as I always have my camera in hand.

And it’s true, I didn’t shoot much this time around (sorry, guys). But I have an excuse: I was too busy cataloging the growth of a movement. Read more…

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South L.A. Calendar: Urban Farming, a CicLAvia Southeast Event, Community Coalition’s Power Festival, and a Neighborhood Bike Ambassador Meeting

Riders in South Gate give the CicLAvia Southeast event a big thumbs up. (photo: sahra)

Over the next week, you’ve got four opportunities to participate in promoting more livable streets in South L.A.

From 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday morning, Community Services Unlimited will be working with the USC Volunteer Center at two of their urban farm sites. It’ll likely be hot, so have a hat, sunblock, and some water and be prepared to work hard at creating an edible green space in South L.A. RSVP to LD@csuinc.org for more information.

***

Because Community Coalition believes that successful civic engagement is cause for excitement, they have pulled together a fantastic line-up of musicians for their South L.A. Summer Power Festival this Saturday, from 4 – 9 pm. The sweet sounds of artists such as Aloe Blacc and Las Cafeteras will serenade you as register to vote and learn about the initiatives on the November ballot. Also on hand will be The Red Cross, CHIRLA, and L.A. Care Health Plan to offer workshops on disaster preparedness, deferred action for DREAMers, and health care reform (respectively). Bienestar, New Way of Life, and the CLEAN Carwash campaign will be among some of the other organizations present offering health screenings and information on a variety of services available to community members.

So, come, learn, and dance at Martin Luther King Recreation Center at 39th and Western.

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On Sunday, the 26th, grab your bike and a friend and head to Watts to participate in the Second CicLAvia Southeast ride. Building on the momentum of the first ride, which had over 300 participants, the committee seeks to continue expanding the horizons for residents of communities in the area.

“Now we know that [CicLAvia] is something that the community does want,” said organizer Mayra Aguilar. So, the next steps include continuing to create routes that cross through several of the Southeast cities at once and engaging local officials in the process. In doing so, she said, they hope residents and elected officials will see themselves as part of a larger community and want to work together to bring CicLAvia to the Southeast in 2013. Read more…

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Space Nerds Unite: The Shuttle’s Arrival is Now Confirmed!

The Space Shuttle Endeavour. Photo courtesy of the California Science Center.

Maybe watching Curiosity land on Mars reminded you how cool space exploration was. Or maybe it was Mohawk Guy. Either way, all you long-time and newly-minted nerds out there will be thrilled to know that that will be neither a bird nor a mere plane you see overhead on September 20th. That will the Space Shuttle Endeavor hitching a ride on a NASA Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier on its way to LAX. Once it arrives, writes The Source:

It then will be transferred to a United Airlines hangar where it will stay until final preparations are made for its move on the morning of Oct. 12. The move to the Science Center will take two days, as the 58-foot-tall shuttle is transported under raised transmissions lines and across the 405 Freeway to Inglewood City Hall for an official launch ceremony Oct. 13. It then will be transported to the intersection of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw boulevards for a celebration of Mission 26. The shuttle is expected to reach the California Science Center in Exposition Park that evening.

The Shuttle will not be open for viewing until October 30, and viewing will require a timed ticket, according to the Science Center website. If you think that the 20 minutes you will get to cozy up to the Endeavour won’t be enough to get your nerd on, the Science Center is looking for volunteers to help welcome and manage crowds as well as answer guests’ questions about the exhibit. You will be able to tell visitors fun Shuttle facts like the Endeavour has orbited the earth 4,671 times and traveled a total of 122,883,151 miles. Just make sure you are 18 years old and can commit to taking one four-hour shift a week for a six-month period.

The map of the route for “Mission 26: The Big Endeavour” can be found here.

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This Weekend in South L.A.: Join in the Effort to Expand CicLAvia Southward or Learn to Garden

Help us spread the gospel of CicLAvia to Southeast L.A. this weekend. Photo: sahra.

It’s going to be hot this weekend.

If, like me, you live in an apartment, it is probably even hotter inside than outside. Which means you might as well get out and about.

Tonight, you could cool off with the Friday Night Ride to Hawthorne with the East Side Riders. Meet up with them around 6:30 pm at Ted Watkins Park (off Success St., near 102nd) in Watts, where they will be fixing up bikes for youth as part of the Parks After Dark program before they ride out.

Sunday, you have your choice of two events.

In the morning, join me and some of the South L.A. bike clubs as we support the push to bring CicLAvia to the Southeast Los Angeles area. The exploratory ride will begin from La Curacao Plaza, located at 5980 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park, CA 90255. It’s a short ride — only about 5 miles to South Gate Park — but the presence of cyclists in significant numbers along the route helps organizers determine the viability of route and generate excitement for the event within the community. And it’s just plain fun. If you’d like to be part of that process, join us at La Curacao at 10 am. Want to go but not sure how to get there? I’ll be riding to the site from the Los Feliz area around 9 am from the polka dot plaza thingy and always welcome company; let me know if you want to come along (sahra@streetsblog.org)! More about the event is here. Read more…

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Observers of the Spectacle: South L.A. Residents Greet Cyclists on Sunday’s Peace, Love, and Family Ride

Yesterday, the Peace, Love, and Family Ride rolled through South L.A., ably led by the Real Rydaz.

The first inclination after any major ride involving more than 100 riders is to post tons of photos of the happy cyclists. And while it was wonderful to see so many folks of all shapes and sizes rolling slowly, joyfully, and peacefully along major thoroughfares Vermont and Figueroa Aves., the best reward had to be the surprised looks of the spectators crowding in windows and doorways, waving, smiling, shouting greetings, and taking photos.

So, I started photographing them. They are not the best photos I have ever taken, by a long shot. But they are striking for the extent to which they illustrate the physical barriers to recreation that many of the residents face. The need for safety and security means bars and gates are prominent features on the landscape. Poor planning in these communities means that tall gates sometimes stand right outside people’s doors, limiting their ability to move around or experience the outdoors at their own residences as open and inviting. True, much of L.A. is gated and walled — this is nothing new. But the prevalence of such high gates ringing residences so tightly set me thinking about the mental barriers to community building and communication that the physical ones can create.

As discussed in my preview article on the event, we all are aware that a bike ride can’t solve everything. But, hopefully, more frequent group rides through such neighborhoods can inspire neighbors to see more recreational possibilities in their communities. If nothing else, residents’ sheer delight at seeing the riders certainly seems a powerful vote in favor of more such events.

Thanks to all that rode yesterday, and especially the Real Rydaz for their able shepherding of the group. For those that participated in the ride, photos of riders are posted on my facebook page. Read more…

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Bikes, Health, Activism, and Gardening Galore Await You in South LA this Weekend

Summer is officially here and South L.A. is celebrating in style.

Tonight, the East Side Riders will host their Friday Night Ride. The low-key ride starts in the Watts area and heads in a different direction every week. Check out their event page for more details and look here for my story on the night ride we did to Long Beach a few weeks ago.

Get your hands dirty on Saturday with not one but TWO awesome gardening extravaganzas.

First up, Community Services Unlimited is holding its last Garden Gateway to Community Health workshop of the summer. They plan to celebrate by sharing a pot-luck of dishes featuring recipes from the workshop series as well as making dishes together with participants that feature summer produce. While munching away, you will learn about crop rotation, why it works, and ways that you can use it in your home garden. You will be offered seedlings for your own summer garden. CSU asks that you come prepared to attend the entire workshop, which runs from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at their Urban Farm. You are welcome to bring a dish to share at the pot-luck. Please RSVP to Neelam@csuinc.org. The EXPO Center/CSU Urban Farm is located at the corner of King Blvd. and Bill Robertson Ln. (formerly Menlo Ave).

L.A. Green Grounds, a cool group of folks that garden out of the sheer goodness of their hearts, will be holding their monthly dig-in on Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. They will dig up neighbors Roberto and Sandra’s front yard and re-sow it with edible herbs, vegetables, and fruit tree seedlings. They break mid-day for a pot-luck lunch, so bring something to share if you can. Meet up at 3820 S. Harvard Blvd. and come prepared to work hard (in a fun way, that is) with hat, sunscreen, and water bottle. Find more information about the event here.

Don’t want to root around in the dirt on Saturday? Activists from SCOPE (Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education), the League of Young Voters Education Fund, and Cashmere Agency will be hosting Ignite L.A.: Uprising Remixed from 1 to 4 p.m. at Mercado La Paloma. The event seeks to highlight the innovative work of community youth organizers, cultural workers, and unsung civic heroes throughout the LA area. With an eye to the elections in the fall, the organizers will take stock of the issues facing South L.A. 20 years after the riots and engage area youth and residents on the role that L.A. can play in influencing national trends. If you can’t make it in person, you can watch the livestream at YoungVoterLive.com.

If you’ve had your fill of politics this week, head farther South to Watts where several organizations are reaching out to communities with messages of peace and wellness.

The East Side Riders (ESR) will be helping the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) with the Vibes for Peace event. Held at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), located at 10950 S. Central Ave., the event will feature a dog show, barbeque, skate competition at the skate park there, and water gun/water balloon fight. Members of the ESR will be on hand to help fix bikes for the community. The event begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the Watts Men’s Health Fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Watts Healthcare Corp. (10300 Compton Ave.) Get screened for cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, STDs, and other fun things. OK, maybe getting your prostate screened is not so fun but, hey, it’s all FREE. After making sure your parts are all in working order, check out the car, motorcycle, and bike show.

Sunday, tour South L.A. with the Real Rydaz. Then stick around for the South L.A. Peace, Love and Family event at 86th and Vermont. Shuntain Thomas of the Rydaz and other members of the group We Are Responsible People (WARP) are shutting down the block for a party focused on health, community, and peace. Registration for the ride (which is free) begins at 8:30 a.m. in Exposition Park. Riders will roll out around 10 a.m. and head south on Vermont to El Segundo Blvd., before heading back up to the event site via Figueroa. More details on the event are here. More information on how Thomas hopes the event can inject hope and investment into the community is in my story here.

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