Blog : Dena's Beat

Leimert Park: A Place Called Home

Leimert Park: A Place Called Home

Reading Time: 0 minute

Within the South Los Angeles area, Leimert Park is a 1.19-square-mile neighborhood in Los Angeles, California.  Developed by and named after Walter H. Leimert it was one of the first comprehensively planned communities in Southern California designed for upper and middle-class families and was considered a model of urban planning.  In the 1960 Leimert Park emerged as a center for contemporary African-American culture and remains so today.  Though surrounded by art and culture, on any given day you will also find a population of homeless residing in the park. Los Angeles County’s homeless population rose 15% from 2011 to 2013 according to a Los Angeles Times article.

According to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center, it is estimated that 254,000, men, women and children experience homelessness in Los Angeles County and approximately 82,000.00 people are homeless on any given night.

Though the issue of homelessness is widespread throughout the county, the report states that the largest percentage of homelessness is in the South Los Angeles and Metro Los Angeles areas.  Most are from the Los Angeles area and stay in or near the communities from which they came, and African Americans make up approximately half of the Los Angeles County homeless population.

 

Liemert Park Homeless Encampment_0029
Two homeless men, Rick Porter and Virgil Estea sit relaxing on a park bench in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, Ca., on January 8, 2014. Estea talks about the history of Leimert Park, as Porter shares his story of working as a sound technician at the Vision Theater formerly owned by actress Marla Gibbs. The theater is currently owned by the City of Los Angeles. (Photo by: Dena LeMmons)

Liemert Park Homeless Encampment_0044
Virgil Estea stands next to his personal belongings in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, Ca., on January 8, 2014. Estea shares “When it’s cold and raining we use the blue tarp to cover up and stay warm.”  (Photo by Dena LeMmons)

1 Virgil Estea Close Up Liemert Park Homeless Encampment_0034
Virgil Estea smiles at a Leimert Park visitor in Los Angeles, Ca., on January 8, 2014. He proudly calls himself the unofficial park grounds keeper and Leimert Park historian. (Photo by: Dena LeMmons)

Rick Porter shares his story of working as a sound technician at the Vision Theater formerly owned by actress Marla Gibbs.  (Photo by: Dena LeMmons)

Virgil-and-Dog-Liemert-Park-Homeless-Encampment_0041-(1)
Virgil Estea bends over to pet a Labrador that runs through Leimert Park, in Los Angeles, Ca., on January 8, 2014. “Animals make the best company, if you love them, they love you back,” says Estea. (Photo by: Dena LeMmons)

Virgil-5-Liemert-Park-Homeless-Encampment_0030
Virgil Estea sits alone on a park bench in Leimert Park, in Los Angeles, Ca., on January 8, 2014.  (Photo by Dena LeMmons)

“I’ve been homeless for 20 years. For the last 14 years on and off, Leimert Park is the place I call home,”  says Estea.

Reposted from January 12, 2014

Hollywood Blackout: The Diversity Gap Continues

Hollywood Blackout: The Diversity Gap Continues

Reading Time: 0 minute

When 12 years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture, it made history, becoming the first movie from a black director, Steve McQueen, to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years.  The Academy Awards, whose membership includes more than 6,000 artists, and professionals, continues to lack racial diversity. The article Hollywood Blackout: An African American Struggle highlights this concern.

In pictures: Scenes from the motion picture 12 Years A Slave nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture

There is progress, however, African American filmmakers feel that a balance in racial equality within Hollywood remains slow.  African American filmmaker and producer Leslie Saltus Evans says,

“Since, 12 Years a Slave won best picture, I would like to hope that it would help not just African American Writers, Directors but all above and below the line Cast and Crew to be considered for various projects in Film or Television based on their track record; it’s happening slowly but surely. I am glad to see the surge of film and TV projects with African Americans in lead roles in front of and behind the camera.”

When actress Luptia Nyong’o accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress, she became only the 7th black female to win an Academy Award in 86 years.

Lupita Nyong'o poses in the press room with the award for best actress in a supporting role for "12 Years a Slave" during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Lupita Nyong’o poses in the press room with the award for best actress in a supporting role for “12 Years a Slave” during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

According to the 2013 statistical data presented by leeandlow.com, in the 85 years of the Academy Awards, black actors received less than 4% of acting Oscars.

The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards Infographic by Lee & Low Books, designed by Ben Mautner © 2013, blog.leeandlow.com
The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards Infographic by Lee & Low Books, designed by Ben Mautner © 2013, blog.leeandlow.com

In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar. In 1963, 24 years later Sidney Poitier became the first African-American male awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  In the Academy’s 86 years, only 15 blacks have received Academy Awards for acting. Denzel Washington received the Oscar in years 1989 and 2001.

Black Academy Awards Winners 1939-2014 by Dena LeMmons updated 3-5-2014
The Road To The Academy Awards, Black Academy Awards Winners 1939-2014 Source awardsdatabase.oscar.org. Infographic By Dena LeMmons, Updated 3-5-2014

12 Years a Slave is the first Best Picture Oscar awarded a black director.

In a Seattle Times article, McQueen dedicated the honor of his win to those who suffered slavery and “the 21 million who still endure slavery today.”

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles  

“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” said McQueen, who promptly bounced into the arms of his cast. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”

Recently announced is the remake of the classic film, AnnieQuvenzhané Wallis a nine-year-old African American actress is cast as the lead. Her performance in the 2012 critically acclaimed film, Beats of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané became the youngest actress ever to receive this honor. Best Actor Oscar winner Jamie Foxx plays the rich politician who adopts Annie, and Cameron Diaz as Ms. Hannigan. With a richly cultural blended cast, The Guardian reports that the film before its release has received a massive amount of racial slanders on Twitter.

“I will be glad when it doesn’t matter about your skin color but more about your ability and experience.  But my hope is that African Americans would continue with this current surge and expand into all formats of programming, like Univision for example, to collaborate more and work together to get the projects we would like to see on the screen”, states Saltus Evans. “There are more opportunities now than it was 20 years ago so there is some progress but we have some way to go.”

During his speech at the 2000 Image Awards Steven Spielberg, stated,

“There’s a lot to be done in the world we share. We still must acknowledge the painful absence of racial diversity within our very own industry. We need to hire studio executives of color. We need to foster young minority talent, both in front of and behind the scenes. Obviously, our world still needs to work on the issue of racial discrimination.”

Hollywood, as well as our nation, continues to struggle with embracing racial diversity.

Republished from 3/2014

On this day: February 28, 1988

On this day: February 28, 1988

Reading Time: 0 minute

On this day: February 28, 1988

Debi Thomas became the first African American woman to win any medal at the Winter Olympics. In 1986 Thomas became the first African American woman to win the U.S. National Championships and the World Championships. Adding to her accomplishments, she earned a bronze medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics

Her rivalry with East Germany’s Katarina Witt at the 1988 Calgary Olympics was known as the Battle of the Carmen’s. The competition was given this name because both independently elected to skate to the music of Bizet’s opera Carmen in their respective long programs.

Debi Thomas credits legendary ice skating show and comedian Mr. Frick as being the person who inspired her to give figure skating a try.

Thomas shares “My mother introduced me to many different things, and figure skating was one of them. I just thought that it was magical having to glide across the ice. I begged my mom to let me start skating. My idol was the comedian Mr. Frick, formerly of Frick and Frack. I would be on the ice, “Look mom, I’m Mr. Frick.” When I went to my first world championship, I mentioned the story, and Mr. Frick saw it on TV. He sent me a letter and we met at Geneva when I won the world championship.”

In 1991, Thomas earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. She retired from skating the following year in order to enter Northwestern University Medical School. After graduating from Northwestern in 1997, Thomas decided to continue her medical training to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Debi Thomas has received many accolades for her contributions to figure skating. She was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000, and served as a representative for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On this day: February 27, 1897

On this day: February 27, 1897

Reading Time: 0 minute

On this day: February 27, 1897

Opera singer Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anderson was entered in the New York Philharmonic Competition at age 17 by her music teacher and placed first over 299 other singers. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Anderson sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first African American, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955.