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Groovin’ at the Obama Boulevard Naming Ceremony and Street Festival

Photo and article by Ricky Richardson

                Los Angeles- Saturday, May 4, 2019 is one for the history books. A massive, multi-cultural, diverse crowd gathered on Rodeo Road where Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard intersects, for a day long music festival and President Barack Obama Naming Ceremony. Ain’t no party like a west coast party!

                Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson was joined by Los Angeles Urban League President and CEO Matthew Lawson and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to officially unveil Obama Boulevard in honor of America’s 44th President of the United States of America. This day consisted of a free day long music and street festival. It was a pleasure to view a sea of people wearing President Obama gear-buttons, caps, scarves, t-shirts, sweatshirts etc. Multi-generation of family members were present for this historic occasion. People from all walks of life, races and cultures were in attendance.

                Singer Randy Newman got it right when he penned the tune “I Love L.A.” The location selected for the ceremony is where Obama Boulevard will intersect with Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in one of Los Angeles’ most iconic Black neighborhoods-creating one of the most significant African-American points of interest in the country. Los Angeles City Officials gave residents and the world another reason to LOVE L.A!

This was a picture-perfect day, neither too hot nor cold, just pleasant with a slight breeze. As I sat down to write, the lyrics for “Groovin” by War sibilated throughout my mind. Sibilate, that’s a word that you don’t hear often.The gates to the celebrations opened at 12 noon. DJ QwestCoast provided the musical soundtrack for the festivities. Radio Personality Kevin Nash served as Master of Ceremony.

                Katalyst Collective is a ten-piece band from Inglewood, California, who opened the show with a set of original tunes to set the tone for the rest of the day.

                Singer, songwriter, guitarist Mark Noxx from Sacramento delighted the crowd during his time in the spotlight. Jai is a sensational, 14-year-old talented singer. He wowed the crowd with his vocal stylings on the classic tunes “What’s Going On,” by Marvin Gaye and “Change is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke.

                Youth who are making a difference in the community was well represented and recognized during the program. Thandie Abdullah, co-founder of The Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard, and other members of the group, spoke eloquently about the organization. Ms. Abdullah was named among Times Magazines 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018.

                Michael Boyer II, aka- VERBS dropped some positive lyrics to the delight of the crowd. T-Lyons is a young rapper from New Orleans delivered and uplifting set of original tunes “We Gonna Make It,” and “Come Smile with Me.” This is additional proof of a young man making a difference in the community.

                Council President Herb Wesson welcomed Dignitaries from the Local, State and Federal levels of Government onstage for remarks. Several Mayors or representatives from surrounding cities were also present. Congresswomen Karen Bass gave a powerful speech that resonated with the crowd.

                Radio Personality Dominique DiPrima, 102.3 FM, RadioFree, KJLH took over as Mistress of Ceremony for the second half of the show. Gavilyn a Latin American hip hop artist rocked the proceedings with a set of original tunes. Music royalty was in the house. Alex Isley is the daughter of Ernie Isley, and the niece of the legendary group Isley Brothers. The crowd and I were vibing with her on the tunes “About Him,” “La Brea,” and “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

                The next segment of the program featured an electric, energetic performances that consisted of DJ Tee holding it down of the ones and twos, followed by DJ Battlecat manning the boards for Kurupt.

                YO YO came up next for a powerful performance and to showcase several young up and coming hip hip artists who are fast making a name for themselves, which was apparent in the warm welcomed they received from the audience. BJ The Chicago Kid was another highlight of the music festival.

                Keisha Renee a contestant on The Voice, showcased her country/soulful vocal styling on tune original songs “I Hope You dance and “Let’s Get Away,” from her latest EP The Road Less Travelled.

                Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop COGIC recited the Invocation and Blessing of Obama Boulevard, onstage alongside Council President Herb Wesson and his wife Fabian and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

                The Spotlight shifted over to a smaller platform for the unveiling of the Obama Boulevard sign. “The renaming of Rodeo Boulevard to Obama Boulevard represents a truly historic day for our city and country” Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, said in a statement. He went on to state, “With this change, we are publicly documenting what Obama’s legacy as our nation’s first black President means to our city and our South Los Angeles community. For every child who will drive down this street and see the President’s name, this will serve as a physical reminder that no goal is out of reach and that no dream is too big.”

                Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “In this moment of political tumult on the national level, it’s important to take stock of the tremendous accomplishment that Barack Obama’s presidency.” “His ascent to our nation’s office represents, in some ways, the fulfillment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, spoken about on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial more than 55 years ago.”

                Los Angeles Urban League President and CEO Matthew Lawson read a letter from President Barack Obama expressing his heartfelt appreciations thanks to the City of Los Angeles for this wonderful naming occasion.

                Council President Herb Wesson, State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Urban League President and CEO Matthew Lawson participated in the President Barack Obama sign unveiling.

                The focus reverted over to the Main Stage as Sheila E graced the stage to perform a classic hit, “Gonna Have a Funky Good Time.”

                Beat Box King Doug E. Fresh aided by Chill Will and Barry Bon the ones and twos closed out this amazing, magnificent and historic event on a rousing note.

                Stevie Wonder appeared on stage just when we thought that the show was over. He was greeted by a thunderous round of applause.  

                Obama Boulevard will replace Rodeo Boulevard, a 3.5 miles stretch of road that runs from “Hearth of Screenland” better known as Culver City, to Mid-City Los Angeles, passing by the legendary Dorsey High School and communities of Baldwin Hills and Rancho Cienega Sports Center and Park-2007 site of a rally for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama near the beginning of his historic presidential campaign.

                With the addition of Barack Obama Boulevard in America’s second largest city, President’s Row is officially established in Los Angeles including nearby George Washington Boulevard, Adams Boulevard and Thomas Jefferson Boulevard. Approximately 100 street signs will be replaced with the new Obama Boulevard sign.

                The unveiling ceremony was organized through a partnership between Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson—who introduced and carried the legislation to rename Rodeo Boulevard to Obama Boulevard, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Urban League which is currently led by longtime Obama supporter Michael Lawson (President and CEO), Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Congresswomen Karen Bass.

                The event was produced by Bridge Street, which recently produced the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Mountaintop Speech in Memphis.

               

Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) Honors Black Businesses at Black History Awards Celebration  

By Gloria Zuurveen

Editor-in-Chief

LOS ANGELES-It was an honor on Tuesday, February 12 at 8:30 am  to be among greatness at the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation Black History Awards Celebration at the Foundation Center LA located at 11633 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles CA 90047.

I was among the best in their field of businesses from Mr. Leo, President/CEO of Leo Sullivan Multimedia, Inc., a producer and director of  educational films, training films, and public service films for various educational film companies with national distribution. Mr. Sullivan has managed animation studios across the globe overseeing all phases of production on animated television shows and theatricals for studios in Thailand, Spain, France, Canada, and the United States, to name a few. Having worked in multiple studios such as Warner Brothers, Filmation, New World, Hanna Barbera, Walt Disney Studios, Richard Williams, and more, Mr. Sullivan decided to give back to the community by forming a 501c3 tax exempt organization called Leon Sullivan Multimedia Foundation that offer a hands-on introductory workshop in animation and game development to disadvantaged youth between the ages of 10 and 15.  I was so impressed with his history, Black History, which  also include him being one of the animators of the  original Soul Train, Scooby Doo and Fat Albert Team. Before all of us were introduced to the audience who  were feasting on the fresh made on-the-spot omelets from Watts Coffee House, Owner, Desiree E. Edwards, caterer for the special ceremony. The Foundation Center LA banquet halls allow for independent catering service as well as free parking accommodation for all guests. The parking lot was full. It was full because VSEDC corporation with sponsorship from Boston Private, Watts Coffee House and a passionate, gentle giant of a woman who is the smiling face of   Simply Wholesome on Overhill and Slauson. Ms. Apryl Sims spoke from the heart about her legacy of Black history in Los Angeles as a fourth generation entrepreneur with 42 years of Marketing, sales, and management expertise. Ms. Sims followed in her father’s footsteps as she had the opportunity to have worked with him and for him the last nine years of his life. Her history is the construction of the former Which Stand to the Simply Wholesome we see today. I do recall eating at the Wich Stand with the 20 Grand Club next door where La Louisiana restaurant is today.

It was Ms. Sims family company 333 Construction that physically transformed the Wich  Stand into what is now Simply Wholesome. Entrepreneurship runs in Ms. Sims’ DNA as she is now the proud owner of Specialty Raw Unpasteurized Cold Pressed Juice line called “April’s Life In A Bottle.”

Her creative juices were flowing during the ceremony as she moderated with such truth to power words of encouragement and with great compassion as she made everyone feel right at home with her warmth.

Mr. Ron Turner, with more than 25 years of exceptional experience at both large conglomerated stations and independently owned outlets,  were dressed impeccable as one can see in the picture with this article. The way he handles business at the famous 102.3 KJLH Radio (Taxi Productions) station where he serves as General Sales Manager and leads a team of 13 talented individuals who surpass budget by creating sound solutions that uniquely connect businesses to the station’s listening audiences. It has worked so well that he is a major force on the team that created Southern California’s Largest African American targeted event, The Taste of Soul. Mr. Turner has not come so far in business that he fails to look back. No. Mr. Turner, as an advisory board member of the Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute, “Black Men Reaching Back”. He is also a active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

As I mentioned, I was so honored to be in the company of greatness and this Black History Celebration presented by VSEDC is one to mark your calendar for because it’s leader Mr. Joseph Rouzan III, President/CEO has brought a spirit of entrepreneurship to uplift not just Black businesses but all who are in need of help with their decision to become an entrepreneurs and who otherwise would have no voice of economic empowerment.

He has reached out and collaborated with those who will continue the legacy to make its founder, Marva Smith Battle-Bey very proud of his leadership. The audience was also a testament to the great work he is doing at VSEDC along with his committed staff of professionals.

It is the professionalism in helping entrepreneurs rise above the fear stage of going on their own to be independent contractors, getting the necessary licenses, permits, collaboration with the City of Los Angeles and other municipalities to streamline the process to success.

Success is what the intent of VSEDC is all about since it was established in 1979 as Citizen Advisory committee by Mayor Tom Bradley in response to the South LA community’s concern regarding the closing of a Sears Department Store, the organization began operation in 1981.

Success breeds success and that is why in the past four years, VSEDC has served over 1100 clients, launched 126 new businesses, provided 82 small business loans totaling 15.8 million dollars and equally as important, created and retained 677 jobs. That is a history of success and that is why Jeanette Bolden, the owner of the historical 27th street Bakery in Los Angeles, a Family-Owned bakery serving the community since 1956, did not hesitate to accept the award as an honor during the VSEDC Black History Awards Celebration. She has a long history of Black business ownership.

It is deep in her family. I know the 27th Street Bakery sweet potato pie because it is one of my favorites and my daughter feels let down if I don’t get her one when she is in town during the holidays. I pick them up at Ralphs. Ms. Bolden said because of changes in how people shop they have had to change their distribution channels to expand and now they are in many supermarkets and restaurants. Bolden, who was born with asthma, has been the Executive Director and Coordinator of the Jeanette Bolden Asthma and Allergy Track Clinic as well as a former Board Member of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. A baker and a coach who jumped over obstacles that comes with one being asthmatic and she has made them tools of success. What Ms. Bolden has done with her many years of diligence, hard work and excellence has proven to be award worthy as she has earned elite status as both a coach at her alma mater, UCLA, where from 2014—2017, she served as Women’s Track and Field Head Coach at the University of Central Florida State.

She is a U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Famer, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and U.S. Olympic Women’s Head Coach. With a 24-year Collegiate Women’s Track & Field Head Coaching tenure, she has earned three NCAA Team Championships .

It was an awesome occasion and as a recipient, I am truly honored by the works of VSEDC who have been instrumental in the many years of PACE NEWS. We’ve benefited collaboratively as an award-winning newspaper of nearly 25 years. As a native Mississippian and a crusade for justice in the spirit of Ms. Ida B. Wells who then fought against the lynching of Black people, so too I today, continue to fight against injustices and especially, when it comes to Black people in all area and especially Black businesses. So, it in that vain that I received the Black Business Award from VSEDC.

VSEDC’s mission has remained the same which is to continue to make an impact in the small business community in South Los Angeles by providing free entrepreneurial training, technical assistance and access to capital through the VSEDC Business Source Center. Serving the South Region of Los Angeles and providing a suite of no-cost business services that help business start, operate and expand in Los Angeles.

For more information, please call:(323) 789-4515.or email:BEC@VSEDC.org.