Sunday, March 29, 2009
Above: Saturday barbecue attracts scores, Devon Hamilton cuts a customer's hair, LaWanda Hawkins, founder of Justice for Murdered children and Devon's father-in-law, Michael Martinez, take out time for a hug at the rally....
Two Separate Shootings at a San Pedro Barber Shop and Small Church Has the Long Time Shop Owner Contemplating Closing Down; the Trouble is His Customers Refuse to Let Him Leave Soulful Shears, a Community Watering Hole Where Hispanic and African American Customers Get Haircuts Side By Side
By Diana L. Chapman
Photos By: Jens Peerman, publisher of Coast Gopher, an online Harbor Area Newspaper: Http://www.coastgopher.com
With just another quick buzz of a shaver , Devon Hamilton swirled the chair and whipped up another customer 's cut in what seemed less than five minutes. At the same time, loyal customers streamed in begging him to stay open.
Clip, clip, …zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz .
Amongst the buzzing noise of shavers and client's chatter, Soulful Shears, which sits smack in the heart of a small shopping front on Bandini, near 1st streets, is abuzz with worry. For 13 years, the shop symbolized a safe haven where clients swapped tales, large and small, and discussed, yes, women, when the opposite sex wasn't around.
That safe feeling evaporated with two non-fatal shootings last month. At 36, Devon , an African –American, considered shutting his shop and saying: “I’m out of here.” He believes the shootings were racially motivated and fears not only for himself, but his three young daughters and the scores of his customer’s children, who frequently drop by to visit to talk and get haircuts.
Local residents, however, with the help of organizations, launched a barbecue/rally this past Saturday to show the community has this attitude: “Don’t let them chase you away.” All day long, a stream of Hispanics and African Americans came in droves to support the barber, buying ribs, hot dogs and chicken – and often donating more money than was asked for.
Spirits were running high and jokes were exchanged at the barbecue, held at the Top Value parking lot across the street. The constant flow of people coming all day made the volunteers happy. While it was suppose to end at 4 p.m., the food ran low by 2 p.m., explained LaWanda Hawkins, who founded justice for Murdered Children.
“God is just awesome,” LaWanda said while cleaning up after the barbecue. “We made over $600 and we thought we were going only to make $200. It was just word of mouth and people kept coming."
The money will go to repairs from the shootings and to purchase vests for volunteers to start escorting children to school safely.
The barber and his parents-in-law said –despite the rally – they still fear for the children who come to the shop. On Saturday, only one officer showed up; Lomita Sheriff's Deputy John Huerta, who was born and raised in San Pedro, attended the rally to make sure everyone was safe, said Mary Lou Martinez, Devon’s-mother-in-law. He got out of his car, wandered around and spoke to the children, she said.
“This place (the barber shop) is like a community center and people come here to socialize,” said Mary Lou, who showed she was clearly agitated with the lack of response from the Los Angeles Police Department. “This is an area that should be patrolled. LAPD needs to get involved. It's their jurisdiction. I’ll give the deputy thanks for coming by to support us.”
Without a doubt, Mary Lou believes the shootings are racially motivated – and while some say it’s gang related, she argues this: “If it’s gang-related, it’s race related.”
As for Devon, he said, when the Los Angeles police discussed the shootings with him, they indicated that he needed to stop giving gang members haircuts. Devon’s question was how would he do that? All walks-of-life end up in his shop, from blue collar workers to doctors. Longshoreman, students, teachers and all police officers come for quick buzzes.
And while he knows some customers are gang members, it’s likely he’d cause more trouble by denying them service. More importantly, his large, multi-racial family -- which does include in-some gang members -- don't even know they are hitting a relative's shop, his mother-in-law revealed.
One innocent party – or believed to not be the target – is the small church right next to the barber shop, the Iglesia Manantial de Vida. Pastor Arturo Vargas believes that the church door was accidentally shot and that Soulful Shears was the true target.
The barber shop has been extremely respectful of his church and “we help each other,” explained the pastor, while inside the dimly lit chapel where his young daughter rapped on drums.
“They are responsible, good neighbors,” the pastor said, whose flock participated in the barbecue. “I believe they were after maybe one of his (Devon’s) customers. I see a lot of Hispanics that go there to get their hair done. Thank God we don’t have services on Tuesday (when the second shooting occurred). We feel we are under God’s protection, but my concern is for the women and children.”
The church paid $250 to replace the glass door’s entrance to the chapel.
Due to the weekend, Los Angeles police could not be reached for comment about the incidents.
In the meantime, others are trying to redirect the shootings from being considered racial – and call them solely gang activities.
Gloria Lockhart, executive director of Toberman, a well-known social agency that helps the poor and works to dilute gang activity, said: “We think it's gang related. That’s how we feel. It’s various sets of gangs. We launched this (rally) to symbolize unity in the community."
Tyris Hatchett, who works Toberman’s gang unit, explained that currently this issue should not be labeled until more information is gathered.
“You have to evaluate the situation,” said Tyris, as he barbecued along with several other volunteers. “It’s a lot of knuckle heads doing things just to be doing it. Since it’s getting to be summertime, we are trying to bring folks together so there won’t be any retaliation."
Warren Chapel church member, Daniel Johnson, who volunteered and was passing out plates of food, offered this up: whatever prompted the shootings doesn’t matter as much as this: “We want no more shootings, no more fighting or any more of that.”
Inside of the barber shop seemed like any typical Saturday. It was mobbed with customers. Parents dragged their kids along with them – and bustled in and out. While mostly men come for haircuts, women also have their hair done there. Stories are told so often that Devon said: “It’s kind of like Vegas, what’s said in here stays in here.”
The first shooting in February was 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Devon said he was cutting the hair of a 60-year-old man, a regular customer, when suddenly three shots rang out. Bullets went flying through the door where the man was sitting, grazed his hand, and the other two bullets struck a back wall and a back door. “We just ducked for cover,” the barber said, adding they couldn’t find the third bullet.
That episode was terrifying enough, especially since Bandini Street Elementary School sits just a block away and nearly the entire neighborhood knows how many kids revolve in and out the barber’s doors.
The second shooting, also in February, happened on a Thursday night, Devon said. There were about ten customers in his shop, with at least four youngsters, when bullets riddled through a window of one of his customer’s cars -- parked out front – and then shattered the door of the church right next door. But Devon believes – as does the pastor – that the bullets were meant for his shop.
The woman, who was sitting in her car and works at San Pedro High, the barber said, was not injured. Her grandchildren were inside Soulful Shears.
“This just doesn’t make sense,” said Devon, shaking his head. “All I can think about is it’s racial. We’ve had a town hall meeting at a church and some people were saying it was gangs. To me, those two almost go hand in hand.”
It’s clear Devon has rules to come to his shop. Prominently posted are these conditions: no smoking, no drinking alcohol, no drugs of any kind “in or around the shop,” no fighting, no cursing – and – to watch the conversation when children are present.
For the moment despite the shootings, Devon will continue to use his shears.
The community support has convinced him to stay at least for now. Toberman, the Boys and Girls Club, Justice for Murdered Children and the Warren Chapel put together the rally in response to the community’s desire to convince the barber to not close.
“He’s going to stay,” said his adamant father-in-law, Michael Martinez, who lives up the street from the shop and who was born and raised in San Pedro.
Devon’s not exactly sure, but wants to remain. “I talked to some older gang members and they think it’s younger knuckle heads. The second shooting left me really discouraged and I’m worried about the safety of my customers.”
Thursday, March 26, 2009
A Series of Shootings at Local Business on Bandini StreetHave Triggered Alarm and Prompted Local Groups to Rustle Up a Barbecue on Saturday; Funds Will Go Toward Paying for Repairs
Two sets of non-fatal shootings that riddled a local African-American barber shop and a nearby church close to an elementary school this month have caused alarm and triggered several groups to announce a giant block party and barbecue Saturday to bring the community together.
The Block Party will begin at 11 a.m. and stop at 7 p.m. Justice For Murdered Children, the Toberman House, the Warren Chapel Church and the Boys and Girls Club are some of the groups participating in the event.
Funds from the barbecue proceeds – which will include $1 hotdogs and $8 rib dinners, will go to help the local business rebuild, said LaWanda Hawkins, who founded Justice for Murdered Children after her son was murdered in 1995.
“Everybody was shocked since it’s just one block away from an elementary school,” LaWanda said. “They’ve (the businesses) had to get their windows redone and pay money and then they had to do it again.”
In particular, the African-American community is heavily invested in Soulful Shears, which has served the black community for years. Barber shops in the black community often become more than a spot to get a haircut, but blossom into social places where stories are swapped, told and retold, explained LaWanda, who has her hair done there.
Noted African American Los Angeles police commanders, Randall Simons and Kenneth Garner got haircuts there, she said. Both recently died, Simons in action and Garner from a health issue.
The barber shop owner “was going to close up and move and we all said: “Don’t do that!” LaWanda added.
The event will be held at Top Value, a market at First and Bandini streets, and hopes to bring the community together to make a statement to end the shootings.
Friday, March 20, 2009
By Diana L. Chapman
With our Los Angeles parks falling fallow, a recession that seems ugly enough for the city to go after taxpayers for more cash and a crush of kids who still want to play ball, it’s a homer of a thing that two fathers, a former teacher and a team mom stepped up to the plate in San Pedro.
So far, they’ve been hitting homeruns -- quietly mending ruined baseball diamonds in the background of San Pedro while an ongoing, ugly battle resumes over the temporary – perhaps permanent location -- for the once-homeless Eastview Little League.
Despite the fierce warring, that’s an issue this group tries not to focus on.
Instead, they’ve raised at least $8,000 plus and gone about repairing and rehabilitating beaten down baseball diamonds. In the past year, the group quietly redid Peck Park ball fields, added awnings and shades, reopened the snack shack and reduced playing costs from $100 to $80 per player.
But they hope to do more—with long term goals of fixing not just baseball diamonds, but many other facilities, such as gyms, soccer fields and basketball courts. Soon, Bogdanovich’s players hopefully will see the last of bumpy fields and splintering benches.
“My heart is for the kids and there are many parents who just can't afford it,” explained John Delgado, who said most city fees to play ball start at $80. “The fields were falling apart and it just didn’t seem fair.
“We brought it (Peck) back to life.”
For this we should applaud the foursome, which included John, now the president of Central’s Neighborhood Council, his side kick, Mark Aariola, a team mom, Robin Gregg, and a former school teacher, Frank Anderson. They are looking for more volunteers to come and hit home-runs with them. Another resident, Allen Quinten, has also joined the force.
Using the former title of a group that was launched in the 1970s but had languished with time, John and his team injected new life into the San Pedro Youth Sports Association (SPYSA). The new crew turned it into a non-profit, with the blessing of its original founders, including Quinten’s father, and started to raise money by visiting both North West and Central Neighborhood Councils and holding fundraisers.
Working deals with the city – they offered packages difficult for Los Angeles to refuse in this dragging economy – and has launched one of the first successful partnerships which city recreation and park officials have long avoided in the past.
“They’ve been really doing a good job,” said Deanne Dedmon, the Los Angeles city recreational supervisor for the Harbor area region. “They are very open and easy going and they keep us in the loop about everything.”
This group should not be confused with the San Pedro Youth Coalition, another non-profit fighting to nurture organized sports in the Harbor Area that has aided East View in its long running plight. The league lost its original home at the former DiCarlo Bakery site and were forced out when Target purchased the property and opened a store.
Many non-profits and volunteers in the past have tried to pass muster through the parade of city warriors and collaborate, but often city bureaucrats intensely resisted.
John believes the reason for their success thus far stems from the spiraling economy, which left the city little choice but to collaborate or allow for more parks to fall to ruin.
Mark, who was the other father who pulled this program together agreed that in the city didn’t want to “work with us at first.”
“We had to step in and give the things that Rec and Parks can no longer afford to give our kids,” he explained, who added the group has no intention of stopping their good deeds at the door step of San Pedro. “We are trying to help lower prices…and are gearing for the football season.”
Its board members plan to expand from repairing baseball fields to all sports facilities. They hope to leapfrog later to Wilmington and – if met with continued success – use their resources to fix ailing sports facilities across Los Angeles.
In the meantime, as the East View battle continues to rage about whether to have East View remain atop Los Angeles Port-owned Knoll Hill or turn it into open parklands appears – where Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn promised it a temporary home for three years – heads possibly toward compromise.
John is on the Central Neighborhood Council steering committee studying uses there as is Phil Trigas, who agreed that the Knoll Hill will meet the needs for both open-park land and ball fields. “The design needs for both can me bet. And it’s going to be a public facility,” Phil predicted. “We are hoping Janice (Los Angeles Councilwoman Hahn) will compromise.”
Hahn has urged the Central Council and port officials to allow the league to remain there, as other potential homes for the league have dwindled. That concept remains controversial, however, as many critics consider the league a private organization that does not serve all children.
As the screaming goes on, the association in the meantime has launched a $2 ticket raffle to restore Bogdanovich’s playing fields, reopen the snack shack, provide awnings – and in the end, by next season, subsidize the city’s $110 rates per player to lower rates so more children can play.
The dream includes only charging $35 per player – in the long run – with the association paying additional costs.
The raffle’s number one prize winner, for a flat screen T.V., will be announced at a pancake breakfast at Peck Park in the auditorium on May 17, a Sunday from 8 to 11 a.m. The winner does not need to be present.
So much has happened since their opening day at Peck Park last April when the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa showed up. Because no press attended, that mayor “could be himself,” John said, “and signed balls for every single player.”
To buy tickets, contact John Delgado via email at: email@example.com
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Would You like to Learn Seven Golden Secrets and the Joy to Writing? Then consider this first-time free adult writing workshop coming soon to Nosh Café in San Pedro:
Have you always felt tortured when you sat down to write? Do you hate and love writing? Do you have a book, but you don’t know how to spit it out? Do you think you are a bad writer? Did you love writing when you were a kid, but have since given it up?
Then you may want to consider joining Diana Chapman’s first adult writing workshop coming in April – time and date to be announced at Nosh Café. The workshop is free. Diana has been writing for 35 years and has had her work published globally with many of her pieces running in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She also wrote for more than a decade for various newspapers, including The Daily Breeze and The San Diego Union.
Over the years, she’s gathered many short cuts and secrets to better writing – and how to discover the joy of this powerful talent – instead of the pain. Come and learn her secrets. If interested in attending this event, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
THE PEDRO CUPCAKE QUEEN ENTERS INTO A CONTEST: GOOD LUCK ROSE!!!
I am very proud to announce that on Sunday, March 29th, Cuppacakes will be participating in The LA Cupcake Competition at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. This is where the winner of the BEST cupcake will be announced! There will be about 15 other well known Cupcake Shops I will be competing against which should be quite exciting.
Each Cupcake vendor will make 2 different flavored mini cupcakes, 400 of each! Can you imagine with 16 Cupcake makers there, each bringing in 800 mini cupcakes, which makes it a total of over 12,000 mini cupcakes!! That's a lot of cuppies!
The judges will be well know celebrities and the public! Here they will taste the cupcakes and pick their favorite ones. If you would like to come to this fun event, you can visit the website of the LA Cupcake Competition at http://www.drinkeatplay.com/cupcakechallenge/ The cost of coming and participating in the event and eating as much cupcakes as you like is $40. Part of the cost goes to the Children's Aids Foundation, which I was told. All information is provided in the link I gave you.
I hope I get to see a lot of you there! It should be a fun event and who knows, Cuppacakes could be crowned LA's best Cupcake maker!
Again, it's on Sunday March 29th from , CA. 90028.
Here's the link:
Thanks for supporting Cuppacakes!
Friday, March 06, 2009
By Diana L. Chapman
Coming home after an eight-hour “in house” suspension for wearing the wrong shirt, Ryan was fully loaded with ammunition to take him out of POLAHS (Port of Los Angeles High School), the up-and-coming charter school in San Pedro. He’d been attending POLAHS only about a month.
“Face it, Mom,” he argued. “I got that suspension because I wasn’t Red Carpet enough for them.”
No, he wasn’t. It was the latest of several indicators that made me think we’d made an unwise choice of schools for our son. On “Red Carpet Day,” he was supposed to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo (none of which I knew anything about). Ryan didn’t understand, either, so he wore a polo-shirt with an artistic skeleton head, currently a popular style.
That cost him eight hours of education, as he had to sit in a conference room for the rest of the school day.
Let me say this first so I can get it a couple of points across immediately. First of all, as much I disagree with how this school is currently operating, I can’t condemn it. Many students are flourishing in this smaller setting instead of overcrowded San Pedro High. For some parents and students, POLAHS is a perfect choice
The trouble here was that we had miscast the student as well as the parent. Ryan said when he started at Dana Middle School and again at POLAHS that “we come as a package.” That’s true. I’ve been an active volunteer at his schools since he was in pre-kindergarten. I helped to bring after school programs to Dana after and develop Peck Park Pool into a year-round facility.
My way of thinking when I enrolled Ryan at POLAHS was this: It’s a small charter. They’ll welcome parent volunteerism in a variety of ways besides joining the booster club. Maybe I could help start some after school programs to the campus. The school was still evolving since it opened in 2005.
I should have paid more attention to the section in the student handbook that said they didn’t want parents hanging out in the halls. I should have paid more attention when the former principal departed last summer, leaving the school virtually without a captain and one of its biggest advocates for the students. Before we enrolled, I should have paid more attention to the fact that many of the ideas I suggested were being rebuffed.
After awhile, I realized the school wanted to make suggestions to the parents about what they could do -- not the other way around – and their involvement would be limited.
It was virtually the first time in my son’s education that I felt locked out of the picture. After awhile, I decided I could deal with that – especially when I discovered other parents were finding out the same thing. It wasn’t just me.
On the morning of Red Carpet Day, the school called with an ultimatum: Get down to the campus and provide Ryan with a standard uniform shirt or he will spend the entire day in a conference room.
Stunned and angered – I admit ultimatums don’t work with me – I was also feeling sick that day and couldn’t drive down to the campus. Could they provide him with a uniform shirt? The answer was no.
An email from Assistant Principal Gaetano “Tom” Scotti, (recently named principal) stated that the school did not want students or parents to dictate the dress policy of the school. (Maybe not, but perhaps since this is whom you are serving with public funds, you may want to give them a voice in the policy creation and make sure parents understand this coming in the door.)
My calls to Executive Director Jim Cross that morning went unheeded. The first time, he said he would call me back soon because he understood there might have been some “confusion.”
Two hours ticked by. I called again. He said he would call me back. Nothing. A couple of days later, my husband called and left a message. No response.
A few weeks later, my girlfriend’s daughter had to sit in the conference room for the school day for having a small tear in her pants.
I’ve talked with many of the Port of Los Angeles students. For the most part, they are good kids who are striving to do their best and make their way to college. San Pedro High would be thrilled to have them. So I thought – do we really want to punish kids for small infractions to this degree?
For me, the answer is no, especially when matters of dress are so subjective. The letter announcing Red Carpet Day that came home didn’t say anything about tuxes or suits. It just said: “Boys are prohibited from wearing anything sagged, over sized or gang-related.”
This led to our decision to move Ryan to San Pedro High School at the semester break. We had misjudged him. He loved nearly everything about Dana. He loved its size, meeting different kinds of students and bonding with special friends. So it made sense for him to continue in a large setting. We also understand the rules at a public school better since he’s been in Los Angeles Unified since he was 4.
But while Ryan thrived at Dana, a friend’s daughter told me she felt like “a speck on the wall” there, where she felt unnoticed for the entire three years despite her intelligence. Few teachers seemed interested in her abilities, she said. At POLAHS she has flourished, blossoming with all sorts of possibilities. She has studied Celtic and Latin at home and wants to be an archaeologist. Her efforts are supported and endorsed at the school.
She’s not the only one who has blossomed at POLAHS.
Along with scores of other students, she recently received an award to a function for students who may have gone unnoticed elsewhere. All of which is fantastic. And I am pleased to say that they e-mailed photos of the award-winning students to the homes of school parents – instead of what I received before, many pictures of the adults running the school.
I’m also pleased that they named Scotti as principal in February. While I disagreed with some of the policies he enforced, I have to admit that many students have done better on the small campus than they would have at SPHS.
Also, over time, I suspect more parents will get involved on the POLAHS board of directors – and hopefully, one or two student leaders will be allowed to join to give the kids back their voice. With that, the disciplinary policies may be toned down. After all, to paraphrase a saying, a great mind is a terrible thing to waste sitting in a conference room. And believe me, there are many great minds there.
At that point, I truly believe POLAHS will become the phenomenal school is striving so hard to be.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Good-Bye to LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner Who Had a Soft Spot for Kids and Had Pledged to Come to Writing Classes at the Boys and Girls Club in a World So Sorely Short of Angels Like This
By Diana L. Chapman
In my small-world attempts to help kids, I always look for one thing -- angels.
Angels have come and gone in my life, but when I find them I hang on because when they receive a phone call to help misguided youngsters or just show kids in need a helping hand, they are there.
They don’t even have to think about it. That was Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner, who suddenly died this past weekend at age 53 – an African-American officer who climbed the ranks so high within the Los Angeles Police Department that he was most recently the commanding officer of the South Bureau.
I am sure he would have gone even higher. The cause of death is pending, but he died at home Sunday – and for the many who knew him – we are crushed.
Just this last summer, the deputy chief and I had reached an agreement that made me so happy. He would come to speak to students at writing classes at the Boys and Girls Club. I needed him to come for a lot of reasons: a) to show African-American kids how high they can climb b) to let them know the police are not their enemy c) to speak in a way all kids can understand -- warm and open hearted.
He was exactly that – warm and open hearted – and that is how he spoke at rallies for peace and to those he met. As a man in blue, he showed a commanding presence with his compassion.
When I talked with him – at an evening Peace March in the spring by Justice for Murdered Children – he was on his own time, dressed in a suit, making his presence known on a Friday evening for those who don’t get enough support from the rest of us – the families of murder victims.
When I asked him for the help, he immediately pulled out his card and said something to the effect that he would come in the blink of an eye. He liked kids – and had volunteered as a football, basketball and baseball coach over the years.
Unfortunately, the Boys and Girls students missed that cherished moment the commanding officer had offered as I was still pulling together my classes. He had quite an affinity for San Pedro and it’s kids – especially because he went to school at San Pedro High.
Asked how he was feeling about the loss of Garner, LAPD Commander Pat Gannon, who heads the detective bureau, emailed me that the commander’s death was “tragic.”
“Kenny was a fun loving guy who I have know for the past 30 plus years," Pat wrote. "I think you are aware that he graduated from San Pedro High School in 1973 and played on the football team and ran track. I graduated from San Pedro High the same year but did not know Kenny until we joined the LAPD. This past Christmas,I met his daughter for the first time. He brought her as his date to the Chief's Holiday party. She is a freshman at Northwestern and I remember how proud he was of her.”
Born in Hot Springs, Alabama, Ken went to his former high school March -- for another peace rally -- in which he largely talked about today's students having a much harder life and coping with issues that he never faced at school, such as extensive overcrowding and gang-related violence.
Having joined the police department in 1977, the deputy chief went on to obtain an associates degree in the administration of justice at Harbor College and later received his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
At the high school rally– he spoke to all the students and to those who lost their loved ones to violence. He talked about his enjoyment for the school and his desire to pull the community together so we could halt all the killings from gang or other violence.
He exuded warmth and caring – and the entire crowd seemed to sense that. I noted it and stuck it my head, because at that moment, I knew he was one of the many angels who would would help kids in a heartbeat. And I wasn’t wrong.
The services will be held at the Crenshaw Christian Center located at 7901 S. Vermont Ave. LA. at 10:00 on Monday.