Obama Covers Rolling Stone, Again

For the third time, President Barak Obama is on the cover of  Rolling Stone magazine, in this month’s issuse the president speaks on the Republican party, Fox News, the war in Afghanistan, the Gulf oil spill, and his music choices. The part on Fox News is what really grabbed my attention.

Fox News,  has the highest ratings on cable news, but President Obama still isn’t a fan of the network’s point of view.

In a wide-ranging Rolling Stone interview, Obama swung back at the network that provides a major platform for conservative hosts and Republican political analysts (some of whom may also be seeking the presidency in a few years).

Rolling Stone Editor Jann Wenner asked Obama for his view of Fox News and his view on whether conservative mogul Rupert Murdoch’s network is a“good institution for America and for democracy.”

Obama began by saying that he will always uphold the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, and noted that United States has a tradition “of a press that oftentimes is opinionated.” There’s only been a short “golden age of an objective press,” he said. Throughout American history, he continued, there have also been publishers like William Randolph Hearst “who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints.”

“I think Fox is part of that tradition,  it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view,” Obama said. “It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.”

read entire article on yahoo

Black Male Graduation Rates and Our Freedom

From NPR:

A report from the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation paints a bleak picture of how young black men fare in school: fewer than half graduate from high school. And in some states, like New York, the graduation rate is as low as one in four. The foundation’s John Jackson and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center discuss what’s needed to improve educational attainment among African American children.

After listening to their discussion,  it was refreshing to know that the problem isn’t something innate with our boys, and that white males in the same educational predicament produce the same low outcome. We know this – and it forces us to turn a keen eye onto the education system, especially in states where more money can and should be allocated towards the education of our kids – like California. Where do we begin to demand that a change is made to ensure that our young men don’t grow up destined for a life on the streets or in a jail cell?

It takes me back to my first few months living back in Leimert Park. Every day, I see a countless number of black men, between the ages of 21-40, walking the streets during work hours. They all are wearing the same uniform – baggy jeans, long t-shirts and printed hoodies -and they are just walking the street. Not working, not going to school, but standing on street corners looking dead in the eyes. Zombies is what I call them – and I wonder how many of them are the products of our failing educational system. What other reason would explain a strong, healthy man walking up and down the street all day with nothing to do?

What concerns me most is that these statistics have a direct relationship with literacy rates in the black community. How many of our children are making it to high school not reading on grade level? How does this happen? For all that our community had to suffer through in order to gain the freedom to learn how to read, our education system is reverting us right back to slavery. After all, how difficult can it be to enslave a group that isn’t literate? They have no choice but to depend upon the intellect of others.

All of this reminds of Frederick Douglass in his Narrative when he speaks of how the harshness of slavery, and the lack of intellectual stimulation can change a man into a beast – and I think about the zombies that walk around my neighborhood. I think of all the stories I hear from black women about the challenges of finding a suitable mate – and again I see those zombies. How many of these men came into this world with all the hope and potential they could ever imagine, and now find themselves with nothing to do and nowhere to go? How many of them are fathers? In time, what will happen to them?

People, what can we do to ensure our future generations retain the freedom our ancestors fought for?


The Dozens

If you’ve got a secret stash of “Yo mama” jokes and folks avoid you when you’re tipsy because you’ll clown them until they cry, then you might be a master of The Dozens.

The Dozens, “snapping”, “cracking”, or the act of trading insults back and forth is a black oral tradition that dates back to slavery and has it’s roots embedded in both Mississippi and Louisiana. The name itself refers to the sale of slaves who had been overworked, were disabled, or beaten-down – their physical (and often mental) conditions affected their value and they were sold by the dozen, which was considered by slaves, the lowest position within the community. The term evolved to mean a competition between two people, typically men, in a contest of wit, mental agility, verbal ability and self control. It is believed The Dozens developed as an outlet for slaves’ depression and worked as a “valve of aggression for a depressed group”. Since it was nearly impossible for slaves to display aggression towards their oppressors, but it was encouraged and expected for them to display aggression towards one another, The Dozens became a practice for nearly all slaves, male and female, young and old. Aside from being an outlet for the slave aggression, The Dozens provided a forum for the discussion of forbidden topics such as homosexuality, incest, and mental illness.

Lightnin’ Hopkins (contains adult language)

Throughout history, The Dozens has always found its place within Black comedy. Since much of the insult-throwing is good natured (i.e. The Clean Dozens vs. The Dirty Dozens), Black comedians tend to be the purveyors of this oral tradition and their skill level defines the level of respect they command by both their colleagues and their audience. A new and upcoming comedian can earn his stripes in a battle of The Dozens against a veteran – it’s the comic equivalent to a freestyle battle between MC’s.

Tommy Davidson vs. Jamie Foxx on In Living Color

It’s interesting that this practice of dissing each other developed from the pain of our people and their inability to express their frustration during slavery. You just have to love our resilience though –  we can make the best lemonade out of the lemons life gives us. After all, what would American comedy be without the humor of Black people?

LA EVENTS: Maurice Kitchen’s VOICES in LA!

Maurice Kitchen’s musical Voices: A Legacy to Remember will be showcased in Los Angeles from Friday, September 24 – Sunday, September 26th at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre.  This NAACP Image Award-nominated play is written and directed by Kitchen and produced by Clinton Byrd. Voices features historical moments in Black History and chronicles the African-American experience from slave ship to the pinnacle of leadership. Tickets are on sale now at the Wilshire Ebell box office and through Inglewood Tickets. Ticket prices range from $27.50 – $37.50. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to see this amazing performance while it’s here!

U.S. to end it’s tour in Iraq

Vice President Biden was to sit down with Iraq’s political leaders today to mark the end of the American combat mission and to encourage Iraq to end a political impasse and form a new government.

The United States will formally mark the transition this week from combat to a mission primarily focused on helping Iraqi troops handle security for themselves. Biden assured the Iraqis shortly after his arrival Monday that the transition would be smooth.

“We’re going to be just fine. They’re going to be just fine,” Biden said at the U.S. Embassy.

Fewer than 50,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 160,000 in 2007. All American forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of next year.

U.S. officials emphasize that the transition has been an ongoing process.

“We’re not flipping a switch this week,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s national security adviser. “The president and this administration are making good on our commitment to end the war in Iraq responsibly and to help build a stable, self-reliant and sovereign Iraq.”

But the political uncertainty here has underscored some of the risks. Iraq’s politicians have yet to form a government nearly six months after inconclusive parliamentary elections.

Insurgents launched a series of attacks last week as the formal transition deadline neared, worrying Iraqis.

“I don’t support the U.S. troops’ withdrawal for the time being,” Baghdad resident Samira Gorgess said. “Iraq is still in need of U.S. forces as the security situation in Iraq is still unstable.”

Blinken said Iraq’s caretaker government has been able to keep basic services running, but a new government is needed to tackle more fundamental issues, such as constitutional changes and formulas to distribute energy revenue.

“The vice president is going to urge the leaders to bring this process to a conclusion,” Blinken told reporters.

Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and other government officials, according to a White House statement. He will also meet with Ayad Allawi, al-Maliki’s chief rival in March elections.

Biden will also emphasize to Iraqi leaders that the change in mission does not mean the United States is disengaging from Iraq. He said the United States would step up diplomatic, cultural and economic ties as the military withdraws.

General Dubik says any request for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011 must come from Iraqi leaders.  And he and other experts note that can’t happen until Iraq forms a new government. “The Iraqi government will have to form.  They’ll have to recognize that our legal standing for being in Iraq ends in 2011, and should they want our help they’ll have to ask and the governments will have to negotiate some satisfactory arrangement,” he stated.

As U.S. combat troops exit and bomb blasts ring out across the country, Iraqi leaders face even more pressure to form a new government — some five months after the elections.  For those feuding politicians, Tuesday’s formal handover will be yet another reminder that their country’s future is in their hands.

The U.S. and Iraq will mark the transition in a Wednesday ceremony.

LA’s $578 Million Public School

Did all those teachers get fired for this?

Next month’s opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history as the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential contender was assassinated in 1968.

With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation’s most expensive public school ever.

The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of “Taj Mahal” schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities.

“There’s no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the ’70s where kids felt, ‘Oh, back to jail,'” said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. “Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning.”

Not everyone is similarly enthusiastic.

“New buildings are nice, but when they’re run by the same people who’ve given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they’re a big waste of taxpayer money,” said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. “Parents aren’t fooled.”

At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex’s namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel.

Partly by circumstance and partly by design, the Los Angeles Unified School District has emerged as the mogul of Taj Mahals.

The RFK complex follows on the heels of two other LA schools among the nation’s costliest — the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009.

The pricey schools have come during a sensitive period for the nation’s second-largest school system: Nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed. The district also faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation’s lowest performing.

Nationwide, dozens of schools have surpassed $100 million with amenities including atriums, orchestra-pit auditoriums, food courts, even bamboo nooks. The extravagance has led some to wonder where the line should be drawn and whether more money should be spent on teachers.

Some experts say it’s not all flourish and that children learn better in more pleasant surroundings.

Many schools incorporate large windows to let in natural light and install energy-saving equipment, spending more upfront for reduced bills later. Cafeterias are getting fancier, seeking to retain students who venture off campus. Wireless Internet and other high-tech installations have become standard.

And what will be the political fallout or gain from this school?

Now to get state funds for a new school, districts must choose among three designs costing $49 million to $64 million. “We had to bring some sense to this process,” Cahill said.

In Los Angeles, officials say the new schools were planned long before the economic pinch and are funded by $20 billion in voter-approved bonds that do not affect the educational budget.

Still, even LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines derided some of the extravagance, noting that donations should have been sought to fund the RFK project’s talking benches commemorating the site’s history.

Connie Rice, member of the district’s School Bond Oversight Committee, noted the megaschools are only three of 131 that the district is building to alleviate overcrowding. RFK “is an amazing facility,” she said. “Is it a lot of money? Yes. We didn’t like it, but they got it done.”

Construction costs at LA Unified are the second-highest in the nation — something the district blames on skyrocketing material and land prices, rigorous seismic codes and unionized labor.

James Sohn, the district’s chief facilities executive, said the megaschools were built when global raw material shortages caused costs to skyrocket to an average of $600 per square foot in 2006 and 2007 — triple the price from 2002. Costs have since eased to $350 per square foot.

On top of that, each project had its own cost drivers.

After buildings were demolished at the site of the 2,400-student Roybal school, contaminated soil, a methane gas field and an earthquake fault were discovered. A gas mitigation system cost $17 million.

Over 20 years, the project grew to encompass a dance studio with cushioned maple floors, a modern kitchen with a restaurant-quality pizza oven, a 10-acre park and teacher planning rooms between classrooms.

The 1,700-student arts school was designed as a landmark, with a stainless steel, postmodernistic tower encircled by a rollercoaster-like swirl, while the RFK site involved 15 years of litigation with historic preservationists and Donald Trump, who wanted to build the world’s tallest building there. The wrangling cost $9 million.

Methane mitigation cost $33 million and the district paid another $15 million preserving historic features, including a wall of the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub and turning the Paul Williams-designed coffee shop into a faculty lounge.

Sohn said LA Unified has reached the end of its Taj Mahal building spree. “These are definitely the exceptions,” he said. “We don’t anticipate schools costing hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.”

BLACK is…the New Sheriff UPDATE!

Allow me to introduce you to Ryan Anthony Lumas. Who is  Ryan Anthony Lumas? Besides being my friend and  former member of the US Navy, whom I’ve had the pleasure  of serving with, Ryan is a writer, artist, cartoonist, actor,  comedian, rapper, verteran and he recently, by chance, added political activist to his resume. How so? By simply doing a family member a favor and writing a song.

Ryan was asked to put together a rap about Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and professor of law at Harvard University. In a new western-themed music video from Main Street Brigade, featuring Ryan, Warren is hailed as “the new sheriff.” The spot highlights her deep credentials and makes the case for why she should be the Obama administration’s pick to head the recently-established CFPA.

A Time Magazine cover story published in May, lauded Warren as one of “the new sheriffs of Wall Street.” Ryan, and the Main Street Brigade took it from there.

Since the  video’s viral appearance on YouTube and FunnyOrDie.com , it has caught the attention of other sites, including the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Federal Times, Washington Post,  and even BloombergTV.

I’d like to give a BLACKis shout out and congrats to Ryan Anthony Lumas. Keep entertaining while educating, and inspiring us ALL!


Ryan was recently featured in a New York Times arcticle! here


The City is Burning!

Today marks the final day in the 1965 event known as the Watts Riots. These riots would be deemed the move severe riots in Los Angeles history until the LA Riots of 1992. When the 1992 riots occurred, I remember watching my mother’s face as we drove down Vermont Avenue in our neighborhood at that time. I remember her saying with tears in her eyes, “This is exactly like what happened in Watts in the 60’s”.

Like the LA Riots, the Watts riots were incited by an act of police brutality against Blacks, and a community’s response to law enforcement racist practices.  Here is a quick summary of the events that occurred:

A Los Angeles police officer pulled over motorist Marquette Frye [who was with his brother Ronald]; he suspected Marquette of driving drunk. While officers questioned them, a crowd of onlookers had begun to form. When Rena Frye, the boys mother showed up, a struggle ensued which led to the arrest of all 3 members of the Frye family. More officers had arrived on the scene and had hit the brothers with their batons. The crowd had grown and by this point had become angry. After the police left the scene, the crowd & tension escalated and sparked the riots, which lasted 6 days. More than 34 people died, 1000 wounded, and an estimated $50 – $100 million in property damage. (From PBS)

I remember the LA Riots quite vividly: the beating of Rodney King; the unfair verdict in the trial of the officers who beat him; the small bonfire in the middle of the street on Florence & Normandie at my bus stop the day the verdict was read; the smell of smoke and the sight of flames over the rooftops of homes in my neighborhood; and the next day, the darkness of ash scattered across our front porch and lawn and over the entire neighborhood. I also remembered feeling angry and disappointed that a Black man could be abused by police and the incident be caught on tape in the 90’s – and no instant punishment enforced on the offending officers. I felt like my people were finally united around an issue and in our own way, trying to do something about it.

What I didn’t realize was the aftermath of burning down your own neighborhood. Just like Watts, our anger clouded us from seeing that we were vandalizing our environment, burning down and looting from the businesses that bolstered our community. And like Watts, the neighborhood would never fully recover.

In this post-Obama society, I wish I could say we are past these issues, but we’re not. Everyday people of color around this country are attacked by the police and much of it goes unreported. I think my fellow Angelenos would agree, however, that if another Rodney King attack happened in our generation, a riot would be the least of the LAPD’s concerns. Fighting back won’t require burning down our neighborhoods – but making the police understand that they aren’t dealing with animals to brutalize, but a strong community of people who will not sit by quietly and be attacked. That lesson might be learned by any means necessary – and at their expense.

BLACK is…Funny (but I wish you would laugh!)

When I was younger, history was my worst, and least enjoyable subject. But as I got older, I began to realize that history isn’t just about who fought who during what war and which president was in charge during said war. History is a blueprint of the stones that were put in place which allow us to appreciate any particular aspect of our society. And what I appreciated most, is the comedy, because without comedy, anger and negativity will overpower and poison our minds. There would be no such thing as a “brighter side” of a situation.  So, with that said, I wanted to share a few of the African Americans who made, and continue to make it a little brighter, inside and out! Laughter soothes the soul and keeps the body young.

African-American comedians both past and present. From Paul Mooney and Richard Pryor in the 70’s, to Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby in the 80’s, to “The Original Kings Of Comedy,” African-Americans have played a defining role in the scheme of American comedy. By providing a humorous voice to narrate the African-American experience, and breaking down racial and social barriers along the way, each of these comics has brought a unique perspective to the ever-changing tableau that is comedy in America.

Dick Gregory

“I am really enjoying the new Martin Luther King Jr. stamp – just think about all those white bigots, licking the backside of a black man.”

Red Foxx

“Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”

Richard Pryor

“When that fire hit your ass, it will sober your ass up quick! I saw something, I went, “Well, that’s a pretty blue. You know what? That looks like…FIRE!” Fire is inspirational. They should use it in the Olympics, because I ran the 100 in 4.3.”

Paul Mooney

“You’re telling me that when I’m a slave, I can be in your house. But now that I’m free, ‘I don’t want you in this neighborhood.’ So, you’re saying if slavery came back tomorrow, you’ll just say, ‘Welcome home’?”

Dave Chappelle

“They got a character on Sesame Street named Oscar; they treat this guy like shit the entire show. They judge him right in his face. “Oscar you are so mean! Isn’t he kids?”, “Yeah Oscar! You’re a grouch!” It’s like, “Bitch I live in a fucking TRASH CAN!”

Eddie Murphy

“Got to be careful. They say having casual sex nowadays is like playing Russian roulette. And I know I’ve thrown my dick on the crap table many a night.”

Chris Rock

“Barack, man. He doesn’t let his blackness sneak up on you. Like if his name was Bob Jones or something like that, it might take you two or three weeks to figure out he’s black. But when you hear “Barack Obama”, you picture a brother with a spear, just standing over a dead lion. You picture the base player from The Commodores.”

Bill Cosby

“I said to a guy, ‘Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful?’ and he said, ‘Because it intensifies your personality.’ I said, ‘Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?'”

Martin Lawrence

On the “Cha Cha Slide”: “I can’t stand that dance. That’s the easiest f***ing dance! It’s like ‘2 to the left! 1 to the right! Stop! Think About it.’ Get the f**k outta here… I know the ghetto “Hokey Pokey” when I hear that s**t.”

Arsenio Hall

“My mother wanted me to be a lawyer and I wanted to be an actor. So I went to school, majored in theatre, and said ‘Mom, I have to choose my own destiny. I want to be an actor.’ A couple of weeks after I graduated college I called my mother up and said ‘Can I borrow $200?’ and she said ‘Why don’t you act like you’ve got $200.'”

Whoopi Goldberg

“I don’t have pet peeves, I have whole kennels of irritation.”

Cedric The Entertainer

“Gas is high for real. That was my costume for Halloween last year, I dressed up as a gas pump. None of the kids got it but I scared the sh*t out they parents! I had $6.15 on my chest, they were like Ahhh!”

D.L. Hughley

“White folk, y’all got the littlest dogs I have ever seen in my whole life… ‘Her name is Peppers. She weighs three pounds and cost $2000.’ Well you should have named her Cocaine.”


“I couldn’t be no criminal, I could not be a criminal. Because if I did some shit with you, if get caught? WE got caught. ‘Come on, I’m hiding!’, No you not! They got US! They got US! You could escape to Japan, I’d call you in Japanese like “[jibberish] Bring yo’ ass back the f**k home bitch! We got caught!”

Bernie Mac

“‘Mother-f****r’ is a word that black folks have been using for years. It’s about expression. Don’t be ashamed of the word ‘mother-f****r’ Because ‘mother-f****r’ is a noun: It describes a person, place or thing.”

Tracy Morgan

“I was watching Maury Povich the other day. They had the episode, ‘Is it Male or Female?’ And I’m sitting there with an erection, ‘Oh, all of them are good.'”

Keenen Ivory Wayans

“Everything was a joke [in my family]. If you got a whippin’, when you got back to the table, you heard nine other people doing impressions of your screaming.”

Kevin Hart

“I know I’m not good at sex because one time I called my wife and was baby why don’t lick your fingers and play with ya nipples…outta no where I heard, ‘daddy you want me to touch mines too?'”

For more, please see the Documentary “Why We Laugh” by Robert Townsend.

An Anthology on Black Los Angeles

From the LA Times:

When Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón tell people that Los Angeles has the second largest black population of any U.S. county, the usual response is raised eyebrows and blank stares.

“They’re shocked,” says Hunt, a sociology professor and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “Most people say, ‘No, you’re making that up, that can’t be true.'” In fact, Hunt says, only Cook County in Illinois, which takes in a large swath of metropolitan Chicago, is home to more black Americans.

The list of things that most people, including many Angelenos, don’t know about black L.A. could fill a book. So Hunt and Ramón, the Bunche Center’s assistant director, decided to put one together: “Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities,” just published by New York University Press.
The book brings together the research interests of what Hunt describes as an “all-star team” of contributors, most but not all of them academics with strong California connections. Comprising 17 short to medium-length essays, it pivots from data-rich analyses of how the black community’s 20th century demographic center gradually has shifted from Central Avenue to Leimert Park, to interview-driven, anecdotal accounts of the rise and decline of Venice’s Oakwood neighborhood and a revealing chronicle of the black-owned SOLAR (Sounds of Los Angeles Records), a late ’70s-early ’80s R&B hit-making machine for groups including the Whispers, Shalamar and Klymaxx.

It also includes multidisciplinary, L.A.-centric essays on incarceration’s impact on black families, the relationships between gay African Americans and their religious communities, and the ethnic-minority admissions policies of UCLA, among other thorny topics.

More than half a dozen years in the making, the roughly 430-page volume is believed to be the first such project of its kind. Despite its formidable size, the authors say, L.A.’s black population has been relatively under-analyzed in comparison with New York, Chicago and other northeastern and Midwestern centers of black population..

Part of the reason, Hunt and Ramón say, is that Los Angeles in certain key respects doesn’t fit the nation’s dominant “race” narrative. To begin with, L.A.’s founders were mixed-ethnic Spanish colonial settlers, not white New England Puritans or Southern slaves and slave-holders, so the city’s ethno-demographic profile differed sharply from that of the United States east of the Mississippi River. Just as significantly, the city’s major growth spurts occurred decades after the Civil War. The large numbers of blacks who migrated to Los Angeles after World War II arrived in a city whose ethnic contours were in some ways already well-defined.

“Black people never really threatened to be like a majority or a plurality of the population here, in the same way they do in some of these other American cities that have been studied,” Hunt says.

To some observers, L.A.’s singularity offered blacks a plausible chance at a better life. When the legendary author and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois visited the city in the early 1900s, he recommended it to black migrants precisely because he saw it as an anomaly, a rare enclave where African Americans might be relatively free of the economic constraints and racist violence of the Jim Crow South.

“There was always this perception that L.A. was kind of like the oddball,” Hunt says.

Yet “Black Los Angeles” makes the case that, today, L.A.’s black population offers many crucial insights into the lives of African Americans in general.

“Everyone talks about Harlem of course because of the Harlem Renaissance and what was happening during the period,” Hunt says. “But we argue that as the 20th century progressed, L.A. really becomes like the new Harlem in terms of setting the terms on which people talk about black America.”

Gerald Horne, a history professor at the University of Houston, said in an interview that the new book advances an evolving understanding of L.A. “as the northern-most capital of Latin America,” a metropolis whose identity owes a great deal to its ethnically and culturally hybrid origins. Horne, the author of a book about the 1965 Watts riots and a participant in a May 25 UCLA symposium tied to the publication of “Black Los Angeles,” says that the new book points to the need for more works that “give Southern California its due” in the nation’s historical narrative.

One particular focus of “Black Los Angeles” is how Hollywood and the area’s major news media have constructed images and ideas of black Los Angeles that have reverberated around the world. Hunt acknowledges that his own views of black L.A. were heavily molded by Hollywood until he moved here to attend USC as a student in the early 1980s.

One essay, titled “Playing ‘Ghetto,'” by Nancy Wang Yuen, an assistant professor of sociology at Biola University, examines African American actors whose real-life experience as L.A. residents sometimes bears little or no resemblance to Hollywood caricatures of black L.A.

A number of essays also take up, or at least touch on, the role of the Los Angeles Times in perpetrating stereotypical views of the region’s African American populace, culture and institutions. Because of its size and the virtual daily print monopoly it enjoyed for many years, The Times disproportionately swayed the way that black L.A. was depicted and perceived, particularly through such watershed events as the 1992 civil disturbance.

“It [The Times] becomes an actor in the story,” Ramón observes, “so instead of it just reporting, it actually becomes part of the story in a way.”

Ramón and Hunt hope that the book will appeal to general readers as well as scholars. To that end, they solicited input from a wide cross-section of individuals and community groups during the book’s planning stages. They also encouraged non-academics to attend and participate in the May symposium, intending to help foster an ongoing community dialogue.

“Black Los Angeles” ultimately raises the question of what the term “black” will mean in Los Angeles in 20 or 30 years from now, as new waves of Caribbean, African and multiethnic Latino immigrants continue to reshape the region’s ethnic profile.

“We wanted [the book] to be a picture that wasn’t so much about sort of glamorizing black L.A. as much as looking at the faults, as well as the beautiful and wonderful things in black L.A.,” Hunt says, “and to present a realistic portrait that may provide some lessons about where we go next.”