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Unheard LA: 'You Do Not Marginalize One Group In Favor Of Another. That Is Not The Way To Do It'

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Many stories go untold, even more go unheard. As the nation reckons with systemic racism, our community-centered storytelling show Unheard LA is taking a deeper listen.

Join us for the second installment of this special series as Bruce Lemon Jr. hosts a virtual event featuring the stories of Cheryl Farrell, Aeden K, and the duo Eddy M. Gana Jr. and Stephanie Sajor, followed by a live conversation — all in collaboration with our Race in LA initiative. Dana Amihere, co-editor and developer of Race in LA, will also join us for the live conversation. RSVP here.

You can watch the great archival presentations from our past live Unheard LA shows and then hear the robust conversation that followed.

'You do not marginalize one group in favor of another. That is not the way to do it' — Bruce Lemon, Jr.

MORE FROM OUR RACE IN LA SERIES:

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LA County Will Start Fining Businesses For Coronavirus Health Order Violations

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A notice at Tak's Coffee Shop in Crenshaw asks patrons to wear a face mask inside the restaurant. Businesses that don't comply with health orders will soon face fines. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Los Angeles County health officials on Thursday announced a new crackdown on businesses that break coronavirus protection protocols.

Starting at the end of August, businesses that don't comply with the rules will be fined between $100 and $500, and multiple offenses will result in a 30-day permit suspension.

Since March, the Public Health Department says its inspectors have investigated more than 24,000 restaurants, grocery stores, pools and other businesses suspected of violating health orders.

Nearly 100 businesses were shut down as a result. The county said most other businesses either complied or were already working on compliance when the investigation was opened.

In a statement, county health director Barbara Ferrer said: "We want to be reasonable and work with business owners, but we also know that time is of the essence to slow the spread of this virus and protect the health of workers, customers, and their families.”

L.A. County's Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis says compliance is paramount for the long-term reopening of businesses and the public's health and safety:

"The hospitalizations among younger adults are increasing, but 75 percent of those who are dying right now are still older adults. This is alarming and all these numbers represent individual people who are missed, who are loved and who are unwell."

Davis is urging the public to abide health orders that include wearing a mask and physical distancing.

BY THE NUMBERS

L.A. County confirmed 49 new deaths and 2,014 new cases of COVID-19 today.

That brings the county totals to 166,848 positive cases and 4,262 deaths.

Here are a few other key figures for today:

  • 92% of people who died had underlying conditions
  • Nearly 1.6 million test results are now available, with 10% of all people testing positive
  • Nearly 12,000 people have been hospitalized in L.A. County since the pandemic began
  • Currently, 2,210 people confirmed to have COVID-19 are hospitalized, with 28% in the ICU and 19% on ventilators
  • Hospitalizations have remained at more than 2,200 for five consecutive days

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Military Medical Teams Are Being Sent To LA County's Public Hospitals Amid Coronavirus Surge

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LAC+USC Medical Center's Emergency Room Chava Sanchez/LAist

Medical support teams from the U.S. Air Force are being deployed to two Los Angeles County hospitals amid the recent spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

LAC+USC and Harbor-UCLA medical centers, two of the county’s largest public hospitals, will receive the teams Friday to help in their intensive care units, county officials said.

About 40 medical providers, including doctors and nurses, and other support staff will be distributed among the two hospitals, a military spokesperson said.

Some hospitals in the state have been strained with the surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, particularly with staffing shortages. Last week, the military deployed teams to five hospitals throughout California, including Eisenhower Medical Center in Riverside County.

On Thursday, L.A. County reported 2,210 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 — the fifth day in a row where hospitalizations topped 2,200. Officials said 28% of the people hospitalized were in an ICU.

RELATED STORIES:

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New Law Could Revamp Historic California Parks

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A hiker atop a boulder in Joshua Tree. (Via Unsplash)

On Wednesday, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which allocates substantial money for the upkeep and expansion of public natural areas across the country, including in California.

It's a big win for conservationists.

“I’m pinching myself. It’s a great day,” said Mark Kramer of the Nature Conservancy.

Once signed by President Trump, California's historic parks could get millions to shore up their crumbling infrastructure.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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'They Don't Take People Like Us Seriously': A Look At One Of LA's Undercounted Areas

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Karen Banderas with her two children Nathan and Amairani at their apartment in Cudahy, Calif. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

By Caitlin Hernandez

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By all accounts, Karen Banderas, a 25-year-old single mother in Cudahy, is a part of the "hard-to-count" population in L.A. County for the census.

"Hard-to-count" — or historically undercounted — communities are high-rated areas determined by the California Census Office, known as the CA-HTC index. These are meant to indicate people who are less likely to respond to the census.

But Banderas's life is more complex than a rating system. She hasn't had an income for almost nine months and is the mother of two children under five. She's also a DACA recipient living in a crowded one-bedroom apartment with her parents and two sisters.

To provide for her family, Banderas has been using welfare while working a 200-hour unpaid internship in medical billing. It took her an extra two months to complete it because of the pandemic, but now it's turned into a job.

"I'm a mom trying to better my lifestyle with my kids — and for my kids — because at the end of the day, my family's education was [no higher] than middle school," she said.

Banderas and her family came from Jalisco, México in 2000. She graduated from high school and just finished earning a certificate for medical billing and coding. Her tuition was fully through Hub Cities in Huntington Park.

A sign for the city of Cudahy. Calif. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

Her parents rent the apartment in Cudahy, and Banderas, who wants to be self-sufficient, pays her portion to help. Her parents usually sleep in their small living room, while the rest of the family fits into the packed bedroom. But they haven't told management how many people are with them.

"We try not to make it obvious like we live there because, at the end of the day, I don't want [any] of us to lose our home," Banderas said.

Her mother is undocumented and despite the family's complex living situation, she filled out their census form a few months ago.

Cudahy, a small city of 24,000 with predominantly Latino residents, is historically undercounted by the census. It's labeled "very hard-to-count" in part because of the high numbers of people who rent, have low-income and are immigrants. Language barriers also play a role.

"They don't take people like us seriously at times," Banderas said. "I feel like everybody works hard for where they want to better themselves, but I feel like the government does ignore that a little."

For civic engagement, she said they need more people working in the community who understand it and are willing to reach people where they're at on a regular basis.

HOW CENSUS WORK SHOULD BE 'SOUL WORK'

That's a sentiment shared by Carmen Taylor-Jones, of Black Women for Wellness, who previously worked as the Los Angeles Area Regional Manager and former Homeless Count Coordinator for the census.

Her proactive approaches to the census weren't always embraced by the bureau, but they aren't lost. Her current focus is on South Central, another historically undercounted region that's predominantly Latino.

"It's going to require some extra bonding," Taylor-Jones said. " It's gonna require some extra work and some soul work. Let me find out where the interests are. Let me find out what's the joint attention here, where people really go, where do they congregate, all of those things."

The census shouldn't be approached clinically or strictly from an office, according to Taylor-Jones. Getting "boots on the ground" is needed to see the full picture of a census tract.

"Everybody is so comfortable now filling these charts up and talking about the low response rates and what that issue is. Okay, I got it, but what are you gonna do about it?" she asked. "If you know that there's a large homeless population here, what are you going to do about it?"

CENSUS OUTREACH MAY LOSE A LOCAL TOUCH

Locally-led community organizations, like Black Women for Wellness and numerous others, have been leading the census efforts in neighborhoods since the start — but that may change soon.

With the self-response deadline extended to Oct. 31, that's three months more than originally planned. While $10 million is currently being divided up in California to fund more of their outreach, groups are currently deciding if they have the capacity to continue.

For Banderas, she still hopes to see more civic engagement in the community no matter where they're from.

"I feel like we're not used to that change," she said. "We're not used to having that extra [connection] or people actually caring just in general in life."

This Weekend's Most Interesting Online And IRL Events: July 24 - 26

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The comet NEOWISE (aka C/2020 F3) as seen on July 19, 2020 in Joshua Tree. The comet will have its closest encounter with Earth on July 23, when it will be only 64 million miles away. Rich Fury/Getty Images
A new documentary on photographer Helmut Newton opens this week. He took this image of David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini in Los Angeles in 1988. (Helmut Newton)

Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on schools, stores, businesses and events. With in-person concerts, talks, comedy shows, food festivals and other gatherings cancelled, we have turned our events column into a "nonevents" column. It will remain this way as long as social distancing and stay-at-home orders are in effect.

During this difficult time, please consider contributing to your local arts organizations or to individual artists and performers.


Listen to electronic music artists rave the vote this weekend. Catch yacht rockers performing live by the sea in Ventura. Watch a documentary that examines bias in facial recognition software. Wake up to Wagner's marathon Ring cycle on Saturday. And don't forget to look up and catch the NEOWISE comet while you still can.

Friday, July 24

Helmut Newton
A documentary from director Gero von Boehm explores the life and work of the provocative photographer, best known for his erotic images of women and the female form. Exploring whether Newton empowered his subjects or objectified them, it features interviews with Grace Jones, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, Claudia Schiffer and Nadja Auermann. Opens in virtual cinemas nationally.
COST: Varies; MORE INFO

Rosamund Pike stars in the film, 'Radioactive,' about the life and work of Marie Curie. (Laurie Sparham)

Friday, July 24

Radioactive
Amazon Studios releases this biopic which stars Rosamund Pike as scientist Marie Sklodowska Curie. Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), the film follows an imperfect heroine with a passion for science and partnerships.
COST: Varies; MORE INFO

Rick Dominguez teaching line dancing online on Friday night as part of the Dance DTLA series. (Javier Guillen for Grand Park)

Fridays, July 24; 7 - 8 p.m.

Digital Dance DTLA
The Music Center's popular summer dance series returns online this week for line dancing with instructor Rick Dominguez. Learn heel/toe splits and fancy footwork from the comfort of your own home. Stream the dance lesson on the Music Center's site or on its YouTube channel. Closed captioning will be available for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Friday, July 24; 12 p.m. PDT

Rave The Vote
The digital streaming channel Lost Resort TV debuts a Twitch livestream series (of four, 12-hour episodes) that aim to increase voter registration and raise funds for organizations focused on change and unity. Listen to a slate of electronic music artists perform live or spin sets along with educational programming. This week's lineup includes Seth Troxler, The Blessed Madonna, The Illustrious Blacks (live), Ash Lauryn, Deon Cole and Yaeji. Additional events are scheduled for Aug. 14, Sep. 11 and Oct. 2.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO

Friday, July 24; 11 p.m.

Room 104
The Duplass Brothers' anthology series begins its fourth and final season on HBO services and its streaming partners. Each of the 12 new episodes tells a story about an infamous room at a nondescript American motel. Everything but the setting changes. Season 4 directors include Mark Duplass, Karan Soni, Ross Partridge, Jenée LaMarque, Mel Eslyn, Lauren Budd, Natalie Morales, Patrick Brice, Julian Wass and Sydney Fleischmann.
COST: Varies; MORE INFO

Friday, July 24; 8 p.m. PDT

Yächtley Crëw
Ventura County Fairgrounds
10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura
The "titans of soft rock" play pop hits and power ballads from the '70s and '80s. Think Toto, Christopher Cross and Hall & Oates. The drive-in concert features a tall, 360-degree stage, a light show, video screens and sound piped through FM radio. You must wear a mask anytime you are out of your vehicle.
COST: Tickets start at $19; MORE INFO

Friday, July 24; 7 p.m.

Quarantined: Nite at the Puppet Asylum
Watch a virtual puppet slam featuring adult puppetry performances. Artists will perform live as well as screen puppet videos. Expect hilarious, provocative and experimental work.
COST: $7; MORE INFO

Through Saturday, July 25 at 11:59 p.m.

Cinema Orange: Coded Bias
The Orange County Museum of Art presents a virtual screening of a documentary about bias in facial-recognition software. MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini's discovery that programs and software fail to identify dark skin and women's faces begins an investigation that leads to proof of widespread bias inherent in AI and algorithms. Watch the film on your own time through Saturday night. RSVP for the screening link.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Grab a beverage and join in NHM's Summer Nights program, featuring a little nature talk and music from home. (Courtesy of the Natural History Museum)

Friday, July 24; 6 p.m.

Summer Nights at Home
The Natural History Museum presents a program that includes a talk on "The Private Life of Pleistocene Plants" followed by a DJ set by Rani de Leon. Grab yourself a DIY botanical cocktail or another refreshing beverage to celebrate nature, music and summer.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO

Friday, July 24 - Saturday, July 25

NFMLA Film Festival
New FilmmakersLA presents a weekend of panel discussions and film screenings. On Friday, watch panels "Walt Disney Television Creative Talent Development & Inclusion: Opportunities in Directing"; "NBCUniversal Talent Infusion Programs: Writers on the Verge"; and "Documentary Filmmaking: A Conversation With the Oscar Nominated St. Louis Superman Team." On Saturday, watch a program that focuses on Canadian cinema.
COST: $10 per program of $30 for festival pass; MORE INFO

Saturday, July 25; 8 a.m. PDT

Der Ring des Nibelungen
The L.A. Opera's From the Vault series presents a marathon all-day audio stream of Wagner's epic Ring cycle, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the company's first production of Wagner's work. Conducted by James Conlon, listen to all four operas: Das Rheingold at 8 a.m.; Die Walküre at 11 a.m.; Siegfried at 3 p.m.; and Götterdämmerung at 7 p.m. Watch on the L.A. Opera's website or on Facebook.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Saturday, July 25 - Sunday, Aug. 2

These Uncertain Times
The 60-minute, digital performance piece stems from a group of artists wondering if COVID-19 is the death of theater as we know it. Directed by Samantha Shay, These Uncertain Times is a "tragicomic, Chekhovian Zoom performance" that honors theater's history while creating a new art form.
COST: $10 - $25 (suggested donations); MORE INFO

There's a virtual art walk taking place in and around downtown Canoga Park this weekend. (11:11 Collective)

Saturday, July 25 - Sunday, July 26; 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Ignite the MaTCH: Madrid Theatre Cultural Hub Virtual Artwalk
11:11 A Creative Collective presents a virtual artwalk that celebrates the upcoming multimillion dollar renovation of The Madrid Theater in Canoga Park and the eventual opening of the Canoga Park Stage Arts Lab. The event includes music, dance, spoken word, film and visual art displays from 10 virtual locations in the Canoga Park's Downtown Historic corridor.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO

Through Saturday, July 25

Adult Swim Con
To coincide with virtual Comic-Con, Adult Swim presents its own online convention, with panels and contests dedicated to its shows, such as Rick & Morty, Robot Chicken, Samurai Jack and favs from the channel's Toonami programming.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Saturday, July 25; 5 p.m. PDT

Colin Dickey - The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained
Washington, D.C.-based bookstore Politics & Prose hosts its P&P Live! online series with Colin Dickey, whose latest book examines fringe beliefs. From flat earthers to Loch Ness monster hunters, Dickey investigates the origins of these theories and what they have in common. The author will talk with Michelle Legro, the features editor for Medium's GEN. RSVP for streaming link.
COST: By donation; MORE INFO

Saturday, July 25; 10:01 a.m. PDT

10:01 to 101
The monthly short screening festival -- created by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab -- offers a three-hour block of classic Channel 101 shows on Saturday mornings via Twitch.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Beth Lapides hosts another online edition of her comedy-variety show 'UnCabaret' this Sunday. (Courtesy of UnCabaret)

Sunday, July 26;

UnCabaZoom #9
Beth Lapides' unCabaret's online counterpart moves into a second season with the theme "for now." This week's guests include Abby McEnany (Work In Progress), Julia Sweeney (SNL, Work In Progress), Alex Edelman (Conan), Alec Mapa (Baby Daddy, Desperate Housewives), Judy Gold (Better Things, Conan), Jamie Bridgers, plus Mitch Kaplan and the band.
COST: FREE - $100; MORE INFO

Sunday, July 26; 6 p.m. PDT

2nd Live Street Circus
Our friends at The Comedy Bureau have listed a bunch of great streaming comedy shows, including Street Circus, broadcast on Facebook from a private street somewhere. The lineup includes music from Arianna DeSano, not-so-stupid puppy tricks from Kevin Krieger, sock puppetry by Lisa Laureta and tunes from The Muzika Clowiska Band.
COST: FREE, but donations encouraged; MORE INFO

Comet NEOWISE is seen on July 19, 2020, in Joshua Tree. The comet is currently visible after sunset in the Northern Hemisphere. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Ongoing

NEOWISE
Don't forget to peel yourself away from Zoom and other screen activities to look up at the night sky. Look for the NEOWISE comet in the northwestern sky, near the Big Dipper, about 90 minutes after it gets dark. Catch it this time around because you'll have to wait at least another 6,000 years to see it again. The comet will have its closest encounter with Earth on July 23, when it will be around 64 million miles away.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

Dine & Drink Deals

Who doesn't miss going out to eat or stopping by a bar for a drink? Here are a few options from restaurants and bars as we work our way back toward normal.

  • Plate Lunch for Power brings together the Asian American food community (including Lasa, Love2Eat Thai, Now Serving, Burmese, Please!) in support of Black Lives. Choose from five different plate lunch options and a menu of à la carte items. Pre-orders close on Saturday at 10 a.m. Pick up orders on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Madarin Plaza in Chinatown. Funds raised during the event benefit The Okra Project and Lunch on Me.

How A Healer, An Artist And A Chef Are Fighting For Black Food Sovereignty In South LA

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Left to Right: Ali Anderson, Lauren Halsey, Kat Williams. (Photos by Lillian Kalish and Chava Sanchez; Photo collage by Elina Shatkin)
Ali Anderson points out the cactus garden at Huerta del Valle in Ontario. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

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"Bananas are like humans, they only bear fruit every nine months," says Ali Anderson as she points to a collection of trees. It's a warm Saturday morning and she is leading three prospective gardeners and volunteers around Huerta del Valle, a three-acre community garden in the middle of Ontario. The garden, located next to Bon View Park, is a lush oasis of sunflowers, cacti and callaloo stalks amid the concrete sprawl of the Inland Empire.

As we round the corner past the chamomile blossoms, a shiny green june bug flies into Anderson's hair. Medina Moss catches the beetle and hands it to her 15-year-old daughter.

Produce boxes ready to be distributed by Feed Black Futures. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

"Here," she says, "if you want to learn how to farm, you have to get used to this."

Medina Moss visits Huerta del Valle, a community garden in Ontario. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

Moss, a 49-year-old artist and illustrator, made the 39-mile drive from her home in downtown Los Angeles to pick up five boxes filled with kale, swiss chard, peaches, oranges, squash and rosemary. Anderson gives away the produce as part of Feed Black Futures. A collaboration with Essie Justice Group, a nonprofit that advocates for women with incarcerated family members, the grassroots project relies on community donations to provide weekly boxes of fresh food to Black women. The organization also cultivates future Black farmers and supports gardens in transitional housing.

It's one of several mutual aid projects -- a term coined by Peter Kropotkin in the late 1800s to describe direct, communal actions -- led by Black chefs, food activists and ordinary people to ensure their communities have access to healthy food. It was a challenge long before the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, it has become a mode of survival.

At a baseline level, people who live in low-income zip codes have 25% fewer supermarkets than people who live in middle-income neighborhoods. The produce selection in these areas is often scarce, lower quality and more expensive so you're paying higher prices for bruised or expired fruits and veggies. Now, throw in a global pandemic. Food banks are seeing an epic level of need and applications to CalFresh, California's food stamp program, have doubled since March.

A growing number of Black activists believe it isn't enough to rely on government assistance to solve these problems. Instead, they want to start at the root of the problem -- investing in Black-owned farms so they can feed Black people throughout Southern California.

These efforts are about food sovereignty but they're about more than that. They attempt to address decades of racist practices in the food system -- from discriminatory lending and over-policing to redlining and lack of support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- that have shrunk the number of Black farmers in the U.S. to 2% of the total number of farmers, down from a high of 14% in 1910.

In Los Angeles, three new voices in food activism -- a healer, an artist and a chef -- are taking three different approaches to fighting food insecurity and sowing the seeds of Black food sovereignty.

Food activist Ali Anderson, seen at Huerta del Valle, a community garden in Ontario. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

The Abolitionist Farmer

Since the beginning of June, Ali Anderson has spent seven hours each week, preparing approximately 30 to 60 produce boxes for Essie's clients, Black women and caregivers who affectionately call each other sisters.

Many of these women are unable to access fresh fruits and vegetables on the regular. Supermarkets are often far away and they don't have reliable transportation. The quality of such produce is often less than stellar. And sometimes, rent and childcare take priority so healthy food becomes an afterthought.

Food activist Karen Washington uses the term "food apartheid" to describe this confluence of factors. She prefers that phrase to the more common term "food desert," because she believes it highlights the systemic racism and inequality that makes healthy food less accessible to people in low-income and largely Black and Brown neighborhoods.

For Medina Moss, an Essie sister for about a year, that Saturday in June was the first time she had visited a community garden in years. The trip offered a pleasant break from quarantine. More than that, she says as a Black woman, it reawakened her relationship to the land.

"I feel like crying," Moss said as she stood in a field of sunflowers after the tour ended. "This is what I'm trying to do."

Moss plans to enroll in Huerta's six-month farmer training intensive, which pairs hands-on harvesting experiences with classes in food sovereignty. "I want to give back to my community. I'm interested in repairing us as Black folks because we're the priority right now," Moss says.

For Anderson the pandemic presented the perfect moment to get to the roots of health in the Black community -- and that starts with what people eat.

Ali Anderson (left), Medina Miller (middle) and Melinda Johnson (right) visit Huerta del Valle, a community garden in Ontario. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

Anderson, 32, grew up in Claremont first studying at USC before pursuing a Masters in public health in Atlanta. Later, in New York, she became a community health organizer, prison abolitionist and doula. Last summer, while completing a one-week farming intensive at Soul Fire Farm, a BIPOC community farm in Albany, New York, Anderson began to draw connections between the fights for reproductive justice, eliminating prisons and food sovereignty.

"Abolition is about presence, not absence," Anderson says. "The creation of regenerative food systems makes it possible for people to own their own land and to feed themselves. The more we invest in communities, the less need there will be for monitoring and incarceration."

After spending two months on a permaculture farm in Jamaica, Anderson returned to Claremont near the start of the COVID-19 quarantine, keen to continue her food work.

The Huerta del Valle community garden in Ontario. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

She began volunteering at Huerta del Valle, planting, harvesting and working at their weekly farmer's market. While picking bushels of leafy greens and putting together CSA boxes, Anderson thought there must be a way to get the produce to the people who needed it most. A friend connected her to the advocates at Essie.

With the help of four Huerta volunteers, Anderson now packs nearly 100 boxes a week with an array of seasonal fruits and veggies. Then, she drives from the Inland Empire across South L.A. to deliver each box. When recipients wanted to see where their food was coming from, Anderson provided gas money so they could visit the garden.

As more Essie sisters visit the farm, Anderson hopes to connect them with Black farmers, beekeepers, growers and food activists. Her goal is lofty -- to help nurture the next generation of Black agriculture students, especially those returning from incarceration.

"This is such an example of divesting from capitalism," Anderson says. "When we take care of each other, when we give half of our very little to other people, it's because we're all connected in this collective struggle."

Lauren Halsey, an artist and founder of Summaeverythang, delivers fresh food to communities in Watts and South L.A. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Architect of Change

At 8 a.m. on Friday mornings, a line forms around the bright yellow Boys and Girls Club at Nickerson Gardens, a public housing complex in Watts. The gymnasium is packed with 700 or so bags of non-perishable groceries. In the lobby, volunteers unload dozens of boxes of fresh produce and lay out hot trays of macaroni, turkey and dressing.

Watts Community Corps volunteers heat up plates of macaroni, turkey and dressing on June 26, 2020. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

For the last 16 weeks, the Watts Community Corps has stepped up to provide groceries and hot meals for locals. Founded a year ago as an after-school, youth boxing program, the nonprofit shifted its focus when founder Tanya Dorsey noticed that kids were showing up hungry.

When COVID-19 hit, Dorsey says she and her Watts Community Corps colleagues pooled their personal money to bring hot meals of chicken and rice to the young boxers. They served 70 kids in the first two weeks. As of late June, they've fed almost 500 people, adults and children, thanks to a partnership with summaeverythang.

Founded by Lauren Halsey, a 33-year-old artist known for transcendent architectural installations such as "The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project" and "we still here, there," the community center develops what Halsey calls "intelligence in the hood." From tutoring to sports to making art, it truly offers some of everything. The pandemic forced her to reflect on her artistic practice.

A Watts native, Halsey had planned to open her center next to her studio in South L.A. later this summer. When coronavirus halted those plans, she decided to put her fantastical architectural proposals on pause and redistribute the centers' funds to address a more urgent need.

"I thought how powerful and on time it would be to figure out how to get food to families' homes," Halsey says.

Every Friday morning, Watts Community Corps volunteers pass out hundreds of bags of groceries and supplies. (Lillian Kalish for LAist)

She drew inspiration from Fannie Lou Hammer's Freedom Farm, which provided land to Black farmers from 1969 through the '70s, and the Black Panther Party's Free Breakfast For School Children program in the 1970s.

In South L.A., a roughly 50-mile patch with 28 neighborhoods of mostly Black and Latinx residents, people have few options for nutritious food. A 2010 study found that the region has only 60 full service grocery stores for nearly 1.3 million residents. Compare that to 57 stores in West Los Angeles with its 11,150 residents. The obesity rate in South L.A. hovers around 35% in adults, significantly higher than the 10% average in West L.A. and the 22% average in the rest of L.A. County.


When She's Not Bringing 'Produce To The People,' Olympia Auset Wants To Open A Full Time Food Oasis


Halsey assembled a team of friends and family to pack and haul between 600 to 1,000 boxes a week of free organic produce. That first week in May, she was overwhelmed by how many people turned out to get the boxes. Now, she and her team distribute curly kale, beets, collard greens, melons and grapefruits along with face masks every Friday at Nickerson Gardens, the Watts Civic Center and a few other nearby locations.

A cornucopia of vegetables and fruit at the Summaeverythang booth at Leimert Park's Juneteenth celebration on June 19, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

She hopes to make the boxes "as excessive" as she can afford. Initially, Halsey reached out to a number of large food distribution warehouses and farms around Southern California. These days, she's sourcing most of her produce from small farms in Los Angeles County. She's eager to support more local Black farmers and provide a long-term path to bring organic, pesticide-free food to South L.A.

"You can just taste the pesticides," Halsey says. "That's a problem and a decision. It's not only a disservice, it's a type of violence to have to make that decision, for Black and brown people to ingest and eat what is given to us."

Chef Kat Williams organized a mutual aid effort to deliver groceries to queer and trans Black people, a population particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The People's Chef

In Koreatown, chef Kat Williams is working to make sure queer and trans Black people -- a population particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 along with homlessness, unemployment, discrimination and violence -- have access to healthy food and that they get to experience a sustained sense of food security.

After receiving their stimulus check, the Jamaican nonbinary chef, who runs the food pop-up Noisy Library, spent $200 to make a few meals for other queer Black people. After Williams posted on Instagram offering to do it again, the donations started rolling in.

Last month, Williams was able to donate 200 meals of jerk chicken, rice and peas, vegan vegetable curry and sugar cookies.

Bettie and Rosalie Tucker organize food boxes for delivery at Cuties Coffee in East Hollywood. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Williams has partnered with Nourishably, a new grocery delivery project, to provide 75 meals to homeless people in late July. Through a live cooking tutorial at the Eastside vegetarian restaurant Jewel, they've raised funds for The Okra Project, which provides Black trans people with meals cooked by Black trans chefs. Williams also set up a mutual aid fund to cover living expenses for Black queer and trans people.

Groceries laid out in a row for easy sorting into boxes to be given away. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

For Williams, who has personally benefited from mutual aid, providing for their community is an act of service and a way of redistributing wealth, the bulk of which has come from white supporters.

"I think it's a mutual realization of 'Yo, you got me, I got you,'" Williams says. "We shouldn't be having to ask for resources that should just be available."

As part of a Juneteenth drive, Williams purchased groceries for 13 households and assembled Black Joy Boxes -- self-care packages of soaps, candles and crystals from Black-owned businesses. With a small team of volunteers, Williams was able to deliver food to queer and trans folks across the city.

Although it's a small scale operation run out of their home, Williams believes gestures of community support, big and small, show the strength of the Black community and the potential that exists outside traditional avenues of aid.

In the last few months, community-driven aid has been a lifeline to many Black queer and trans people, from fundraisers to purchase chest binders, to efforts to secure long-term housing for Black trans women.

Access to good, healthy food goes beyond filling a physical need. Williams believes it can be transformative.

"It's a heavy time and mutual aid is such an amazing concept," Williams says. "I've gotten a lot of support from Black folks, especially emotionally. There's so much pain and everybody's feeling grief in that same way. Right now, we're all in it, trying to heal together."

Sasha, a manager at Cuties Coffee in East Hollywood, helps organize a grocery delivery started by Kat Williams. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Southern California Could Lose Two Congressional Seats After 2020 Census

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A car caravan rolls through Oceanside to drum up support for the 2020 Census. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)

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This week President Trump released a memo meant to stop unauthorized immigrants from being included in the census numbers, which are used to apportion seats in Congress. If he were to have his way -- which looks unlikely -- California could take a big hit politically.

But Trump's wishes aside, a new study from Claremont McKenna College predicts that California could lose two representatives anyway, simply because the state's population growth has slowed and immigration into California has declined.

That team, led by research affiliate Douglas Johnson, predicts one seat would likely be taken from the San Gabriel Valley, which has grown particularly slowly over the last decade.

The loss of one seat has been predicted for some time, but lately it's looking more dire: According to new calculations from data firm ESRI, the margin for California to lose a second seat is only 1,300 people -- and that's assuming every Californian completes the census, something that's not likely to happen.

Using that information. and looking at regional population growth, Johnson's team ran a model to predict which California district could be the second loss in that worst-case scenario. They identified the 49th district, stretching from Dana Point to Del Mar, as one possibility.

"It's on the border of Orange County and San Diego, so it's getting pressure from both sides," Johnson said. If either county loses population as reported in the census, they may need to balance out neighboring districts by absorbing constituents from the 49th.

"Some area is going to lose their voice in D.C. and be grouped together with a larger area and no one wants that," he said.

Johnson said that people living in the 49th should be particularly motivated to get counted in the census if they want to preserve their district.

Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) speaks at a car caravan in Oceanside. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)

Last weekend, Mike Levin, a Democrat who currently represents the 49th, participated in a car caravan to drum up census support. He drove through Oceanside along with several vintage car owners, who honked horns and shouted census-related slogans.

Levin is aware of the risk to the 49th, but isn't taking it too seriously...yet.

"It's premature," Levin said. "Talk to me in a year."

At this point, Levin said he's more interested in the federal funding that census participation provides. But if the California Citizens Redistricting Commission does consider cutting up the 49th, Levin said they'd be dividing a cohesive community.

"I think I represent the most beautiful district in the United States, 52 miles of Pacific. People (here) care very deeply about our beaches, our air, our water," Levin said. "Last I saw, we have the second highest percentages of veterans in the United States."

Chema Navarro, an Oceanside resident, came out to the car caravan in her light pink 1957 Lincoln Premiere. She's heard about the possibility of California losing a seat in Congress, and the possible threat to the 49th.

"California is huge and we need to do everything possible to conserve what we've got already," Navarro said.

Ultimately, the fate of the district will be in the hands of the still-forming redistricting commission. This week the first eight members of the team were sworn in; they're now training to learn how to make major redistricting decisions fairly.

But even the commission can't stop a district from being removed -- that will depend on how many Californians participate in the census.

The Chaotic Events That Led To LAist's Reporter Being Shot With Foam Round

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Minutes after he was struck in the neck while covering a protest in Long Beach, our higher education reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reported his own injury on social media. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist

By Aaron Mendelson

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While covering a protest on May 31, KPCC/LAist reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was shot in the neck with a 40mm foam round by a Long Beach Police Department officer. The incident drew international attention, but for weeks the circumstances have been unclear.

Now, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna has provided an explanation to Guzman-Lopez: "It looks like you were inadvertently hit with a round that ricocheted either off something or somebody," he said in a meeting with Guzman-Lopez and other LAist journalists last week.

Two officers in the area fired their launchers within four seconds of one another, Luna said, shooting towards two men who'd thrown bottles at police.

"We will never know which one of those [officers] fired the round" that hit Guzman-Lopez, Luna said. The department has not released the names of the two officers; a spokesperson said it would only after an Internal Affairs investigation is completed.

No body camera or CCTV footage captured the round hitting Guzman-Lopez, Luna said. But an outside doctor and a police weapons scholar told LAist that the injuries are consistent with a ricocheted 40mm foam round.

Guzman-Lopez suffered a serious wound. "I felt my throat. My fingertips had blood on them," he recalls in an essay. The fillings were knocked out of his teeth, a CT scan showed, and he took several weeks of medical leave to recover from his injuries.


READ ADOLFO'S ESSAY: A Cop Shot Me With A Foam Projectile And I'm Still Feeling The Shock


Yet it could have been much worse, emergency physician Dr. Howard Mell said. "A direct hit from a 40mm, less-lethal munition to a patient's neck? I would expect immediate life-threatening injuries."

Long Beach police are trained not to fire at the head or neck.

Charles Mesloh, a professor at Northern Michigan University who studies less-lethal weapons, believes the shape of the bruise shows that the foam round hit Guzman-Lopez's neck "sideways" after possibly bouncing off another surface.

But Mesloh, a former cop, said that the officer who fired the weapon into a crowded intersection is accountable for Guzman-Lopez's injuries: "You're responsible for the projectile from the moment it leaves the end of your gun, until it comes to final rest."


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'PAIN COMPLIANCE DEVICE'

Graduate student Jorge Roa was at the protests on May 31, taking photos. He watched the protest grow more tense as the afternoon wore on: "The [launchers] went from being pointed at the ground to being pointed up," he recalled.

Roa was about a block from 3rd & Pine that afternoon when he heard a loud pop. People rushed by, including a reporter in a polo shirt. That was Guzman-Lopez, who stopped to ask Roa to inspect his injury.

The photographer was taken aback. "I was an EMT before. Two inches up and he wouldn't have been walking around like that. That was a serious shot that he got very, very lucky for." He snapped a picture showing the crimson, horseshoe-shaped wound on Guzman-Lopez's neck.

The two said goodbye, and Roa walked over to the intersection. He collected what he believes is the foam round that struck Guzman-Lopez; it's at his apartment.

Foam round recovered by Jorge Roa, with banana for scale.

The blue-tipped, bullet-shaped round is the model used by Long Beach police. It's manufactured by the company Defense Technology, which touts its effectiveness as "both a psychological deterrent and physiological distraction, serving as a pain compliance device."

At full speed, the projectile can travel at 325 feet per second, the manufacturer says. That comes in handy in "situations where maximum deliverable energy is desired for the incapacitation of an aggressive, non-compliant subject," its product sheet states.

Foam projectiles are among a class of less-lethal munitions that have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, following their use at anti-police brutality protests across the country. While less deadly than firearms, weapons such as rubber bullets, pepper spray balls, foam launchers and bean bag rounds maim and even kill.

"They can ricochet, they have unpredictable trajectories, they can hit bystanders," said Dr. Rohini Haar, an ER doctor and medical advisor for Physicians for Human Rights. Haar wrote a 2018 report urging that weapons such as rubber bullets be prohibited in crowd control.

"There's really no safe way to use rubber bullets or any sort of kinetic impact projectiles in a crowd," she said. "They are by nature indiscriminate and dangerous."

She called injuries like Guzman-Lopez's "entirely predictable."

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez tweeted shortly after suffering his wounds; the tweet went viral and sparked an outcry. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia publicly apologized to Guzman-Lopez the next day. In June, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors mentioned him in a resolution affirming the rights of journalists to cover protests without being injured, harassed or arrested.

Other reporters in Southern California, including other KPCC/LAist staffers, were tear-gassed and struck with police batons during recent protests.

A July letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called for "immediate, concrete steps to prevent further attacks by law enforcement on journalists in California, as have occurred repeatedly during the police response to the George Floyd protests." (The letter was signed by LAist's parent company.)

TWO SHOTS

The videos that Long Beach police showed to LAist depict a largely peaceful protest, with a crowd kneeling at the sunny intersection. Most protesters at 3rd and Pine were several yards away from a skirmish line of officers in riot gear.

Just before 6:30, a pair of suspects hurled two bottles at police. The department considers that assault with a deadly weapon. (Police said protesters tossed glass bottles, plastic bottles, frozen water bottles and pyrotechnics at police at that intersection on May 31.)

An overhead shot of the scene at 3rd and Pine by Instagram user @ill_aerials

Then, two separate officers fired their launchers at the suspects, within four seconds of one another. "Their sole purpose is to protect the officers on the line," Luna said. It's unclear which officer's round may have bounced and struck Guzman-Lopez, or if the suspects or any protesters were injured. Luna said the department reviewed hundreds of body camera and CCTV videos, but that none capture Guzman-Lopez, who was several yards from the intersection.

The department trains officers to fire foam rounds at the stomach, legs and lower arms, according to LBPD training Sergeant Paul Gallo. Officers learn to use the weapon at the academy and receive an annual refresher. They're instructed to avoid the head and neck.

Another projectile fired by Long Beach police on May 31 blasted off the fingertip of a protester, according to a legal claim from her attorney. That incident occurred a block away from where Guzman-Lopez was shot, an hour afterward. Police in L.A. have injured dozens at protests since May, when demonstrations against police brutality swept the city and the country.

Concern about such incidents sparked AB-66, state legislation to limit the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and foam rounds at protests. Officers must consider "the increased risk of hitting an unintended target due to unexpected movement of members of the crowd" before using force, the proposed law says.

LBPD officers fired 40mm launchers 62 times between 2014 and 2017, public records show. The department switched from beanbag shotguns to the launchers in 2014.

Use of force researcher Charles Mesloh favors the beanbags, which don't carry the risk of ricochet. "They pretty much go exactly where you want them to go," he said. "When you're dealing with things that are rubber or foam, they're going to skip around."

In his research, he found that "projectiles ricocheted in an erratic and unpredictable manner." One projectile bounced off the floor and shot out the lights in a warehouse. Another ricocheted and nearly hit a graduate student in the head, forcing Mesloh to shut down the study of the weapons.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said he believed a direct hit to the throat with a 40mm foam round would have sent Guzman-Lopez to the hospital with "significant, serious injuries." The Long Beach PD said it will review the incident to determine whether the officers who fired at 3rd and Pine were within department policy.

WE LOVE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

A Cop Shot Me With A Foam Projectile And I'm Still Feeling The Shock

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J Michael Walker's illustration inspired by the shooting of Adolfo Guzman-Lopez with a foam round by Long Beach police on May 31, 2020. (J Michael Walker for LAist)

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

I think about May 31, 2020 every day. It was my son's 16th birthday and my wife and I helped him make it into a socially distant celebration in a park.

But that's not what I think about.

What I think about every day happened a few hours later: The pop of a police weapon that launched a projectile in my direction while I finished an interview with a kneeling protester.

I wonder whether I saw the trajectory of the round. I can't remember.

I wonder whether others shot at protests -- and in other circumstances -- also wonder whether they saw the projectile coming at them.

I wonder if my eyes could have seen the round's straight line from the muzzle, flying at fastball force and ending up striking the bottom of my throat, where it would rattle my body and my life.

And it strikes me that it's part of a rattling many of us are going through, a rattling of long-held beliefs, a rattling of our public institutions.

WHY I'M WRITING THIS

That weekend I was shot, there were many other people injured by police as protests over the killing of George Floyd took place in Southern California and across the country. I'm writing this because I owe it to myself, to you, and to the others injured to document the impact. Not because my injury is among the most severe. It's not. I owe this account because I believe that examining our stories will help answer this question: how much force should police officers be empowered to use?


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It's been seven weeks since my injury. I was off work for four weeks. The first week was the hardest physically and mentally. Then the slow gears of workers' compensation in the time of COVID-19 stretched the time off even longer. One week I had three different medical appointments. Then I took a week off with my family. And now I'm back in the reporting saddle.

Writing this has allowed me to gather my thoughts and fold in more information about what happened on May 31. I may be one of the more well-known people in Southern California injured by police but that shouldn't keep us from asking who else was hurt and push to find out why.

The Long Beach Police Department is investigating the circumstances of how I was hit and has released some of the results of that ongoing investigation. The department doesn't investigate every less than lethal shooting this way. If you haven't already, please read my colleague Aaron Mendelson's thorough report about their findings. It's important to know what the police department says.


READ: Why Did Police Shoot An LAist Reporter With A Foam Round In Long Beach?


Regardless of whether I was targeted or not, being shot by a police foam round shook my life. Others suffered more severe injuries. Some have written about their ordeals. Lexis-Oliver Ray's photos make his account mesmerizing. I humbly add my story to their written, spoken and unspoken stories.

I see you KPCC/LAist journalists Chava Sanchez, Josie Huang, and Emily Guerin, and fellow Los Angeles journalists who endured police force from pointed guns to tear gas and batons to dodging foam rounds. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors named some of those journalists in a recent resolution. And I see everyone else who was tear-gassed or shoved with a baton or arrested. For you whose pain is ongoing, I send thoughts of love and healing.

WALKING TOWARD THIRD AND PINE

By three o'clock in the afternoon on May 31, my wife and I were sitting down on a picnic blanket at a park in East Long Beach. We set up a table with drinks and birthday cupcakes for my son and his friends and placed our lawn chairs far enough apart that neither he nor his friends would think we were ready to helicopter in and break up their fun. Two of our friends and their baby joined us on their picnic blanket to talk. I took a nap on the grass.

As I woke up at about four o'clock, I thought: there's a protest in Long Beach today. Where's my phone? Sure enough, my editor had called me about 15 minutes before to ask if I could check it out. After a quick stop at home to gather my equipment and fill a backpack with a bottle of water and a power bar, I was on my way to downtown Long Beach.

As I walked to 3rd and Pine, and wondered what this protest would be like, I remembered lessons from protests I've covered. I remembered the abundance of stories unionized janitors told me about their decades of low-paid work at a peaceful march in downtown L.A. five months ago. The May Day Melee in MacArthur Park in 2007 taught me to keep a distance from advancing police in riot gear.

Photojournalists are often a good barometer of being too close to the action. I learned that while watching L.A. Times photographer Luis Sinco in 2002 at an Inglewood march where protestors demanded discipline against a police officer who punched an African American teenager in the face. Sinco was up against the banner at the front of the march to get the shot and was jostled out of the way by some of those in the front. He gave back as much, if not more, than what he got.

The protest at 3rd and Pine would turn out to be like all those protests, and more, rolled into one.

In the space of an hour, the 100 or so protestors doubled in number. There was little social distancing but most people wore some kind of face mask. Their energy ranged from subdued and focused on the message that police killings like that of George Floyd needed to stop, to pockets of people breaking into stores and stealing clothes and hats.

Within that hour, I'd walked around the intersection, called in two news reports, took photos on my phone, and tweeted accounts of the protests.

At 6:09 p.m., Tony Marcano, my editor for my regular beat covering higher education tweeted at me:

I captured the chanting of protesters on video:

And then, a few minutes before 6:30 p.m. I'd just conducted an interview with a protester and was typing his name into my phone when I heard a loud pop.

The pop was followed (this is where the fluidity of time kicks in) by an impact at the place where my neck meets my collarbone, followed by a nearly instantaneous reaction to run.

Pop. Impact. Run.

I ran in the opposite direction of the shot with a lot of other people. We passed a fence and got to a parking lot and stopped. I looked back and saw that the cops weren't running after us. I felt my throat. My fingertips had blood on them when I pulled my right hand away. I asked a few people around me to look at my neck and tell me what it looked like. Some cringed, others said it wasn't too bad.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez on May 31, 2020, minutes after a foam round fired by a Long Beach police officer hit him. (Courtesy Jorge Roa)

A few yards away I saw a man with a long-lens camera. His name was Jorge Roa and he said he was there to document police actions. I asked him to take a picture of my wound.

I threw a lot of F-bombs as I called my editor and my wife. Most of those were versions of, why the [bleep] was I shot? Look at Roa's photo. That dazed look on my face is me wondering what the hell had just happened to me and playing and rewinding in my head the mental video of the pop, the impact, and the running.

In my car, I looked back at the photos, videos, and text that I had posted in the hour before I was hit with the foam round. Protesters held signs that read, "No lives matter until Black lives matter!" and "Latinos 4 Black lives." The videos I posted showed protestors chanting "We love Long Beach! Please don't hurt us!" as well as people breaking into a store and stealing clothes.

I didn't think much about the next post to upload, it would be the latest information: police had fired foam rounds into the crowd and I had become part of the news because I had been hit. So I took a couple of selfies and enlarged one to better show my wound. I posted it on Twitter at 6:40 p.m.

I still had work to do. Our newsroom's Larry Mantle, the longtime host of KPCC's AirTalk, was anchoring special coverage of the day's protests and I went on the air to describe what had happened. He asked me if I felt I was targeted. I didn't say yes, but I did say that I did not see anything around me that could have prompted an officer to fire a foam round. So I felt that I was shot for standing in the middle of the street talking to another person. Read Aaron Mendelson's story to see what the video gathered by police showed was happening around me at that time.

WE LOVE U!

My wife and my 9-year-old daughter were pulling into our driveway as I was arriving from the protest. I'd called my wife to tell her what happened. My daughter had heard the conversation on the car speaker, but the reality of what happened to me didn't become clear to her until she saw me.

When she stepped out and saw the wound on my neck, which I had not yet cleaned, she cringed and she said, "No, no, no," as if she was seeing something that she didn't want to but which she couldn't control. She didn't cry, but her voice became high pitched and she shook her hands as if she'd burned herself on a pan. I told her I was going to be OK. She walked into the house as I talked to my wife.

When I walked into my house my daughter handed me a drawing she'd made. It was two stick figures. She'd boiled down me and her to two recognizable traits: my square glasses and her long, curly hair bulging like puffed-up quilt squares. Here it is.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez's nine year old daughter drew this after he was shot with a foam round by Long Beach police while covering a protest. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

Art is her superpower. That's the ability she summoned to make sense of and resolve what her mind and body were feeling. My eyes welled up.

LIKE A LEAD BLANKET

On the way home from the protests I had called a family friend who's a doctor. He said my injury was probably only a superficial wound and that it may not need urgent care if I was still able to talk. At about 7:20 p.m. my wife sent him a picture of the wound. He hadn't seen the injury. When he did, he changed the recommendation and said, yeah, go to the emergency room.

My wife drove me to Long Beach Memorial Hospital and I told her I'd call her when they released me. Because of the pandemic, she couldn't come with me. The CT scan ordered by the emergency room doctor didn't show any damage to my larynx or other internal parts but suggested just how powerful the impact was. "Artifact from scattered dental fillings," is what the report said.

In other words, I was hit hard enough to rattle my teeth.

Luckily, I didn't lose my voice. My wound scarred over within a week. A doctor prescribed a steroid for the inflammation in my throat and told me to rest my voice. I've been mostly functional since the injury.

At 10 o'clock I was sitting in the hospital lobby calling home to say that I was done. When I hung up I looked up at the television screens. They showed businesses engulfed in flames on 7th Street and Pine Avenue in Long Beach. That's just four blocks from where I'd been reporting. Neither me nor that part of Long Beach ended the day as we had started it.

WHEN IS VIRAL GOOD, WHEN IS IT BAD, OR IN BETWEEN?

The tweet of my injury was on its way to getting tens of thousands of likes, retweets, and comments. I became another reporter injured -- in my case, a radio reporter, whose voice is essential for the job -- hit in the throat with a rubber projectile, on a weekend of national protests sparked by the killing of an African American man who died when a police officer placed his knee on the man's throat for nearly nine minutes.

Texts and other messages began to stream in stronger by the hour. Generally they fell into three categories: those who didn't mention the injury and sent good vibes, love, and healing wishes; people who were angry at police as a result of my injury and officers' use of force against others; and messages from people who said they'd heard my voice or read my reports for a long time and that they couldn't believe such a thing could happen to someone they knew.

A woman said she'd been listening to me all her life. I'm hoping she's in her 30s and maybe started listening in the backseat of her parents' car as a kid.

I'd pledged to disconnect from work for a week while I recovered and processed my trauma. But I broke that pledge. I felt a responsibility to respond to colleagues, former colleagues, friends, family, and Long Beach neighbors.

None of the messages had ill will -- but it all felt like a eulogy.

If the dead had to go through all this praise and comments and well wishes, I'm sure it would kill them.

But in all seriousness, it felt like my mind and body were pressed under a lead blanket like the one the dentist puts on you when you're having x-rays taken. It was too much. I've been lucky enough to find a therapist who's listening and guiding me.

Before my injury, I'd wondered at times to what extent the journalism I've produced has made a difference. I've earned awards and have received praise for my stories from listeners and colleagues over the years. But doubt still creeped in.

This experience put a big exclamation point on "yes, it does" make a difference. Given a choice, though, I'd rather not have gone through this experience to reach this understanding, but I recognize this is a way to get there.

THE MAYOR AND THE RABBI

I'll highlight two messages. In a video call a few days after, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia apologized to me.

And Stephen Einstein, the founding Rabbi of congregation B'nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, wrote this email to Mayor Garcia:

An email sent to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia by Rabbi Stephen Einstein. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

Einstein didn't do this out of the blue. He and I have had deep conversations about religion. I am not Jewish but my wife is, and we're raising our kids Jewish, so I met Rabbi Einstein through our congregation in Long Beach.

I asked him why he wrote that email. He said he was shocked that a journalist would be injured by police while conducting an interview. He also said he was motivated by the biblical dictum, "justice, justice shall you pursue." It was an unjust act, he said, and he called on the mayor to investigate.

WE ARE ALL RUBEN SALAZAR

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez holds a postcard for a 2014 documentary about slain L.A. Times journalist Ruben Salazar. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

When we are all able to move about as before in Southern California, take a trip to the Cal State Northridge campus. There's an important plaque out there. It's dedicated to the Los Angeles journalists who've died on the job. I thought about it when L.A. Times reporter Daniel Hernandez wrote about my injury. A fellow reporter told him that seeing my injury reminded him of what happened to Ruben Salazar, an L.A. Times journalist killed during a large protest in East L.A. in 1970.

I told Daniel the comment may be part of unresolved trauma in Los Angeles among those who remember Salazar's shooting or know that there were conflicting accounts about whether the Sheriff's deputy who killed Salazar targeted him or not.

If plaques are still how we honor significant events, let's take a lesson from artist Sandra de la Loza. She's been creating plaques for alternative and often ignored events in Los Angeles history, like the displacement in the late 1950s of working-class people from Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers would build their stadium there years later.

There should be alternate plaques put up where people suffered police use of force on the weekend of May 31, 2020. Yeah, the 3rd and Pine intersection would be one place. It can be a real or virtual plaque.

For me, the plaque there would be a reminder to see my life and work differently, be grateful, and do more to help connect our disparate Southern California communities.

HOLDING A FOAM ROUND LAUNCHER IN MY HANDS AND PULLING THE TRIGGER

Last Wednesday, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna talked to me and my newsroom colleagues about his department's findings in an investigation of how I got shot.

He apologized and invited me to the department's police academy to hold a foam round launcher in my hands and fire it.

Luna said, based on the investigation, that the foam round bounced off something or someone before hitting me. What evidence is there to support that, I asked. He said: We don't train officers to shoot people in the neck or head. And, he added, despite how bad my injury was, if it was a direct hit the injury would have been a lot worse.

The round carries the force of a 100 mile-an-hour fastball, he said. Shooting a foam round on a mannequin would demonstrate to me how much damage one of these rounds leaves behind, he said. I neither accepted nor declined the invitation during that Zoom meeting.

I've been thinking about that invitation. Maybe holding the launcher would have put me, for a moment, in the police officer's place at the intersection of 3rd and Pine. But what about putting the officer in my place, going about your work collecting information then finding yourself with a bloody wound at the bottom of your throat?

On careful consideration, I don't want to hold and fire a foam rubber launcher like the one that fired the round that hit me. And I do not want to see how much greater the physical impact could have been on me.

I already know the actual impact. It has affected my body and my emotions and challenged me in ways I hadn't expected.

J Michael Walker's illustration for this story is so on point. See how the figure after being shot (it's me and it's everyone else who was hit in some way by police force) is made up of different parts, Cubist-style? That's what police use of force does, it breaks the person up physically and psychologically. And with the help of others the person will come back together and continue working and living.

Morning Briefing: A Sliver Of Optimism For LA

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Photo by Nexus 6 via Unsplash

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As some states in the U.S. slowly gain control over the coronavirus, the number of cases and hospitalizations in California continues to go up. And according to Carmela Coyle, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, the state could reach a breaking point soon; nearly 45,000 of its approximate 50,000 staffed hospital beds are currently taken.

Meanwhile, in L.A. County, the virus is poised to become the leading cause of death, beating out Alzheimer’s, non-coronary heart disease and stroke.

However, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, believes there might be room for some optimism, as local increases in infections have begun to level off.

This week could be "a critical turning point in determining whether our collective efforts are beginning to take us in a better direction,” Ferrer said.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, July 23

In South Los Angeles, three new voices in food activism — a healer, an artist and a chef — are taking three different approaches to fighting food insecurity and sowing the seeds of a Black food sovereignty, reports Lillian Kalish.

Yacht rockers perform by the sea, electronic music artists rave the vote, puppets cope with quarantine, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s best online and IRL events.

Researchers are predicting that California will soon lose two seats in Congress according to new population estimates. Caroline Champlin takes a look at where those two seats are and what could happen.

Our reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez provides a first person account of being struck in the throat by a foam bullet fired by police while covering protests in Long Beach on May 31. Meanwhile, Aaron Mendelson has the Long Beach Police Department’s explanation.

Many restaurants are feeling whiplash as they were forced to close indoor dining very soon after reopening. Emily Guerin explores how they and their employees are coping with the uncertainty.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Update: This week could be "a critical turning point in determining whether [L.A.’s] collective efforts are beginning to take us in a better direction," said Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director. California reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases yet, and hospital officials say they’re concerned about having enough staff to care for patients.

For Your Listening Pleasure: In this week’s episode of Servant of Pod, host Nick Quah talks to Slate's Slow Burn host Josh Levin about making great audio.

The Children Left Behind: A UC Berkeley study finds the pandemic has ravaged the state's child care system.

‘Person’s A Person’: Local experts and activists react to President Trump’s memo directing officials to exclude immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission from the census numbers used to divide up congressional seats.


Photo Of The Day

Dodgers players and a manager watch the final out of a preseason game at Dodger stadium, wearing masks and standing in front of cardboard cutouts of fans. Welcome to summer.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


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