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PRESS ROOM: Partners Bring On-Demand ADA Options to Riders in Downtown Area

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The assisted-rider community of Los Angeles will now have access to FlexLA’s affordable, on-demand ride sharing services thanks to a grant from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to ButterFLi, an LA-based transportation provider for Angelinos with accessibility challenges.

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Photo by: fastlinkdtla.org

By Sentinel News Service

The assisted-rider community of Los Angeles will now have access to FlexLA’s affordable, on-demand ride sharing services thanks to a grant from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to ButterFLi, an LA-based transportation provider for Angelinos with accessibility challenges.

FASTLinkDTLA Transportation Management Organization (TMO), in partnership with LADOT, oversees the microtransit pilot program FlexLA, a service available downtown in the evenings when public transit service is less frequent. This recent ButterFLi partnership will better service people with accessibility challenges.

“Creating transportation options for people with all levels of mobility capabilities is another way LADOT secures measures to best serve and represent our community,” said LADOT Assistant General Manager Monique Earl. “This grant helps connect more people to more opportunities. This pilot program also helps us best support the transit network by making safe choices a priority.”

FlexLA’s Mercedes-Benz Metris passenger vans driven by professional drivers including U.S. military veterans, seniors and disabled riders and a companion passenger will now have access to up to eight reduced-fare rides per month within the 8-mile service area (see map below) for just $2 per person per one-way on-demand ride.

We are delighted to work with such a highly-regarded, experienced company as ButterFLi to serve riders and their companions, and expand the opportunities to travel limitlessly around the Los Angeles area,” said Hilary Norton, Executive Director of FASTLinkDTLA Transportation Management Organization (TMO).

FASTLinkDTLA TMO, Downtown LA’s transportation management-focused public-private partnership, and moovel (becoming REACH NOW), the leading provider of mobile ticketing applications in North America, recently launched FlexLA, a new ridesharing pilot. FlexLA, offers competitive flat-rate fares – just $2 regular rate fares and free low-income fares — to Downtown Los Angeles riders. FlexLA’s mobile app is available in both Spanish and English in the Apple and Google app stores.

“ButterFLi is grateful for the additional grant funding being provided by LADOT to support this service and is pleased to partner with LADOT and FASTLinkDTLA to make affordable, assisted on-demand & scheduled transportation accessible to seniors and persons with disabilities throughout the city of Los Angeles,” expressed Delilah Lanoix, ButterFLi Co-Founder and CEO.

Riders can easily book a ride on the ButterFLi service by calling 1-855-267-2FLi (2354) and providing the customer service center with information about their mobility and transportation needs.

The FASTLinkDTLA TMO and FlexLA micro-transit pilot is partially funded by Metro ExpressLanes Net Toll Revenue funds.

About ButterFLi Technologies

ButterFLi’s connected fleet solution aggregates existing transportation companies and greatly simplifies access to on-demand and scheduled services to an underserved community of individuals with varying mobility needs. ButterFLi serves any customer requirement, whether you’re an individual needing specialized transportation, or a healthcare organization, municipality, or roadside assistance company. ButterFLi improves the lives of assisted riders, impacts the business of specialty fleets, and transforms transportation within cities and healthcare organizations through personalization and connected technology.

About FASTLinkDTLA

FASTLinkDTLA is a partnership of businesses, employers, developers, business improvement districts, organizations, and nonprofits focused on improving mobility, transportation and infrastructure in Downtown Los Angeles. FASTLinkDTLA’s activities include advocating and promoting transportation system and demand management strategies to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and commuting costs. It also generates joint public-private partnerships to solve transportation problems. In addition, FASTLinkDTLA creates a central information service for increasing mobility choices and addresses public transportation and other transportation related issues with a goal to improve the quality of life.

About moovel North America (becoming REACH NOW)

moovel N.A. LLC (becoming REACH NOW), a part of moovel Group GmbH, enables seamless multimodal experiences and connected transit commerce through mobile applications. moovel (becoming REACH NOW) is the leading North American provider of mobile ticketing applications that allow riders to book and pay for public transit tickets via their smartphone. Led by CEO Nat Parker, moovel (becoming REACH NOW) is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

About LADOT

LADOT Transit is the largest municipal provider of transit service in Los Angeles County offering commuter bus and neighborhood circulator services as well as mobility services to seniors and the disabled. Its DASH circulator bus services operate five routes in Downtown Los Angeles and in 27 other neighborhoods throughout the City of Los Angeles. For DASH or Commuter Express bus routes in your area, please visit www.ladottransit.com or call the LADOT Customer Service Center at (213, 310, 323 or 818) 808-2273.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel

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Customer on Front Line of DWP Billing Debacle Files $25,000 Claim Against City

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The man who sued the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over grossly inaccurate utility billing he received years ago has filed a claim against the city over the way in which it handled the case, documents obtained by City News Service show.

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Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Photo by: lasentinel.net)
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Photo by: lasentinel.net)

By City News Service

The man who sued the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over grossly inaccurate utility billing he received years ago has filed a claim against the city over the way in which it handled the case, documents obtained by City News Service show.

Antwon Jones, who was a plaintiff in a settlement in 2017 when the DWP was forced to refund customers after a massive billing snafu, claimed on Wednesday that the city owes him $25,000 due to “wrongful acts and omissions” and fraud committed by Paradis Law Group, which he retained during the first lawsuit.

However, Paradis had also committed to defending the DWP in a separate case and had secured about $30 million in consulting contracts to do so, creating what has been called a conflict of interest. The contracts with Paradis later were severed by the DWP.

Jones also said the city representatives breached their fiduciary duties to him by “unjustly enriching themselves” at his expense.

Claims are typically filed as a precursor to a lawsuit. If the city doesn’t honor the claim, it would give Jones the latitude to sue.

“Mr. Jones’ allegations against the city are completely without merit,” said Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office. The city attorney facilitated the hiring of Paradis to help the DWP with its legal
issues years ago.

The debacle prompted a class-action lawsuit that led to a settlement requiring the DWP to reimburse customers about $67 million — new attorneys on the case reported last week that ratepayers could get an additional $50 million, as the settlement is being examined.

FBI agents served search warrants at the downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles DWP and City Hall East last week as part of a probe into the city’s handling of the litigation and settlement over the botched rollout of a DWP billing system.

The billing system in 2013 led to thousands of customers receiving inaccurate bills, with some being wildly overcharged.

The city and DWP, meanwhile, sued PricewaterhouseCoopers over its handling of the system’s rollout.

But PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year questioned the city’s relationship with Paul Paradis, an outside attorney it hired to handle the litigation against the company.

PricewaterhouseCoopers argued in court papers that the arrangement with Paradis was made specifically to secure a more favorable legal outcome for the city and DWP.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a class action lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in federal court by customer Dennis Bradshaw against City Attorney Mike Feuer and attorneys involved in the Jones lawsuit, alleging professional malpractice, unjust enrichment and more.

Bradshaw, a Los Angeles renter and DWP customer, received a credit to his December 2017 bill as part of the Jones settlement. His suit alleges that Jones’s attorneys and the city colluded to deprive the customers of their rights in that case, the Times reported.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) TV Honors Winners Announced

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

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Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)
Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)

By Sentinel News Service

Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

Other big wins went to the popular Starz drama “Power,” which begins its sixth and final season August 25th, and the CBS comedy, “The Neighborhood” starring Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold now entering its second season. Angela Bassett and Sterling K. Brown earned Best Performance Female and Male awards for their respective portrayals in the series “9-1-1” on Fox and “This Is Us” on NBC.

In all, the sixteen-year-old association will give out ten awards during its inaugural event, including honoring mega-producer Ryan Murphy with the AAFCA TV Icon Award and big three network, CBS, with the AAFCA Inclusion Award for its diverse programming and talent.

“It is impossible to ignore TV’s popularity and remarkable influence on America’s pop culture landscape today,” says AAFCA president Gil Robertson IV. “As the stature of the small screen continues to expand, it has become increasingly more diverse and inclusive, a movement that we at AAFCA wholeheartedly embrace and champion. The honorees for our first AAFCA TV Honors represent the very best of television programming. They all successfully put a mirror up to our world to tell stories that are refreshingly diverse and authentic. We feel that this new wave of innovative, thought-provoking storytelling is inspiring and deserving of celebration.”

The honorees will be feted at AAFCA TV Honors during a private brunch on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, CA.

AAFCA TV HONORS 2019 Winners:

Best Drama – “Power” (Starz)

Best Comedy – “The Neighborhood” (CBS)

Best Limited Series – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Performance Female – Angela Bassett (9-1-1) FOX

Best Performance Male – Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) NBC

Best Ensemble –– “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Writing – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Breakthrough Performance – Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us” (Netflix)

AAFCA TV Honors Inclusion Award – CBS

AAFCA TV Honors ICON Award – Ryan Murphy

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’ ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

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Linsey Davis (Courtesy photo
Linsey Davis (Courtesy Photo)

By Saybin Roberson,

Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

 

ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

Inspired by her son’s life and growth, Davis began writing books as love letters and life lessons to her son, with an emphasis on creating characters that looked like him. “One Big Heart” focuses on highlighting how our differences bring us all together.

“I felt like for him growing up during this time it was essential to affirm what kids already know, which is basically that they have this ability to find common ground,” she says of her new book. Understanding that children know what makes them different, but not the mindset of placing labels on individuals.

“I think kids are better than adults in that way of setting aside differences and just looking for what we have in common.”

Based on a foundation of love, Davis’s intentions to bring peace and inclusion are prominent within her books. “God gave us all this one special gift, he gave us each a heart and that’s the most important part because that’s where love starts.

As a mother of a five-year-old, fulltime news reporter, and author, Davis wears many hats working around the clock feeding each aspect of her life. Writing both “One Big Heart”and her first, “The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Lessons,” Davis says brought her closer to her son as he grew, both teaching each other ways to do life.

“I think so much about the theme of this book is that the students can become the teachers, adults can really learn from children,” she states. Noting the differences between children having no preconceived notions of what is bad or good based on appearance. Believing children are taught and observe how to respond to dissimilarities, this book is a reminder to continue growing with a nonjudgmental attitude.

“I think that as life hits, you have to respond and respond right away,” Davis says, believing children should know the truth of the world they live in, adding, “I also think it’s important to let children direct the narrative.”

“It is important for all of them [children] to see each other,” believing that lack of information is what creates fear, it is important to show diversity to promote unity, rather than exclusion, she goes on to say, “it’s about seeing every race.”

“This is just a conversation that really needs to be had about exposure and embracing diversity.”

Growing up, Davis dealt with being one of the few Black girls in her school and she understands the importance of inclusion and the isolation she felt during her years. Expressing her biggest hope is that children who read “One Big Heart” continue to search for common ground as they grow and experience the world.

“One Big Heart” will be available August 6, 2019 at bookstores and online for purchase. Follow Linsey Davis on Instagram @linseytdavis and Twitter @LinseyDavis for updates on her life and career.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Gunshot Medley Brings Black Theatre to the Electric Lodge

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

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Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)
Donathan Walters (left) as George, Mildred Langford (middle) as Betty, and Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (right) as High Priestess in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Kreckler)

A play with a Black cast, director, and playwright tells a story of pain, racism, and hope at the Electric Lodge.

By Shaquille Woods

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.

The playwright, Dionna Michelle Daniel, was inspired to write this play in 2015, after the Charleston Church shooting. While in North Carolina, she visited a graveyard where she found the graves of Betty, Alvis, and George who would eventually become the characters for “Gunshot Medley: Part I.” All that was left on the graves were their names and the dates that they died, each before the Emancipation Proclamation. Daniel also found something unsettling in the graveyard — newly placed Confederate flags.

“At the time that I wrote ‘Gunshot Medley,’ there was so much going on with killings and discourse over the Confederate flag,” said Daniel. “For me the play is an awakening. It is so vital for Black people to tell our stories because we have lived through these experiences and the pain is real.”

Set in a haunted graveyard in North Carolina, audiences see the connections of racism through past and present. Betty, Alvis, and George are not able to rest their souls. They want to believe that things are better, and cover up the pain, but what they see in the present takes them back to their own past hurt. They see happy moments in Black culture as well, referencing famous songs and dances, but they are reminded of pain with each gunshot that they hear.

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield (left) as High Preistess looks on as Derek Jackson (middle) and Mildred Langford (right) dance as Alvis and Betty in Gunshot Medley: Part 1. (Photo Credit: Cristian Krekcler)

Betty represents a mother figure, constantly cleaning to cover up her pain. Alvis takes on a more playful role, looking for the beauty in everything, and George represents revolutionaries fighting and dying for change. The fourth character is High Priestess Oya. When Daniel originally wrote the play, she made a lot of reference to the wind and the rustle of leaves and treetops. One of her friends told her about Orisha Oya, an African goddess who is the ruler of storms and winds, and the protector of cemeteries.  From that comes the majestic character garbed in elegant reds and an expression of pain upon her face.

“The play was very powerful and moving,” said Tenille Jones, one of the audience members. “I think that it will open people’s eyes and make change for the better. I like how the main character, Betty, thought that she had to clean something up to solve the problems, but in the end, it showed that racism is more of a comprehensive problem. It’s not just a one-person problem, it’s a worldwide problem. I was very entertained. It’s a great way to spend an hour and support Black theatre.”

“Gunshot Medley: Part I” started as a project for a program at California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, where Daniel graduated. She presented it in their 2016 New Works Festival and won the chance to go to New York to have a reading of the play and get it published. One of the readers from New York put Daniel in contact with Desean Terry of Collaborative Artists Bloc, a production team that produces performances that explore of cultural identity and promote social change. Terry became the director of “Gunshot Medley: Part I,” giving the play a Black cast, Black director, and Black playwright.

In 2018, Rogue Machine Theatre joined in and brought the production to the stage at the MET Theatre in Santa Monica for a two-week run. “Gun Shot Medley: Part I” also did a two-week run at the Watts Village Theater Company, where tickets were based on a donation of any amount and audience members could register to vote. Rogue Machine Theatre has brought the play back this year to the Electric Lodge. “Gunshot Medley: Part I” runs through August 19. Student tickets are $25.99 and general admission is $39.99. For more information and reservations, call (855) 585-5185 or visit www.collaborativeartistsbloc.org.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Grizzlies make Niele Ivey NBA’s 9th female assistant coach

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff. There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

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Niele Ivey is now an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo: Notre Dame Athletics)

By Los Angeles Sentinel

The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff.

There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

The Grizzlies also announced Monday the hiring of Brad Jones, David McClure, James “Scoonie” Penn, Vitaly Potapenko and Neven Spahija.

Jenkins says he’s thrilled to work with an experienced group of coaches with success at all levels as both players and coaches.

Ivey spent the past 12 seasons at her alma mater with the last four as Notre Dame’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. She helped the Fighting Irish go 385-55 with seven Final Four berths, six appearances in the NCAA title game and the 2018 national championship.

Notre Dame congratulated Ivey on Twitter, saying the Grizzlies hired a good one.

Ivey played in two Final Fours with Notre Dame, including winning the 2001 national championship. She played five seasons in the WNBA before starting her coaching career as an administrative assistant at Xavier in 2005.

Jenkins kept Potapenko (po-TAH-pen-ko) who was an assistant with the Grizzlies last season. He also has worked for Cleveland and Indiana in the NBA and in the G League. Jones was head coach of Memphis’ G League team last season and also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz.

McClure, who played at Duke, spent the past three seasons as assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers and started his coaching career in 2014 as a player development quality assurance assistant for the Spurs. Penn spent the past two seasons as director of player development at Ohio State. Spahija was an assistant with Jenkins in Atlanta between 2014 and 2017.

The Grizzlies also named Jason March head coach of their G League team.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory Offers Free Music Lessons for Youth

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — It’s no secret that when it comes to under-resourced communities in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, arts and music education is usually lacking. But the program director of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory & Youth Symphony, Billy Mitchell, says it’s not because the programs don’t exist.

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Students 6-18 can take free lessons at the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory. (Photo courtesy of WWC)

By Lauren Floyd

It’s no secret that when it comes to under-resourced communities in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, arts and music education is usually lacking. But the program director of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory & Youth Symphony, Billy Mitchell, says it’s not because the programs don’t exist.

“The problem with under resourced areas is that they very seldom get information on all the opportunities that are out there,” says Mitchell. “There are college scholarships and grants and all kinds of things available.”

One of those programs you should know about in the South Central L.A., Watts and Compton area, is the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory, or WWC, which is now preparing for its tenth year of providing free music classes to youth, ages 6-18.

WWC was established in early 2010 at the Watts-Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club in partnership with the Scholarship Performance Preparatory Academy, also known as SAPPA. The program offers high quality music education and exposure into the world of arts which builds self-esteem, discipline and creativity amongst its youth participants.

“We stress learning music correctly at a very early age so you can create any music you want not only creatively, but effectively,” says Mitchell, a self-taught pianist who has had an affinity for music since childhood. Growing up with that natural inclination for music meant that Mitchell says he, like many students, struggled with the technical aspect of practicing and taking lessons.

“I totally get it, I understand why young people are resistant [of music lessons] and why this is kind of difficult. I did the same thing. But later, as I got back into music, I found myself in a professional setting, and I wasn’t prepared.”

WWC Youth Symphony performs at their mid-year recital 2019. (Photo courtesy of WWC.)

WWC Youth Symphony performs at their mid-year recital 2019. (Photo courtesy of WWC.)

Mitchell went back to school to get professionally trained which he says was much more difficult as an adult. Now, Mitchell has instilled this lesson he learned in his outreach to youth.“It’s so important to learn music as a child. So, I brought that message to young people because once you got it as a child…you got it,” says Mitchell.

“I have been judging music competitions for years and I am always disappointed that a lot of my inner-city students, who I know are qualified and talented, are not showing up. And when they do show up, they are not operating at the level that I would expect them to, and the level that I know they can operate at, because they’ve never had the exposure to these kinds of programs.”

The students of WWC are being prepared to reverse these types of disparities in music. Participants attend one hour classes after school, twice a week. They learn to read music and play symphonic string instruments — violin, viola, cello and bass. These satellite programs are designed to be the network that forms the core of the Watts-Willowbrook Youth Symphony, made up of young people from the South Central L.A. and the Watts/Compton communities. Classes are offered at three locations in the Watts/Compton area, including the WLCAC campus on Central Avenue. Classes are completely free with the exception of a $10 registration fee.

Registration for the WWC Fall 2019 session begins Sept. 10. (Photo courtesy of WWC.)

Registration for the WWC Fall 2019 session begins Sept. 10. (Photo courtesy of WWC.)

The WWC program is free through the sponsorship and support of The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Ayrshire Foundation, California Community Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Southern California Edison, The Colburn Foundation, The California Arts Council and the Jerry & Terri Kohl Foundation. Still, Mitchell says as with most inner-city music programs, funding remains a continuous need for WWC.

“We’ve been very fortunate from corporate funding, but we haven’t been so fortunate with community funding which has been an issue with me,” says Mitchell. He doesn’t know why exactly that is, but he says its troubling to see so much funding and attention from celebrities and public figures, being invested elsewhere, while the communities they came from are still struggling.

Regardless, the goal of the program remains focused on enriching the youth of South L.A., Watts and Compton with music.

“My goal is to make sure our kids learn music correctly so that they can have control of their careers and control of their lives. I don’t want my hip-hop artists to go into a studio and the engineer has to tell them that there are three beats there, or four beats there,” says Mitchell.

“In any genre we represent, I want us to know all the technical aspects of it so we can control it.”

WWC’s Fall 2019 session begins September 10. Registration and orientation will take place Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 5PM in the City of Los Angeles “Old Library Building”’ at 1501 E 103rdSt., Los Angeles, CA 90002. Applications are available online at www.sappa.net and you can learn more about WWC at wattswillowbrookconservatory.com.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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