June 30, 2022
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
The name, Earl “Skip” Cooper, is practically synonymous with Black business and one reason is because he has devoted decades to ensuring that African American companies of all sizes prosper and excel in greater Los Angeles.
So when Cooper announced his retirement as president of the Black Business Association of Los Angeles earlier this year, he was met with raised eyebrows and concerned expressions because no one wanted or expected him to step aside as the region’s chief advocate for minority firms.
However, a huge sigh of relief emitted from many people once Cooper clarified that he will still be involved as chairman of the BBA Board of Directors as well as assisting Interim President/CEO Sarah Harris as she takes over the helm.
“It is and always will be a true commitment and my special purpose in life of serving African Americans and business owners, in addition to others,” Cooper said.
“I look forward to assisting the Board in whatever way I can with the transition to building a stronger organization with the commitment to service young African Americans entrepreneurs because they are our future.
My servitude will continue as I transition to the role of president emeritus and chairman of the board.”
The legacy Cooper leaves will endure for years to come. Under his leadership, BBA established strong and strategic relationships with many top U.S. corporations and key legislators throughout the nation. As a result, the organization has developed into a significant influencer in policy decisions affecting businesses in the both the public and private sectors.
Cooper is also responsible for the range of programs, workshops and events that BBA regularly sponsors to help minority enterprises and companies grow along with spotlighting their achievements. Some of the outreach events created by Cooper include the annual presentation of BBA’s Veteran’s Conference, which highlights businesses and services operated by former members of the military; Feed the Community Program, designed to support Black restaurant owners; and the Salute to Black Music, which recognizes vocalists, musicians, executives and people-behind-the scene in the music industry.
Although he’s not one to sing his own praises, others are quick to share their opinion of Cooper’s contribution to the Black community. Congresswoman Maxine Waters are among those who expressed appreciation to the president emeritus.
“Skip Cooper, a long-time friend, has been the integral and leading voice of the Black Business Association in this region. He has always believed that we should fight for our access to capital, that we should organize to defeat efforts to undermine our success, and that we should enhance and exemplify our rights as legitimate businesspeople to provide contracting services across California,” said Waters.
“Thank you, Skip, for your continued service to our communities and making sure our Black businesses are elevated, respected, and given opportunities to compete and be successful in our modern and diverse economy,” added the congresswoman.
Alluding to Cooper’s commitment to Black businesses, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman of the Brotherhood Crusade and executive publisher of The L.A. Sentinel, noted, “Skip is a one-of a kind brother.
The tireless work he has invested into promoting and advancing Black businesses throughout Los Angeles and throughout all of California is second to none.
“Whether it was at the Brotherhood Crusade or through my work in real estate or here at the Sentinel, Skip has always been someone who I have counted on, trusted to help advance the business of Black people and back the Black community,” Bakewell said.
A native of Oakland, California, Cooper’s journey as the BBA’s top leader actually began as a youngster. From the time he was in the third grade, he realized that enjoyed helping people and sincerely believed that God would use him to serve others in a big way.
By the age of 19, Cooper was convinced of God’s “special purpose” for his life and even while serving in the U.S. Army and fighting in Vietnam, he maintained his belief that God had a plan for his life.
After the military, he earned A.A and B.A. degrees, and then relocated to Los Angeles in 1972, where he enrolled in graduate school at USC.
“While at USC, I worked as a student intern on 85th and Broadway and that was when I knew my ‘special purpose’ involved helping Black people and I told God that that I really wanted to help Black businesses,” recalled Cooper.
And certainly, he has worked to fulfill his ‘special purpose,’ advocating for Black business enterprise from City Hall to the White House.
In addition to persuading decision makers in all arenas to do business with Black companies, Cooper also mentors young entrepreneurs and shares his knowledge and resources with others whenever the opportunity arises.
While he has retired from leading BBA, Cooper still fulfills his ‘special purpose’ of serving others, especially youth and young adults.
“Our future is young people and we have to do all that we can to develop young people and help them take advantage of new opportunities,” insisted Cooper.
“We must help them with the acquisition of land and property, not just residential but also industrial, commercial and rural property in terms of really being a voice in America.”
As part of bringing that pledge to fruition, Cooper has promised to assist BBA Interim President Harris in engaging a new generation of business owners.
“It is my intention to offer all support to Sarah in a way that affords her the opportunity to lead without encumbrances,” Cooper said.
“I look forward to assisting the Board in whatever way I can with the transition to building a stronger organization with the commitment to service young African Americans entrepreneurs because they are our future.”
June 30, 2022
LAWT News Service
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion from Chair Holly J. Mitchell and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn on June 28, that returns Bruce’s Beach to the great grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce.
The action marks the first time in the history of Los Angeles County that land will be returned to Black descendants whose ancestors were robbed of their property and generational wealth due to unjust laws and practices rooted in systemic racism.
“Bruce’s Beach has always been so much more than a scenic location to enjoy the California coast. It was a refuge for Black families who came from across the state when racist laws wouldn’t allow for any other safe beach going options. It holds the memories of countless Black families, the deep pain of multi-generational loss, and the hope that comes from facing the heinous acts of our past and having the courage to do what is right today,” said Mitchell, representing the second district.
“I am deeply honored to stand with the Board in completing this unprecedented return of land to the descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce. Manhattan Beach which was previously part of the fourth district and is now in the second district, has a new chapter in our shared history that exemplifies how we can begin to meaningfully address long-standing injustices in this county and nation.”
The transfer agreement is the culmination of years of advocacy and has taken several steps to set the county on the path to legally return the land. This included the Board of Supervisors passing Hahn’s motion co-authored by Mitchell to support Senate Bill 796 - authored by Senator Steve Bradford, SB 796, codified into law the County’s ability to transfer this public property back to private ownership.
“It is never too late to right a wrong. Bruce’s Beach was taken nearly a century ago, but it was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who would, almost certainly, be millionaires today if they had been allowed to keep their beachfront property” said Hahn, representing the fourth district.
“By returning this land to their great grandsons, the Bruce family will finally have the opportunity to start rebuilding the generational wealth that was denied them for decades.
This will be the first land transfer of its kind, but it cannot be the last. I hope we set a precedent that governments across this nation will follow.”
The land being returned to the legal heirs of the Bruce family are lots 8 and 9 of Peck’s Manhattan Beach Tract, an estimated 7,000 square feet that has been appraised at a value of $21 million.
These lots are currently being used by L.A. County Fire Department as a lifeguard training facility. The motion authorizes the County to lease back of the property its lifeguard training facility is located on to the Bruce Family, LLC annually for $413,000.
The Bruce’s family operated a thriving resort, welcoming to Black patrons when legal segregation kept Black families from accessing California public beaches up until 1929 when the City of Manhattan Beach condemned the property.
Through government actions, the Bruce’s family lost their land, business, their home and generational wealth.
This is a historic moment for the county in its process of addressing current and historic prejudice under its Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion initiative.
“This is a day we weren’t sure would ever come, the return of our family’s property happened thanks to the hard work of many, many people.
It means the world to us, and we know how important this is to people across the country. But it is also bittersweet. My great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce sacrificed to open a business that gave Black people a place to gather and socialize, and Manhattan Beach took it from them because of the color of their skin” said Anthony Bruce, spokesman for the family.
“It destroyed them financially. It destroyed their chance at the American Dream. I wish they could see what has happened today. We hope this opens people’s eyes to a part of American history that isn’t talked about enough, and we think it’s a step toward trying to right the wrongs of the past.”
“I am extremely proud to have authored Senate Bill 796 that allowed the County of L.A. to transfer the Bruce’s Beach land back to its rightful heirs, the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce. I commend Supervisors Janice Hahn and Holly Mitchell’s leadership in standing up to address racial injustice and having the courage to right historical wrongdoing,” said Senator Bradford.
“The county’s plan will accomplish my legislation’s objective of rectifying the historic injustice that was done to the Bruce family. This will allow the Bruce family to realize the generational wealth which they have been deprived for generations, simply for being Black in America! We cannot change the injustices done to our people in the past, but we owe it to the future generations to eliminate structural and systemic racism that still exist today.”
June 30, 2022
By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has re-opened the possibility of a lawsuit filed by Mark Ridley-Thomas supporters to sue over the selection of Herb Wesson as a temporary member of the Los Angeles City Council, throwing the status of Los Angeles’ 10th Council District back into question.
Bonta issued an opinion granting the court challenge by the Rev. William Smart of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California (SCLC-SC) to Wesson’s appointment. Pastor Smart, Joy Atkinson, Kwame Cooper and Harry McElroy (collectively known as the Registered Voters of District 10) have argued that Wesson is ineligible to serve as an interim replacement for Councilman Ridley-Thomas, who is fighting federal corruption charges and was suspended from his post last year.
In an opinion issued on June 22, Bonta said, “We conclude that substantial questions of law exist as to whether Wesson’s appointment to the Los Angeles City Council was lawful…Further, the public interest will be served by allowing the proposed [legal challenge] to proceed.” John Sweeney, an attorney for the SCLC-SC, said he and his clients “will decide in the next day whether to file for a temporary restraining order seeking Wesson’s removal.”
Herb Wesson, who honorably served as the councilman of the 10th District for more than 15 years, but was excluded from running again do to term limits, was appointed unanimously by the Los Angeles City Council to serve as the interim councilmember following Ridley-Thomas’ suspension from the City Council after his federal indictment.
Sweeney, who is also the attorney for Registered Voters of District 10, said, “We believe that he is illegally holding office. And that’s why we wanted to keep the status quo and put no one in there until Mark Ridley-Thomas’ criminal trial came around.”
Many 10th District citizens found this hard to accept, since Ridley-Thomas was originally set to go to trial in August 2022, but now the trial has been moved November 2022 and could potentially get moved again.
“Herb Wesson has done a good job representing the district during Mark’s absence. Not having Herb in office until Mark’s trial is over leaves the district with no representation and us without a voice for at least a year,” observed one longtime District 10 resident.
Wesson said he had been enjoying retirement, spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren before being called back into service. “When there was a need for someone to temporarily step in and keep the district running, there was no way I could say no to my neighbors and friends that I love so much,” he said.
Under the L.A. City Charter, council members are limited to three four-year terms. However, they can also serve a portion of another official’s unexpired term if that official steps down ahead of schedule.
The fate of the 10th District has been in limbo since Ridley-Thomas, who was elected as the district’s councilmember in November of 2020, was indicted on bribery, conspiracy and fraud charges in October 2021, for alleged crimes which occurred during his time as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Ridley-Thomas, along with his co-defendant, USC Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn, is accused of steering L.A. County funds to USC in return for favors.
Ridley-Thomas has pleaded not guilty and has vowed to fight these charges to the very end to clear his name.
Registered voters of District 10 filed an initial lawsuit to stop the Wesson appointment, have Ridley-Thomas reinstated to the City Council, and reverse the City Controller’s decision to suspend his pay and benefits. The court ruled that the city was within their right to suspend Ridley-Thomas as well as suspend his pay and benefits.
However, Judge Strobel ruled that the decision concerning Wesson’s appointment, which exceeds the city policy regarding term limits, needed to be decided by the Office of State Attorney General Rob Bonta. In their legal filings, the city’s lawyers argued that any challenge to Wesson’s ability to serve in public office requires a “quo warranto” action, which requires the consent or involvement of the attorney general.
The Council voted to suspend Ridley-Thomas following his indictment and Council President Nury Martinez appointed Ridley-Thomas’ Chief of Staff Karly Katona to serve as the caretaker for the district until the end of 2021.
This decision created a lot of complaints from residents of the 10th district who saw this “caretaker” title as leaving them without a voting representative to weigh in on budget decisions or re-districting matters, which were going on at the time of Ridley-Thomas’s suspension.
In February, the Council voted to approve Wesson as the district’s voting representative until Dec. 31, 2022.
Under this plan, if Ridley-Thomas is found not-guilty or the federal indictment were to be dropped, Wesson would simply step down clearing the way for Ridley-Thomas to return to his elected office.
Several residents of the 10th district believe that Wesson’s appointment was the most reasonable move and provided the district with a representative who knew the district and the issues of the district better than any other possible candidate.
It also ensured that whoever the appointed councilmember was could not run in the next council election either in 2024 or in a special election if the Ridley-Thomas case dragged on or if he were to be found guilty.
As of Sentinel press time, Rev. Smart and the group calling themselves Registered Voters of District 10 had not made a decision on continuing the fight against the Wesson appointment.
Council President Nury Martinez, who led the efforts to appoint Wesson as the interim councilman and was ratified by a unanimous vote of her fellow councilmembers, said she is “determined” to give the district representation.
Also, she has defended the council’s decision on numerous occasions stressing that she had met with numerous community leaders and organization leading up to Wesson’s appointment and said residents in the district had “overwhelmingly suggested Herb Wesson as the most qualified person to serve the district as the interim councilmember.”
June 23, 2022
By Betti Halsell
Assistant Managing Editor
Damien Carter, better known as SlaCienega, loves Los Angeles. He’s dedicated many waking moments to uplifting the collective community as a whole. In honor of the L.A. Sentinel’s Black Men’s History Month celebration, SlaCienega shared his process and vision of what it means to lift as one climbs in an exclusive interview.
Los Angeles holds significant weight in SlauCienega’s heart, he stated, “For me, Los Angeles means the world. It means everything to me. it's spread out--which allows freedom.”
He continued, “I grew up in Los Angeles, I'm from here. Freedom allows you to sort of express yourself, it allows you a space to create, and it’s also inspiring--the city (L.A.) in itself is inspiring.”
SlauCienega said, “From the people to the landscape, the weather and everything that comes with it--is just being here. It's a special place, I feel like no two days are the same. And again, creativity is how I see Los Angeles. There's so much to aspire to here.”
The multi-layered curator also focuses on uplifting the community.
He has examined his habits and journey to reflect on what is possible for those who are inspired by his accomplishments. “
On the day of the Foot Locker grand opening, SlauCienga connected Dreamers Youth Foundation to the shoe expert company.
As previously stated, Dreamers Youth were welcomed by Foot Locker Crenshaw for a photography contest, partnering with the acclaimed L.A. visual artist.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Foot Locker Crenshaw organized with Dreamers Youth and renowned Crenshaw-based artist SlauCienga and had many young artists
display their artwork around the store.
“I teamed up and brought in Dreamers Youth Foundation and had a photo competition for the youth of South Central--to express themselves, to give them a different aspect of life and creativity,” SlauCienega said.
The L.A.-based artist began by simply shooting pictures and posting on Instagram with his iPhone.
His name and recognition grew with the popularity of his work.
“What I'm most proud of is that I've stuck to the script I've been on for years and years and years,” SlauCienega shared.
SlauCienega has worked with Foot Locker and is currently immersing himself in a project with Adidas.
Reflecting on the legacy that he would leave behind, the artist stated, “I want to leave behind that you can be authentically you -- without forcing yourself on people.
I want people to know that you can get the job done by being quiet, you don't have to be loud and boisterous and throw yourself on the people and force them to support you.”
In closing, SlauCienega said, “I feel like I want people to know--I want to leave behind that I did the work, before anything, I did the work.
And as a result of that, great things happen.
I truly believe that hard work does not always pay off. But in this case, it is paying off.
“So, I just want people to know that you can do the work and it doesn't pay off -- I hate to say it and I hate to be that guy.
But again, it does not always pay off,” he noted.
“I just want people to know that --do the work and then see where it takes you. It's better to do the work and try than not do it and fail indefinitely.”