August 17, 2023
By Denver Mackey
Clarence Avant, lovingly known as “The Black Godfather,” was called home to rest on August 13, at the age of 92. One of Black music’s most extraordinary executives, Avant was renowned for his business acumen, industry expertise, philanthropic efforts, and social justice advocacy.
A statement released by his children, Nicole and Alexander, and son-in-law, Ted Sarandos, said, in part, “Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come.
The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.
“Top artists and executives like Quincy Jones, Jay Z, Whitney Houston, Pharell Williams, Lionel Richie, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Sean Combs, L.A. Reid, Suzanne de Passe, Kenny ‘Baby Face’ Edmonds, Jon Platt, Irving Azoff, Snoop Dogg, Reginald Hudland, Benny Medina, and Queen Latifah all credit Avant for his inspiration and guidance,'' the statement said.
Avant’s passing motivated recording artists, elected officials, community leaders and more to commend his influential impact in the entertainment, sports, and political arenas. Tributes to Avant’s legacy were expressed by former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, Mayor Karen Bass, Motown founder Berry Gordy, legendary musician Quincy Jones, NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Jones, and many others.
Accolades were also extended by close friends and colleagues in the battle for civil rights including Danny J. Bakewell, Sr, executive publisher of Bakewell Media; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president/CEO of Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade where Avant served as Board Chairman; and Earl “Skip” Cooper II, chairman emeritus of the Black Business Association.
Before becoming the acclaimed manager, facilitator, and advisor to music legends such as Quincy Jones and Bill Withers, Avant’s life began on February 25, 1931, in the small town of Climax, North Carolina. After attending his early school years in Greensboro, North Carolina, Avant left home at age 15 and moved to New Jersey to live with his aunt and cousin. In his early 20s, he began working as a manager at Teddy P’s Lounge.
Through his work at Teddy P’s, his career was launched after he met several musicians and executives. Also, Avant became a mentee of Joseph G. “Joe” Glaser, manager of Louis Armstrong, and applied what he learned from Glaser to his career.
With the knowledge gained from Glaser, Avant soon became music manager of many artists including R&B singer Little Willie John, jazz singers Sarah Vaughn, Kim Weston, Luiz Bonfa, Wynton Kelly, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Thomas, rock and roll artists Tom Wilson, jazz producer Creed Taylor, jazz musician Jimmy Smith and Argentine, and pianist-composer Lalo Schifrin.
Avant went on to establish his own business, Avant Garde Enterprises in 1962, opening offices on the East and West coasts to accommodate the growing work of his clientele.
While in New York, Avant served as an adviser, board member, and executive of National Association of Television and Radio Announcers and was a consultant to PlayTape. In 1966, Avant went on to establish Sussex Productions, Inc., an independent record production firm featuring Johnny Nash, Terry Bryant, Billy Woods, and the Judge and the Jury.
A year later, Avant would move from Manhattan to Beverly Hills to work at Venture Records, the space for the soul acts act MGM Records, Inc., where he spearheaded the first joint venture between an African American artists and major record company.
After being shut down by MGM, Avant remained in Los Angeles and founded companies Sussex Records, Tabu, and Avant Garde Broadcasting and later bought the first African American owned FM radio station in Los Angeles.
Sussex and Tabu featured many well-known artists along the likes of Bill Withers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and the S.O.S Band. In the 1990s, Avant become a patron to many Black owned radio stations throughout Los Angeles as well as headed Motown after Berry Gordy sold the company.
Not only was Avant immersed into the music industry, but he was also a major figure in the sports industry. Avant was a main facilitator in making lucrative commercial deals and producing primetime television specials featuring sports legends like Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, and Henry Aaron.
Clarence Avant was not only a music and entertainment mogul. He was a fierce advocate for Black people and those less fortunate. He served for over two decades as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade. Under Avant’s time as Board Chairman, he and Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. built the Brotherhood Crusade into Southern California’s largest non-profit institution providing technical assistance, financial support and other services to thousands of community residents and providing millions of dollars in funding to local community organizations and programs.
Avant along with his wife, Jacquie, were annual attendees at the Brotherhood Crusade’s Pioneers of Black Achievement Dinners where Avant along with his good friends, Don Cornelius and Danny Bakewell, Sr., transformed the gala into the most prestigious event in all of Black Los Angeles.
He was also a big supporter of Skip Cooper and the Los Angeles Black Business Association. Avant often lent his talent and resources to the organization to ensure that whatever endeavors the association hosted that it was successful and able to serve its mission of helping build and expand Black Business throughout the city.
In addition, “The Black Godfather” was always an advocate for those in need of help and fought for what’s right, even when he wasn’t trying to. No story exemplifies the honor and nobility of Clarence Avant more than the saga of Sixto Rodriguez, a Mexican American folk singer signed to Avant’s Tabu Records.
Originally, Rodriguez and his music were not very popular here in the United States; however, the fight to end apartheid in South Africa was what Sixto sang about.
His music became a cultural classic, selling millions of records underground in South Africa even though his music was banned by the government and illegal for citizens to own.
The account of Sixto and his music was eventually told in the documentary, “Searching for Sugarman,” which propelled the artist into a life of fame and birthed a cult following that originally eluded him. The resulting fame combined with the fight for freedom and an end to apartheid also justified Avant’s belief in Rodriguez’s star power.
The Associated Press reported another example of Avant’s skill in recognizing potential stars. AP wrote that Avant called former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young when Young was running for Congress in Georgia.
“He said, ‘In Georgia, you’re running for Congress?’” Young later told CNN. “He said, ‘Well, if you’re crazy enough to run, I’m crazy enough to help you.’” Avant, whom Young had never met, brought in Isaac Hayes and other entertainers for a benefit with 30,000 attending in the rain. Young added, “And he never sent us a bill.”
Clarence Avant also served as an adviser and worked in official and unofficial capacity for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.
Avant earned several commendations in the years to follow. In 2016, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2018 received the President’s Merit Award as a Grammy Icon at the Clive Davis Pre Grammy-Gala in Los Angeles.
He was presented with the Ahmet Ertegun award in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 alongside notable inductees such as Bill Withers and was recognized by Vice President Harris and former President Obama.
Avant was married to his late wife Jacqueline “Jacquie” Alberta Gray and leaves behind two children, Nicole, and Alexander. Nicole Avant is a former U.S. ambassador, political adviser, and film producer, and is married to Ted Sarandos of Netflix. His son, Alex Avant, is an agent, producer and actor based in Los Angeles.
Executive Editor Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., Managing Editor Cora Jackson-Fossett, Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this article.
August 17, 2023
LAWT News Service
Los Angeles County has launched Pathway Home, a major expansion of its efforts to resolve encampments, with a successful operation in unincorporated Lennox that helped 59 people move inside.
The Pathway Home encampment resolution program, which includes recreational vehicles or RVs, is just one component of the ongoing, multi-pronged response to the homelessness crisis launched under the emergency declared by the Board of Supervisors in January.
The program, which will roll out in other communities of LA County in the months ahead, will partner closely with local jurisdictions.
The first Pathway Home encampment resolution, in unincorporated Lennox, took place from August 9 through August 11 and was conducted in collaboration with the Office of Supervisor Holly Mitchell along with officials serving Lennox and the Cities of Inglewood and Hawthorne. This operation focused on a cluster of longstanding encampments —including one dubbed “The Dead End”— beside or beneath the 405 Freeway, near Los Angeles International Airport. In all, 59 people were supported to come indoors, 50 of whom chose to move into a hotel administered through Pathway Home, while nine others entered other forms of interim housing. Pathway Home also supported housing 26 pets, the removal of seven RVs, and the cleanup and removal of tents, trash and other items from the site.
The launch of Pathway Home comes as the County is also partnering closely and successfully with the City of Los Angeles on its own encampment resolution program, Inside Safe.
“Pathway Home is part of an urgent mobilization that reflects an all-hands-on deck approach to scale up and fast-track proven solutions to reduce unsheltered homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative Director Cheri Todoroff, whose team within the Chief Executive Office coordinated the operation.
Supervisors lauded the launch of Pathway Home, which will help people living on the streets come indoors by offering them a more diverse array of immediate options for interim housing along with a comprehensive suite of wraparound services, with the goal of helping them achieve stability and ultimately move into permanent housing.
“The homelessness crisis requires an urgent and singular focus on getting every person—a regardless of how they are living on the streets—connected to long-term housing and the supportive services they need to stay housed. I am proud that the County’s RV Encampment Pilot is one of the key components of Pathway Home. This is critical for our unincorporated communities that remain heavily impacted by vehicular homelessness,” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, 2nd District. “By centralizing the County’s homelessness outreach and solutions under one umbrella so key partners across County departments and city jurisdictions are working together with the power of the emergency order, Pathway Home can help us significantly address this crisis.”
“Los Angeles County is once again demonstrating its steadfast commitment to addressing the crisis on our streets,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, 1st District. “With Pathway Home, we’re using every tool at our disposal, including emergency powers and Measure H funding, to resolve homeless encampments by offering better alternatives. These include a hotel room they can immediately stay in, supportive services to help them get back on their feet, and rental subsidies to help them afford an apartment of their own. Our local cities and unincorporated communities are crucial to this effort, and I thank them for their partnership.”
“Our declaration of a state of emergency regarding homelessness allows us to move faster and cut through red tape to bring services and shelter to our unhoused neighbors,” said Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, 3rd District. “Pathway Home expands on the County’s work to provide coordinated care—including mental health and substance use supports—for unincorporated communities and smaller cities. We are focused on delivering the full breadth of intensive services available in the County—made possible through Measure H—to unhoused residents so that they can heal and transform their lives.”
“This new strategy needs to build on what we have learned from both Project Roomkey and Inside Safe so that we can more effectively address encampments in neighborhoods across the County outside of the City of Los Angeles," said Board Chair and Supervisor Janice Hahn, 4th District. “Many encampments have become tight-knit communities and we are going to have a better chance at convincing people to come inside if we can bring entire encampments inside together.”
"One of Pathway Home's biggest strengths is its ability to harness the power of multiple entities so that they work in unison,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, 5th District. “Helping individuals who are homeless requires careful planning and a wide array of support services along with housing options. I'm glad to see that those components are all part of Pathway Home's program design. Helping our homeless living on our streets isn't easy. It takes persistence and consistency. As I've said all along, the best approaches apply collaborative and coordinated efforts. Pathway Home will be an example of this."
In addition to the Office of Supervisor Mitchell, unincorporated Lennox, and the Cities of Inglewood and Hawthorne, the County’s partners in the first Pathway Home encampment resolution included the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA); the County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health, Public Works, Sheriff, and Animal Care and Control; the nonprofit providers Catholic Charities - St. Margaret’s Center, Mental Health America LA, Harbor Interfaith, St. Joseph Center, and PATH; and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and California Highway Patrol (CHP).
August 03, 2023
LAWT News Service
The American Association for University Women (AAUW) has awarded a record $6.3 million to women scholars and community organizations. The awards were given to 285 fellows and grantees to advance educational and professional opportunities for women and girls.
“We refuse to let women’s access to higher education be undone by the Supreme Court,” said AAUW CEO Gloria L. Blackwell. “In the wake of its recent rulings that reduce access to higher education and financial security for women—especially women of color—AAUW’s fellowships and grants have never been more important.”
The fellowships and grants program is a cornerstone of AAUW’s commitment to easing the growing burden of student debt, which disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color. The ability to pay off that debt is hampered by a lifelong pay gap that affects women in nearly every profession. AAUW’s awards decrease student debt, allowing women to focus on pursuing their educational and career aspirations.
AAUW is one of the largest funders of graduate women’s education and, since 1888, has provided more than $140 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to 13,000 women from 150 countries.
Past awardees include luminaries such as professor and journalist Melissa Harris-Perry, Ph.D.; Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Judith Resnik, PhD.; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ph.D., director-general of the World Trade Organization; and Claudine Gay, Ph.D., the newly named president of Harvard University.
“Our alumnae have risen to the top of virtually every field and discipline, and this year’s award recipients will continue to make us extremely proud,” Blackwell said. “I’m so encouraged when I see the remarkable talent, intellect, and ambition in this class of awardees. But most of all, I’m inspired by their determination to create positive change.”
Applications for AAUW fellowships and grants open on August 1 each year; application deadlines vary by program. Learn more about at https://www.aauw.org/resources/programs/fellowships-grants/current-opportunities/.
August 03, 2023
LAWT News Service
“Staff the Front Lines” bus tour arrives in Los Angeles on Saturday, August 5.
The campaign, launched by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, aims to recruit talented, diverse and dedicated people to fill the 833,000 job openings in state and local governments nationwide.
Both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County have thousands of vacancies due to massive retirements of the baby boomer demographic.
The AFSCME initiative will address this crisis through hiring events, legislative advocacy, extensive partnership building and a robust digital marketing strategy.
“We all deserve to live in thriving communities with clean drinking water, safe roads, strong public schools, and good health care. But right now, our nurses, school bus drivers, 911 dispatchers, corrections officers and other public service workers are on the front lines of a staffing crisis that is threatening their ability to do their jobs,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
“AFSCME members know our communities best, and that’s why we’re launching the ‘Staff the Front Lines’ bus tour. By working together, we can fix this problem.”
The initiative also establishes a national Job Training and Development Center to build a sustainable talent pipeline into public service and address structural barriers to entry and advancement. The bus will make stops in communities across the country, where community leaders will host job fairs to recruit new talent, listening sessions with public service workers and professional development events.
“There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to solve this crisis, but we can start by prioritizing and listening to the public service workers who have dedicated their careers to serving their communities,” said Saunders.
“Public service jobs are often good union jobs, providing better wages, benefits, retirement security and safer working conditions. It is also rewarding work where people can make a difference.”
The bus tour will stop in New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia.
To learn more about City of L.A. job openings, lacity.gov/jobs. For details about L.A. County jobs, visit hr.lacounty.gov.