My first approach into Compton was on a visit to the Dollarhide Senior Center, a Park and Recreation facility tucked off Rosecrans Avenue's auto repair row. The Center's municipal brick building is welcoming and worn with living. Above a display case hangs a photo of Aja Brown, the 32-year-old USC grad who made history as Compton's youngest Mayor. Beyond that tinge of newness, the Center, like most places in South L.A., felt timeless.
The day I visited, the Center's waiting area was a listening post, alight with the fervor and might of an elders' choir in full effect. A few doors down, another group wrapped breakfast service. I had come to visit Anthony Cartwright, the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Compton. Upon entering his office, the first thing that caught my attention were photos of his three college-aged sons. He shared that two of them were on basketball scholarships. I would learn later that his eldest, Bryce, plays pro basketball on the international circuit.
Anthony supervises the dozen parks and sports facilities that represent the city's prime gathering spots. One such facility he's fostered over time, the Lueders Park Community Center, became the traveling Art+Film Lab's physical address from May to June. Reclaimed as a children's park by residents, the Park cools down to the marrow around sunset, when the sea breeze kicks up. Any given day, local kids cannonball into the pool. Teens practice intramural soccer and basketball in a massive indoor gym. The Park's old growth tree trunks offer a base for regulars hanging out. Down the street, an urban ballroom rolls full swing. On Sundays, kids in PJs have breakfast at McDonalds with their dads; others wear their finery to church.
There is a Compton that lifelong residents like Anthony have worked hard to sustain and defend. A number of oral histories, featured here, turned up such stories that run counter to the Compton of pop culture and media infamy. The formerly industrial South L.A. city, whose population recently inched past the "majority Latino" designation, might still be a challenging place to grow up. But not for naught does Compton claim eleven NBA players as place of origin, the Williams sisters, and a world-famous hip-hop legacy. It's a populace serious enough about change to vote in an ambitious mayor.
Anthony, who continues to organize annual camping trips and offer recreation services to thousands of residents, despite recent budget cuts decimating staff capacity to 10 percent, may be an example of the area's tenacity.
In terms of turnout, the Compton Art+Film Lab was one of our more modest ones. The programs were strong, the people who turned up were enthusiastic, but the numbers didn't spike until towards the end.
Last month, the city fulfilled a decades-long promise, and Anthony and the seniors at Dollarhide got a lifetime upgrade. They moved into a state-of-the-art, gleaming new Senior Center building, right next to downtown Compton's Metro Blue line. The Farmer's Market, just a hop away, offers up fresh produce, lunch options, and home-baked pies every Thursday.
When I last phoned Anthony, he shared he had been in a whirlwind; earlier that week, NBC had taped a story on him and his Park and Recreation work. The story airs August 6th, he said, and he had just found out NBC was going to fly him into New York City for a studio interview. "Have you ever been to New York?" I asked. "No, it's my first time," Anthony said. "I can't wait to soak it all in."
The LACMA9 Art+Film Lab descended on its eighth city, Inglewood, on June 27 with a kickoff celebration in the lawn of City Hall. We opened to a lively, eclectic and energetic audience. We presented a visual slideshow of Inglewood artworks submitted by local artists, live music by Buyepongo, and a screening of short animations. The Lab currently operates out of the Inglewood Public Library at 101 W. Manchester Blvd, with one oral history date, July 20, happening in the Beacon Arts Building. At just seven miles from LACMA, Inglewood is super close to Mid-City, Culver City, and of course, LAX. We invite you to check out our line-up of film and video workshops, oral history sessions, and film screenings, as well as the amazing array of public art around the city. After 6 p.m. and on weekends during the Lab's run, the city meters around the Library are suspended and free.
On Friday, July 18 at 7 p.m. in the Library's Waddingham Theater, we'll be hosting a you-better-not-miss screening of amazing independent short films from local and international filmmakers. The films run the gamut to essayistic, experimental, fiction, documentary, and art films. It's an exciting and transportive line-up by a remarkable group of emerging filmmakers, completely worth the trek and traffic. We share below a trailer from "Sunset" by filmmaker John Warren. His beautifully realized film traverses the length of Sunset Boulevard, from PCH to Olvera Street, in a sum expression that feels like a Rosetta Stone of Angeleno culture. We also share a full version of "Power" by filmmaker Haaris Baig, an amplified, experimental take on power and energy resources. Other films include Kate Marks' "Pearl Was Here," Carly Short's "She Look Good," Fabian Euresti's "Everybody's Nuts," "The Seawall" by Mason Richards, and Natasha Mendonca's "Jan Villa,"
- By Hanul Bahm
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