Wave Staff Report
LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles will kick off its annual African American Heritage Month celebration via Zoom at 10 a.m. Feb. 4 with a program honoring popular recording artists while inducting three people into the city’s African American Hall of Fame in the categories of government, health and law.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Board of Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis and Our Authors Study Club will honor recording artists Thelma Houston and the Whispers with the Living Legend Award. CeCe Winans will perform.
In addition, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Dr. John Griffith, president and CEO of Kedren Health Center; and Eric C. Taylor, presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
A Mississippi native, Thelma Houston started out in the 1960s performing gospel music with the Art Reynolds Singers. She then signed to Capitol Records in 1967 and had her first hit song called “Baby Mine.”
She later signed with Motown Records, where she became the label’s first female artist to win a Grammy Award for best R&B female vocal performance for “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
Known as a humanitarian for her charitable causes, particularly her efforts in the battle against AIDS, she has donated her talents to numerous charities including Devine Design for Project Angel Food, AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Minority AIDS Project. She also is active in the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP.
The Whispers began their career in 1963. Twin brothers Walter and Wallace Scott joined with friends Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson and Gordy Harmon to form a local singing group. They perfected their tight harmonies on the street corners of Watts section of Los Angeles and in Bay Area nightclubs.
They began singing together as “the Eden trio” and were renamed the Whispers by Lou Bedell of Dore Records. The group recorded nine singles for the Dore label between 1964 and 1967. Over the last four decades they have recorded seven gold albums, two platinum albums and 12 Top 20 singles.
They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Hall of Fame inductees includes Shirley Weber, who became the first Black to serve as California secretary of state 2020, replacing Alex Padilla, who was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Prior to that, Weber represented the San Diego in the state Assembly for four two-years terms.
Weber received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA, earning her PhD by the age of 26. Prior to receiving her doctorate, she became a professor at San Diego State University at the age of 23. She also taught at Cal State Los Angeles and Los Angeles City College.
She retired from the Department of Africana Studies at San Diego State after 40 years as a faculty member.
Dr. John Griffith came to Kedren Health Center in 1981, serving as chief operating officer of mental health services until 2002, when he became president and CEO.
At Kedren, Dr. Griffith has developed collaborative partnerships with primary care health providers, to offer educational, wellness and recovery services to the underserved South Los Angeles community.
In 2018, Kedren and Charles Drew University embarked on an academic and community health collaboration with students in a graduate medical education program as part of Drew’s residency program.
Judge Eric Taylor has served in the Los Angeles Superior and Municipal Court system for 21 years. He was sworn in as a municipal court judge in 1998, and the Superior Court in 2000.
He was elected assistant presiding judge in 2018 and presiding judge in 2020.
Those wanting to view the Feb. 4 ceremony can tune in at https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1610517666, using the webinar ID of 1610517666 and the passcode 996560
An African American Heritage Month Round Table Discussion on Black Health and Wellness will be conducted via Zoom at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 at https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1603718617 using the meeting ID of 1603718617 and the passcode 528716.
The panel will include ABC7 Eyewitness News Co-anchor Marc Brown, Maulana Karenga, chair of the Africana Studies Department at Cal State Long Beach; Julianne Malveaux, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State Los Angeles; Boris Ricks, director of the Center for Southern California Studies at Cal State Northridge and Francille Rusan Wilson, professor of history, American and woman studies at USC.