By Shirley Hawkins
LEIMERT PARK — A South Los Angeles nonprofit organization used a celebration honoring the birthday of Malcolm X to again call on the Los Angeles City Council to rename a section of Crenshaw Boulevard in honor of the African-American Muslin minister and human rights activist who was assassinated in 1965.
“We have 5,000 signatures and all of the businesses along Crenshaw Boulevard have signed the petition,” said Torrence Brannon-Reese, founder and CEO of the nonprofit FA-MLI, a life mastery and mentoring program for youth. “Now we need eight out of 15 council members to vote on the name change.”
Brannon-Reese has been lobbying to get a section of Crenshaw renamed to honor Malcolm X for the past 28 years.
He spoke during the start of the 17th Malcolm X Festival of Arts May 21, a celebration of unity that came two days after Malcolm X birthday. It was the first time the festival had been held since 2019, following a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The festival was held at several venues including the Barbara Morrison’s Performing Arts Center and the World Stage under the theme “We Shall Overcome by Any Means Necessary.”
The festival featured documentary films, live performances, poetry, a fashion show, a live reggae concert and a symposium on mentoring youth.
Speakers during the day included former City Councilwoman and current congressional candidate Jan Perry; child psychiatrist Dr. Umar Johnson; Eric Strong, program director for See a Man be a Man; FA-MLI executive consultant Ashley “Perky” Perkins; FA-MLI advisory member LaDonna Hightower and Kimberly Grigsby.
“As we know, Malcolm wound up in prison at age 20 where he served seven years and at the age of 27 was released,” Brandon-Reese said. “He then entered the Nation of Islam, which gave him direction, discipline and purpose.
“This festival is not only about honoring Malcolm X, the human rights advocate, but he stands as an inspiration for our male youth who must evolve from childhood to grow into manhood. To do that, they must survive, become educated and seek greatness in their lives.”
Brannon-Reese, who also is the founder of the youth mentoring groups See a Man, Be a Man and From Princess to Queen, has been mentoring and empowering youth at Locke High School for nine years.
“Our stellar youth life mastery program, See a Man Be a Man, under the umbrella of our 30-year-old nonprofit agency, FA-MLI Inc., is laser focused on doing all we can do to ensure that young Black males have the best chance possible at success in life,” he added.
FA-MLI stands for Foundation for Arts, Mentoring, Leadership and Innovation.
“Eighty percent of Black men are not being raised by their fathers,” he added.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.