Longtime L.A. journalist, Betty Pleasant, has died

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Wave Staff Report

Former Los Angeles Wave columnist Betty Jean Pleasant, a longtime L.A. journalist whose “Soulvine” column defined the newspaper’s political and urban affairs coverage for years, died Nov. 30 following a long illness, a family member confirmed.

Pleasant, 79, died at Miracle Assisted Living Facility in Winnetka, following a five-year bout with dementia, her sister, Christine Wheeler, said.

No cause of death was immediately released. Memorial services are still being planned, Wheeler said.

Wheeler said her older sister was perceived by many as tough, but she was actually less tough, and more direct.

“She was seen as tough — she had to be tough sometimes because she was the oldest of five siblings — but she was a very compassionate person,” Wheeler said. “She was just to the point.”

Local community activist Najee Ali, a longtime friend and supporter of Pleasant, said the career journalist was fiercely committed to watchdog reporting and to holding elected officials accountable.

“Betty Pleasant was one of our community’s most feared journalists [because she] spoke truth to power,” Ali said. “Her Soulvine weekly commentary was always a hot topic of discussion in our community.

“We will always remember and love Betty because she loved our community.”

Pleasant started her journalism career in high school and later worked part-time as youth editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel. After studying at East Los Angeles College and USC, she went on to a long career at the Sentinel, ultimately becoming its managing editor. She later left the Sentinel and joined The Wave as author of the “Soulvine” urban affairs column, which ultimately defined her career as an advocacy journalist.

Former Wave editor Jarrette Fellows, who worked with Pleasant at the Sentinel and the Compton Herald, said Pleasant’s passing leaves a huge void that may never be filled.

“Betty exhausted her pen and wrote truth to power until she could no longer do so,” Fellows, now editor of Metropolis Newspapers, said in a Facebook post. “The [journalism] industry will be less vigilant without the mind, the pen and the personality of Betty Pleasant. So long, comrade.”

One of Pleasant’s editors at the Wave, Andre Herndon, said Pleasant’s often gruff exterior belied a warm, compassionate spirit.

“I love this woman. A much gentler soul than her pen or presentation ever let on,” Herndon, now deputy chief of staff for Mayor Eric Garcetti, said in a Facebook post. “In our last conversation, she cussed me out and told me that she loved me. Huge loss.”

Pleasant is survived by two sons, Russell and Ian Miller; two sisters, Francine and Christine Wheeler, and two grandchildren, Mason and Kayln Miller. 

For updates on memorial services – and to read more about Pleasant’s life and career— visit www.wavepublication.com.

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