By Ray Richardson
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A funding program that shifted $4.2 million away from the Los Angeles Police Department allowed various organizations in Council District 8 to maintain their staffs, stay open for longer hours, expand career opportunities for ex-offenders and provide additional training for aspiring filmmakers.
Those are just a handful of the benefits generated by the Reimagine Fund Community Grant, which awarded funds ranging from $15,000 to $75,000 to enhance the services of 57 selected organizations in the South Los Angeles area.
The organizations were celebrated at a luncheon event hosted by 8th District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 22.
“We wanted this investment to be more than the resources that were given out,” Harris-Dawson said of the grant. “We wanted to strengthen the organizations already doing the work and help them grow … and help them stand up with the best nonprofits in the region.”
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure J, which dedicated no less than 10% of the county’s locally generated, unrestricted funding to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through community investments such as youth development, job training, small business development, supportive housing services and alternatives to incarceration.
The redirection of funds gave much-needed resources for organizations providing services ranging from food distribution to domestic violence support.
“One of the things we’ve been able to do with the funds we received is continue saving lives,” said Skipp Townsend, chief executive officer of 2nd Call, a South Los Angeles organization that provides construction training and other services for ex-offenders and former gang members. “We’ve also been able to add more staff and buy the necessary gear for guys doing their construction work … boots, hard hats, gloves, whatever they need.”
Townsend said several 2nd Call participants are working on the Destination Crenshaw project and the Intuit Dome, the Clippers’ new arena under construction in Inglewood.
A committee for the Reimagine Fund Community Grant selected the 57 organizations in February 2022 after a detailed application process. Funds have been distributed over the past year, culminating with the luncheon celebration.
Organizations devoted to health, wellness and education received a combined $500,000. Another $450,000 went to organizations promoting youth development.
Since the funds were distributed to the organizations, data from the Reimagine Fund Community Grant indicated that more than 1,200 District 8 residents received groceries for five consecutive months.
At least 28 survivors of domestic violence were given temporary housing and provided with legal assistance. Fifty-five survivors of human trafficking received counseling and peer support services, and 30 community residents were able to start their own businesses.
“We knew we had to do something besides sending money to the police,” Harris-Dawson said. “It was important to get this money to the people who could really benefit from it. I’m excited about what we’re going to see from these organizations 10-15 years from now.”
While speaking at the luncheon, Hiram Sims, executive director of the Community Literature Initiative, mentioned that some of the organization’s participants were at a nearby location attending the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books to “sign the books they had completed with us.”
Community Literature Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the next generation of authors, was one of several organizations that received a grant to increase opportunities in the arts and literary field.
“We’ve been able to help authors with all phases of their books … from the writing to layout and page design and publishing,” Sims said. “The additional money has also allowed us to increase our hours. Folks can come by after work or other obligations if they need to.”
Sandra Evers-Manley, president of the Black Hollywood Education Resource Center, expressed gratitude for the ability to expand field trips for young participants. One of Evers-Manley’s missions throughout the 29-year existence of the organization has been to take students to studios and movie lots.
“We want Hollywood to know that we have talent in our community,” Evers-Manley said. “We take students on location so they can see firsthand what writers and directors do and what a grip does. Grants like this help us create filmmakers who can tell our story.”
Evers-Manley said the grant also will help her organization donate approximately 20,000 books to elementary schools in the 8th District.
Other selected organizations for grants included Black Women For Wellness, Sanctuary of Hope, Bridge Builders Foundation, 24th Street Theater Company, Westmont Counseling Center, AMAAD Institute, Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, Project Peacemakers Inc., Mothers In Action, Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Education Program Inc., Los Angeles Black Worker Center and Black Business Association-Los Angeles.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.