Theater group to celebrate legacy of creativity

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Inner City Cultural Center, a longtime hub for artistic creatives, will host an annual fall celebration commemorating its legacy and the birthday of co-founder C. Bernard “Jack” Jackson, at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.

The vision for the nonprofit arts organization belonged to Jackson, a playwright, musician and UCLA dance department pianist and composer who helmed the company. Jackson died in 1996. His co-founder was Dr. J. Alfred Cannon, a UCLA neuropsychiatrist.

Born out of the spirit and aftermath of the Watts Riot in 1965, the Inner City Cultural Center was the place to learn the craft of theater, to star in one of its many productions or watch some great talent on stage during the height of its popularity at its Pico Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue location in the 1960s and 70s.

In those days it was common to see Black Hollywood walking the halls, starring in productions, or teaching classes, including actors Ernie Hudson, Glynn Turman, Ted Lange, George C. Wolfe, George Takei, Beah Richards, Lou Gossett Jr., Paul Winfield, Danny Glover, Samm Art Williams, August Wilson and more.

The Nov. 4 event is being planned in association with CHARTOR Entertainment and the African Grove Institute For the Arts. 

The celebration will feature intimate stories read by members of the Longwood Writers Workshop including Charles Floyd Johnson (managing partner of CHARTOR Entertainment and executive producer of “NCIS”), Denise Nicholas (“Room 222,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Let’s Do It Again”) and Hattie Winston (“Becker,” “Rugrats,” “The Rugrats Movie” and “The Electric Company”).

“I have been a friend of Inner City for a while,” Winston said. “They asked me to participate in honoring C. Bernard Jackson, the company’s longevity, and recognizing it as one of the premier cultural institutes in the country. Of course, I had to say yes.”

Winston said honoring Jackson was a no-brainer.

“He was a leader of cultural enlightenment in this city,” she said. “Inner City was one of the first innovative companies we had and he was the visionary. He made sure African-American artists and actors were being recognized and seen. They’ve done wonderful productions. C. Bernard Jackson is so well respected in the theater. He was a forerunner here in Los Angeles.”

Recognizing the center’s legacy is essential, Winston said.

“Celebrating the legacy is important particularly now in this atmosphere where our history is trying to be erased,” said Winston, who is married to Harold Wheeler, an orchestrator, composer, conductor, record producer, arranger and music director. “It’s important to celebrate them both because it’s an important cultural institution. 

“Right now we have politicians and leaders trying to erase our history. In 2023, they are trying to wipe us out of American history when we made this country. All of the struggles we went through and people are trying to say we didn’t make contributions and that our art doesn’t matter. It’s important to lift up and recognize your own. I’m here to say it does matter.”

Winston said she, Charles Johnson, and Nicholas, all writers, will read pieces they have written personally.

“We will be reading pieces from an upcoming book called, ‘Intimate Stories From The Longwood Writers Workshop,’” said Winston, originally from Mississippi. “I wrote a piece called, ‘Flailing Arms.’ It’s about a little 9-year-old girl who is conflicted with something that happens to her mother. She has to jump in and protect her mother. It takes place in Mississippi. It’s my story. I’m very proud of it.”

In addition to the reading, actor Glynn Turman (“Cooley High,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) will be honored as the 2023 winner of the UCLA/C. Bernard Jackson Bridge Builders Award.

A presentation of the Inner City Essence Award will be made by Duane “Chief Yellow Feather” Shepard, Sr. (“Brother Malcolm X: Reminiscences of a Revolutionary,” “General Hospital”).

The celebration will also honor the center’s first participants in the Performing Arts Legacy project — Christina Avila, JD Hall, Gloria Calomee and L. Martina Young.

There will be musical selections by songstress/pianist Matilda Haywood and a video presentation that will document the organization’s selection as a South Los Angeles cultural treasure.

Presentations will be made by Rosamaria Marquez (Rockrose Gallery), James V. Burks, (Leimert Park Village Theatre Coalition), and Tuesday Conner (Inner City Cultural Center II) who will present the video “An Intimate Evening with Icons.”

Tickets are $25. For information, call 213-234-1717.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at