L.A. Legends: Charlotta Bass, The California Eagle

When you write for justice in Los Angeles or any major city, you can bet handily that Black communities did it first, as shown by the work of Charlotta Bass, photographed here circa 1929 at The California Eagle’s printing shop, which was once located at 1607 East 103rd street in Watts.

Bass was the sole editor-in-chief of The California Eagle, which was originally known as The Owl; The Owl had been founded by John J. Neimore, a Black man originally from Texas who started The Owl in Los Angeles in 1879 while still in his teen years. That is, two whole years before even the L.A. Times itself was established!

The California Eagle‘s printing shop, which was once located at 1607 East 103rd street in Watts; Photo Courtesy of USC Digital Libraries

From 1913 to 1951, as editor of L.A.’s first Black owned newspaper, Bass published tirelessly in the name of housing, racial, and economic justice. Among many other issues, Bass published writing against racial covenants, against the KKK in Los Angeles, in opposition to FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans, as well as in opposition to the unjust prosecution of Chicano youth alleged to be members of the 38th street “gang” in the infamous “Sleepy Lagoon” case.

The California Eagle as a publication survived until 1964, when it was sold, but despite the paper’s eventual folding, it still served as a premier cornerstone for Black and Immigrant voices in Los Angeles over four decades, that is, pre Civil Rights movement, pre Black Panther Party, and pre Chicano and Asian American movements in the city.

This blog thus recognizes Bass, Neimore, and every voice still to be heard for justice in Los Angeles over another century in contestation.


A new logo for JIMBO TIMES

J.T.’s publishing platform will be strictly for voices from Black, Indigenous, and more communities of color

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 98)

First of all, the 98th column for our series uplifts the name of Breonna Taylor, the EMT worker who was murdered in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky, after a storm of police officers kicked down her door and began firing their weapons, striking Breonna eight times and ending her life. The police officers behind this heinous crime–who had a warrant to raid another home instead of Breonna’s–are still roaming free, unaccountable to justice. To sign the petition calling for their arrest, readers can go HERE.

Breonna’s murder was also in Louisville, Kentucky, the heart of the state overseen by the 2nd most consequential white supremacist in Washington D.C., Senator Mitch McConnell. But I know there are still folks in Kentucky working to have a senator one day who actually recognizes Black bodies as belonging to human beings.

To paraphrase the late Fannie Lou Hamer: None of us are free until all of us are free. In that regard, I also want to uplift the spirit of all my Black sisters, sending them my warmest prayers during these yet more taxing, yet more emotionally draining times. You are not forgotten.


I have shared with readers on the blog some of my experiences visiting various juvenile halls throughout Southern California to facilitate writing workshops with young men and women, the vast majority of those youth being of Black, Latinx, and Native American roots. Each time, during the brief time we shared together, I arrived with a commitment to create community with these young people, something worth pursuing, even as many of them were still just “in the middle” of a system with a vested interest in their incarceration and other forms of disenfranchisement, one benefitting from their poverty and lack of adequate access to resources.

The feeling these programs invoked in me when they came to an end was always a conflicted one; on the one hand, I was happy to see the Black and Brown youth for a time, and to let them know that they were were seen and not forgotten by their peers. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel like so much of our work was only the beginning of far more work to do for our collective freedom.

Today, it’s only more clear how as Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies, we shouldn’t have to be seated inside of jail complexes guarded by chain-linked fences and barbed wire in order for us to speak at length, to write, and to visualize and thus determine our futures according to our own judgments and volition.

Today it’s also clear that Americans need to set new standards for themselves if they’re to create a lasting turning point during this historic time for our communities. Throughout this series, I hope it’s become clearer for readers how violence pervades nearly every walk of life where ethnic communities are concerned, including due to policing, displacement, disinvestments in resources such as education, affordable housing, and more, all so more powerful interests can extend the economic engine that reproduces inequality, one generation after the next.

I also hope it’s now apparent that apart from writing, I really love to read, especially the work of other Black, Latinx, and more writers of color and people with perspectives varying from the norm.

But did you know, that a 2019 survey shows that more than 3/4ths of jobs in the publishing industry are held by white Americans, by predominantly straight, non-disabled white women? What kind of message does that send? Particularly to brilliant Black & Brown youth like those we’ve seen?

The message is that while a multitude of voices exist in the most ethnically ‘diverse’ country in the world, the industry is dominated by just one segment of the population, while Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, queer, disabled, and more voices are left to occupy a tiny corner with one another. If that sounds like segregation, it’s because it is.

As one comment pointed out out regarding the survey:

“The issue concerns BIPOC and LGBT people not having an equal voice in an industry that shapes education and culture. Gatekeeping is real. Essentially, the survey results show that white cis women continue to have the loudest voices in the publishing industry and continue to decide which books should be read by the masses.

– Matthew Anderson, Struck

My mind thinks back to the scores of young people I’ve met in Los Angeles, not only through its detention centers, but also at its inner-city schools, so many of whose tremendous voices can stun the world with reverberating effects.

I want all of such young people and each of their peers to know, that JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller is unapologetically a safe space for them, as our community together despite the enclosed gates and hallways of detention centers and policed space around us has always been. I also know that I no longer want to be able to meet my community only when surrounded by chains and barbed wire; if the online publishing world is therefore the next great ventures for yours truly, then let there be no confusion: it belongs to Black & Brown and any other marginalized communities most of all.

The good news is that with the twenty different voices we’ve published on the blog so far, this is already true, and that therefore, as an old saying goes: we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing.

If you know someone whose voice can continue to grow this effort, please encourage them to SUBMIT THEIR WORK.


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Black, Latino and Asian communities represent more than 70 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 42)

A report from the L.A. Times yesterday noted the disproportionate death rate for people in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles due to COVID-19, in which my native East Hollywood and other vicinities close to home were featured. According to the analysis:

“Working-class neighborhoods such as East Hollywood, Pico-Union and Westlake all have more than 40 deaths per 100,000 people, which is four times higher than the countywide rate of 9.9 per 100,000.”

Exactly a month ago, The L.A. Storyteller first published data from L.A. County’s Public Health Department showing no more than 20 cases of the coronavirus between East Hollywood and the adjacent Silver Lake neighborhood.

Even at that time, it was clear that the number of cases in these areas was higher, but that limited access to testing and other metrics, particularly in East Hollywood, wouldn’t reveal the greater risks posed by the disease here until a later time. Now, it appears that time has arrived, as the higher-than-average death rate for COVID-19 in East Hollywood and other nearby ethnic communities underscores those risks.

A first-of-its-kind map highlights metrics on the virus, detailing info such as the number of cases, number of deaths, and persons tested.

In terms of persons tested, East Hollywood lags well behind neighborhoods on the west side of the city, but is still ahead of many places in south Los Angeles; Sherman Oaks, for example, has tested more than 1,200 people, while East Hollywood has tested a little over 700. The historic Watts community, by contrast, has tested just 239 people in its community. Manchester Square, only 120.

In terms of deaths, the East Hollywood community has seen 17 deaths. Right next door, the Little Armenia community has seen 23. Sherman Oaks has recorded 4 deaths. Its next-door community of Beverly Crest, 2.

But the most dramatic example of the disproportionate impact wreaked by COVID-19 in Los Angeles can be found through a quick scan of the L.A. County Case Summary, where the data will show that just over 71% of the deaths in Los Angeles in the wake of coronavirus have been of Asian, Black, Latino and other residents here.

While Blacks make up less than 9% of L.A.’s population, they account for 13% of deaths to the virus. While Asians make up under 12% of L.A.’s population, they account for 18% of deaths. Latinos, who make up under 49% of the population, account for 38% of deaths to the virus, while Whites, who make up 52% of the population, account for 28% of deaths.

As with our first report, these numbers are likely an under-count, since as of a little over a week ago, L.A. has tested just over 80,000 of its 10 million residents for the disease.

Every death represents a family. And those passed are nǎinai, gran’mas, abuelitas, tatikner, and more members of the communities that give Los Angeles its glowing spirit. May we honor their legacies with a more equal world going forward.


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