August 14, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
It has been more than one year and the pain and grief felt by the family of the promising teenage Bijan Shoushari who as murdered on Crenshaw Blvd. on Aug. 3, 2013 is still fresh.
He would have been 19 years old by now, finishing up his first year of college to become a first responder, but instead is another unsolved murder of a Black teen whose life was taken before it flourished.
Two week ago, the family and friends of Shoushari gathered on the anniversary of his murder at Leimert Park in the Crenshaw District, adjacent to a giant billboard offering a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of his killer or killers.
Shoushtari was shot to death while riding in a car on Crenshaw Boulevard shortly after midnight on Aug. 3, 2013. The shots were fired from a car that pulled up alongside the white 1973 Buick Electra in which Shoushtari was riding. No one else in the car was hurt.
His mother Marsha and family members have vowed to continued to question why would a person kill a teen who was high school football player and good standing member of his church?
It is a question that mothers and family members of other young Black boys or teen slain by senseless violence in this never ending tragic tale of Black on Black crime.
While discovering who did it and why would not bring back Bijan, it would in a sense give the family some closure and more importantly take an individual or individuals who are callous killers off the street.
Shoushtari had just graduated from Hamilton High, where he was a football player. He had plans to go to college and wanted to be an emergency medical technician, then eventually a firefighter.
“If the people who shot him knew him, they wouldn't have shot him,” said Mark Jones, his uncle, a local pastor, pondered.
More than 100 people, including family members suffering from similar plights helt lit candles and solemnly marched in the park . They wore green T-shirts, with words pleading for Stop The Violence. It is a plea that many in the community wish would be heeded to, even if it was too late for Bijan Shoushari.
“If you know someone who knows someone who did this heinous crime, please, please call someone,” Jones-Shoushtari said.
The killing has led friends and family to start a campaign called “Stop the violence, save lives” aimed at curbing violence.
“This is a way of life for us now,” Jones-Shoushtari said.
Her family has learned to cope. Her husband, Manochehr, is sometimes angry, and he is very protective of his 21-year-old daughter, Ea, who attends Pepperdine University.
Ea and older sister Samantha, 27, recently got tattoos of their brother’s name in Farsi as a remembrance.
For Samantha, the passage of time has allowed her to more fully accept her brother's death.
“When I look at his pictures now, I smile,” she said. “Before it was hard.”
Jones-Shoushtari said she received a phone call from the Los Angeles Unified School District recently. The caller told her that the district was polling recent graduates to track their progress and wanted to know what Bijan was up to.
She told the woman that her son had been killed but added that if he were alive, he would have been finishing his first year of college, working a part-time job and taking summer school classes.
Los Angeles police detectives say they have no leads or motives in the case. A $50,000 reward has been offered.
Anyone with information on this case can call the LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division at (213) 485-4341.
Sentinel Wire Services contributed to this report.
August 07, 2014
LAWT News Service
The Little Miss African American Scholarship Pageant (LMAA) comes of age this year with its 21-year anniversary celebration on August 10, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Actresses Laila Ali and Meagan Good will co-host, joining Dawnn Lewis, the mistress of ceremonies, as a bevy of little beauties, ages six to 12, make their way on stage to compete for over $10,000 in scholarships and prizes. Pageant producer Lisa Ruffin notes that this year’s event will also celebrate past contestants who have grown up and gone on to accomplish “wonderful feats.”
Judges this year include Penny Johnson Jerald (ABC-TV’s “Castle”); Ella Joyce (TV One’s “Belle’s”); Lamman Rucker (TBS’s “Meet the Browns”); Shamicka Lawrence (VH-1’s “Hollywood Exes”) and TV/radio host Mother Love. The pageant starts at 4:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at www.littlemissafricanamerican.org as well as at the door. VIP and reserved seating is available.
Cites Pageant producer/choreographer, Lisa Ruffin, “These young ladies just keep me going strong. This year, as we turn 21, we honor them all, past and present. Alycia Jones was the very first LMAA and received her bachelor’s degree from University of Florida. Our second, Alexis Witherspoon competed in the Olympics Trials, then graduated from USC. LaTanya Fisher was LMAA 1995 and she graduated from USC as well. Myisha Lyseight was LMAA 1996. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from UCLA. She went on to complete her Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Syracuse University in New York. She also played it forward by joining the LMAA staff last year.”
“The state of Texas produced LMAA 1998, Lauren Hayes. Lauren graduated from the very prestigious Notre Dame and is currently working there. Then there is Miss Shakina that Academy Award winner Mo’Nique crowned,” continues Ruffin. “She graduated from USC and is in Law School at Howard University. We train our girls to wear their C.A.P. (Confidence, Awarness & Pride)!”
For more information and to purchase tickets go to http://littlemissafricanamerican.org/.
For a visual overview of the pageant and its impact on contestants, go to http://vimeo.com/15018101.
July 31, 2014
City News Service
A pair of City Council members introduced a motion July 30 calling for a report from the Department of Water and Power on the water main break that flooded streets and inundated portions of the UCLA campus. The motion by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the Westwood area, instructs the DWP to report on the status and cause of July 29th’s rupture and the water main's operational history and any prior physical integrity issues. It also calls for a report on the status of DWP's water infrastructure program and whether the ruptured main had been scheduled for repair or upgrade; steps that can be taken to reduce any damage or impact on the public and surrounding property, such as technology that can give advance warning of ruptures; and a report on the utility's long-term efforts to replace aging water system components and improve system reliability, including exploring a faster replacement schedule.
The motion will likely be heard later this week in the Energy and Environment Committee, chaired by Councilman Felipe Fuentes, Wesson said. Wesson and other city leaders visited the site of the ruptured water main Wednesday afternoon to assess the extent of the damage, consider the next steps and discuss efforts to replace the city's aging water-delivery infrastructure.
Wesson, who is acting mayor while Eric Garcetti is on vacation, said he will join fellow council members and DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards to inspect the sinkhole and damaged pipe. They also hope to meet with UCLA officials, he said. Wesson said during the visit, he plans to learn everything he can about the main break. He noted that the pipes are graded A-F based on their condition, and the one that broke may have been in the ``C or D category.''
Even though the images of water gushing out of a hole in Sunset Boulevard were dramatic, ``we can't react to the way that it looked,'' he said.
The city will work to ``secure the situation right now and make sure the plan we have moving forward makes sense.'' There also needs to be a ``conversation'' about how to ``fast-track'' repairs for this latest break and other water infrastructure improvements, he said.
LAGOS, Nigeria— Nigerian authorities rushed to obtain isolation tents Wednesday in anticipation of more Ebola infections as they disclosed five more cases of the virus and a death in Africa's most populous nation, where officials were racing to keep the gruesome disease confined to a small group of patients.
The five new Nigerian cases were all in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people in a country already beset with poor health care infrastructure and widespread corruption, and all five were reported to have had direct contact with one infected man.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization began a meeting to decide whether the crisis, the worst recorded outbreak of its kind, amounts to an international public health emergency. At least 932 deaths in four countries have been blamed on the illness, with 1,711 reported cases.
In recent years, the WHO has declared an emergency only twice, for swine flu in 2009 and polio in May. The declaration would probably come with recommendations on travel and trade restrictions and wider Ebola screening. It also would be an acknowledgment that the situation is critical and could worsen without a fast global response.
The group did not immediately confirm the new cases reported in Nigeria. And Nigerian authorities did not release any details on the latest infections, except to say they all had come into direct contact with the sick man who arrived by plane in Lagos late last month.
In Sierra Leone, some 750 soldiers deployed to the Ebola-ravaged east as part of "Operation Octopus," aimed at enforcing quarantines of sick patients. In Spain, the Defense Ministry said a medically equipped plane was ready to fly to Liberia to bring back a Spanish missionary priest who has Ebola.
At the same time, Saudi officials reported a suspected Ebola death, underscoring the risk of the disease spreading by air travel even as many airlines curtail their flights to the most infected cities.
Ebola, which causes some victims to bleed from the eyes, mouth and ears, can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick — blood, semen, saliva, urine, feces or sweat. Millions in Lagos live in cramped conditions without access to flushable toilets. Signs posted across the city warn people not to urinate in public.
Kenneth Akihomi, a 47-year-old worker installing fiber-optic cable, said he was carefully washing his hands to avoid infection. But he said most people were relying on faith to stay healthy.
"They're not panicking. They are godly people," he said. "They believe they can pray, and maybe very soon there will be cure."
The revelation of more infections also came amid a public-sector doctors' strike in Nigeria that began in early July. So far, health workers monitoring the latest Ebola patients are still on the job.
Nigeria is the fourth West African country to be hit by the Ebola outbreak since it first emerged in March in the remote tropical forests of Guinea. The disease then spread to neighboring Sierra Leona and Liberia before reaching Nigeria, where it surfaced shortly before the government drew criticism for its response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Islamic militants back in April. The girls are still missing.
Nigerian authorities said Tuesday that doctors did not suspect Patrick Sawyer was suffering from Ebola when the 40-year-old Liberian-American arrived by plane late last month in Lagos, where the streets are a bewildering mix of wealth and abject poverty, awash in luxury SUVs and decrepit buses.
Sawyer, who worked for the Liberian government in Monrovia and had a wife and three young daughters in Minnesota, was on a business flight to Nigeria when he fell ill. Officials say a nurse who treated him has died and five others are sick with Ebola, including a doctor involved in his care.
West African countries pledged at a meeting in July to step up their surveillance at airports and borders following the start of the outbreak. But the early symptoms of Ebola — fever, muscle aches and vomiting — are similar to much more common tropical diseases such as malaria.
The specter of the virus spreading through Nigeria is particularly alarming, said Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
"It makes you nervous when so many people are potentially at risk," he said.
Authorities in Liberia said Sawyer's sister had recently died of Ebola, though Sawyer said he had not had close contact with her while she was ill.
In announcing Sawyer's death, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu maintained late last month that Nigerian officials had been vigilant in isolating him.
"It was right there (at the airport) that the problem was noticed because we have maintained our surveillance," he told reporters. "And immediately, he went into the custody of the port health services of the federal ministry of health so there was no time for him to mingle in Lagos. He has not been in touch with any other person again since we took him from the airport."
Chukwu's comments were at odds with remarks made Tuesday by the Lagos state health commissioner, who said doctors did not suspect Ebola immediately and identified Sawyer as a possible case only after he had been hospitalized for about a day.
Sawyer, who had a fever and was vomiting on the plane, was coming from the infected country of Liberia but had a layover in Togo. As a result, officials may not have initially known his original point of departure, and it was unclear whether he was traveling on a Liberian or American passport.
Experts say people infected with Ebola can spread the disease only after they show symptoms. Since the incubation period can last up to three weeks, some of the Nigerians who treated Sawyer are only now showing signs of illness.
The national health minister on Wednesday said special tents would be used to establish isolation wards in all of Nigeria's states. Authorities were setting up an emergency center in Lagos to deal with Ebola and expected the facility to be "fully functional" by Thursday, he said.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in London, Mike Stobbe in New York and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, also contributed to this report.
LAWT News Service
President Obama’s recent town hall with 500 of Africa’s most promising young leaders provided an inspiring window into what the future holds for Africa, and the world.
The 500 participants in the Washington Fellowship program were selected from nearly 50,000 applicants from across Africa, as part of the president’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI was launched by President Obama in 2010, as part of a long-term investment in the next generation of African leaders. It aims to sharpen their skills, to improve their networks, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa for years to come.
The president announced during the town hall that the Washington Fellowship was being renamed as the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honor of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Mandela Washington Fellows represent the best and brightest from communities across Africa, and fields ranging from education, medicine, law, business, and beyond. These are the young leaders whose skills, passion, and visions for the future, will help shape the fate of their countries and the world. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them prepare with the tools they need to build a healthier, more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful Africa, which is why President Obama launched YALI in the first place.
“Even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate the headlines; even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day — we have to make sure that we’re all seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, the youngest and fastest-growing continent,” Obama said.
YALI is about capitalizing on the creativity and talent of Africa’s young leaders by empowering them with the skills, training, and technology necessary to make lasting change, and meaningful progress back home. And to do so, we are engaging public and private sector partners to create new Regional Leadership Centers across Africa to reach more young leaders. We’re joining with American universities, African institutions and business partners like Microsoft and MasterCard Foundation. Starting next year, young Africans can come to these centers to network, access the latest technology, and get training in management and entrepreneurship. The first centers will be located in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya — and will provide tens of thousands of young Africans the resources they need to put their ideas into action.
As last year came to a close, the world said goodbye to one of the brightest lights the world has ever known — President Nelson Mandela. His life was proof of the power within each of us to leave the world better than we found it. Yet, as that brilliant star dimmed, we now have the opportunity to see 500 more shine brightly this week.
One of this summer’s Fellows, Sobel Ngom from Senegal, captured the spirit of his experience in the YALI program this way: “Here, I have met Africa. The [Africa] I have always believed in. She is beautiful, young, full of talent, motivation and ambition.” And being here with all of his Fellow Mandela Washington Fellows — learning together, working together, dreaming together — has only strengthened his determination, he says, to realize his aspirations for his country and his continent.
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