January 02, 2014

By Fred Hawthorne

LAWT Contributing Writer


The City of Angels has without a doubt given two more men their wings. Dwayne Polee and Freeman Williams, two of the greatest basketball legends, have come full circle and share their journeys back to Manual Arts High School as coaches in their Documentary, “Inner City Champions.”

Created and produced by HT Films, “Inner City Champions” is an electrifying roller coaster through Polee’s and Williams’ lives.  The film takes the viewer to both expected and unexpected places and brings out a multitude of emotions as these two men tell their raw stories about their unforgettable high school careers, NBA careers, successes, failures, family, and redemption.

The film won “Best Feature Film” this year at The Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival.  The support for the film was incredible. It was the only sold out showing at the film festival.  Amongst the excited audience was Freeman Williams himself and Jim Harrick, legendary college basketball coach. 

I walked away asking myself, “How many of our inner-city kids know that NCAA’s living all-time Division 1 leading scorer and the greatest player ever to play high school basketball are both alumni of Manual Arts High School? More importantly, do they know that these two living legends have come back to Manual Arts High School to build our young boys into men through the game of basketball?

Every kid, every parent, every coach, and every Angelino needs to watch this film.  This is an LA Hoop Dream story that will resonate with you on so many different levels.  It is a film that will undoubtedly deliver hope to its viewers and inspire every child that possesses a hoop dream. 

Not only has The Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival taken notice of this inspiring documentary, but also the Pan African Film Festival and the San Diego Black Film Festival have recognized this great story. If you would like to experience “Inner City Champions” it will be showing at the San Diego Black Film Festival January 30 – February 2, 2014 and the Pan African Film Festival Feb 6 – 17, 2014. 

I strongly suggest we get out and support this film that tells “Our stories about our heros!”

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January 02, 2014

City News Service

A state appeals court panel recently upheld a man’s conviction for the Easter Sunday 2009 murders of two men on Skid Row, including an innocent bystander who had worked on the movie “The Soloist.” The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the judge erred in Richard Luna’s trial by not instructing jurors on voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Luna was convicted in the April 12, 2009, killing of Kevin Cohen, 49, who was struck by a stray bullet about a week before he was set to walk the red carpet at a movie premiere of “The Soloist” — an event that was later dedicated to him.

Luna was also convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of Tommie Hayes at a hotel at Stanford Avenue and East Seventh Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“Here, defendant effectively concedes (as he must) that the evidence proved that he killed Hayes, his intended target, in a fusillade of bullets with premeditated intent to kill, and that one stray bullet killed Cohen, an unintended target. Thus, defendant's premeditated intent to kill Hayes ‘transferred to’ Cohen, the unintended victim, making defendant guilty of premeditated first-degree murder in that killing,” the appellate court panel found in its 13-page ruling.

A state appellate court panel is set to hear arguments in 2014 in the case of co-defendant Lamont Ward, who was also convicted of the murders. Authorities said shortly after Luna and Ward were arrested that Hayes — described by police as a rival drug dealer to Ward — appeared to have been the only target and that Cohen seemed to have been an unplanned victim.  Hayes was shot eight times and Cohen once, apparently by a stray bullet.

“Ward quarterbacked the whole thing,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon said after the two were convicted.

“He hired Luna.”

Luna was paid $700 for the hit, according to the prosecutor. Both men were sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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December 26, 2013

By Kenneth D. Miller

Assistant Managing Editor


For the past 28 years the annual Parents of Watts has been a big event for school aged boys and girls in and around Watts, thanks to Sweet Alice Harris and scores of sponsors who provided hundreds of backpack and bicycles on Wednesday Dec. 18.

The annual Parents of Watts Christmas celebration was held at the Dianne Feinstein School Readiness Center on a mild warm afternoon on Imperial Hwy. and included eight schools, which brought upwards of 200 students from Compton, Flournoy Elementary, John Ritter Elementary, Weigand Ave. elementary, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Grape Screet Elementary, Clinton Elementary and 112th Street Elementary.

“The first Christmas party I gave I had such a hard time giving it because I didn’t have enough space for the gifts and children, so Senator Diane Feinstein said don’t worry about it, I’ll get you a place,” Sweet Alice, the executive director of Parents of Watts, explained.

“I walk around the community and visit various schools and carefully select the kids who are the most in need. Many of the kids are foster children, but we still have a responsibility to take care of them because many of them are my neighbors and I try to get the best for them,’ Sweet Alice added.

Each of the youths was treated to a lunch that consisted of hot dogs, chips and punch and a live band played familiar Christmas theme songs for them. They also received backpacks full of items ranging from school supplies to toiletries and socks and underwear.

After they received their lunch and participated in a Christmas sing along, they were handed their either red or blue back pack and toy trucks for the boys and dolls for the girls and then a brand new bicycle.

When I asked one boy if I could ride his bike, he responded, “No, aint nobody gone ride my bike.”

It was a sense of pride and joy that each of the kids shared as their teachers escorted them back to their buses and their bikes with their names tags were loaded underneath the bus.

“I don’t know what they will feel like next week, but I do know they are happy today. This is what it is all about and I could not be more pleased for them. It brings me great joy just to take a part in it,”concluded Sweet Alice.

The event would not have been possible without the support of volunteers who assisted in making Christmas a day to remember for children who didn’t expect as much.

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December 19, 2013

The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to. ~Marian Wright Edelman, The Measure of Our Success (1992)

By Kenneth D. Miller

Asst. Managing Editor


Last Tuesday the Los Angeles Unified School District Board held its first annual board meeting without the Black community’s strongest ally. The board chair that Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte occupied was vacant.

All that remained was a scarf and beads, symbolic of the famed New Orleans Mardis Gras.

The only African American on the powerful seven member board was not there to represent ‘Her Babies’, students of all creeds and religion attending the 100 schools in District 1.

The feisty, Cajun from Louisiana came north and in every aspect of her professional career as a life long educator transforms lives, lifted underserved communities and fought for public schools like a champion prize fighter.

This week, beginning on Thursday final respects will be paid to woman who fought  for what she believed in until the day she died in a San Diego hotel room on the job for the LAUSD.

“In every way, Marguerite LaMotte was a model educator, advocate and dear friend. Our community is still coping with the loss of this important leader, who fought especially hard for students in underserved communities, her dear friend and Congresswoman Maxine Waters said. Marguerite LaMotte truly left her mark on all who knew her. Across Los Angeles – will be missed. I believe that after giving generations of our children so much.”

LaMotte was 80-years old.

She was elected to represent District 1 of the LAUSD Board in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 and recognized as a devout educator and advocate for children all of her adult life. 

LaMotte will lay in Repose on Thursday Dec. 19 at Angelus Funeral Home on Crenshaw Blvd. from 12p.m. to 5p.m. and a Celebration of Life Services will be held on Dec. 21 at St. Brigid Catholic Church located at 5214 S. Western Av. in Los Angeles to be followed by Interment at Holy Cross Cemetery located at 5835 W. Slauson Ave. and a Public Memorial on Jan. 18, 2014 at a location to be announced.

Born on July17, 1933 in New Orleans, the youngest of seven children, to Leon and Amy Poindexter, LaMotte flourished in a segregated Louisiana school system and graduated from Xavier Preparatory High School and the YMCA Business College in New Orleans.

Her career in education began at age 18 when she was appointed Director of Spaulding Business College in Baton Rouge. She took classes on a part-time basis at Southern University and was awarded the B.A. degree in Education, Summa Cum Laude in 1961. She completed her Master of Education Degree in 1965 from Louisiana State University.

She was also among the first Blacks to break through segregation. LaMotte was the first African-American woman to serve as Visiting Professor, LSU Undergraduate School of Education.

When she relocated to Los Angeles in 1973 she described her first teaching assignment in the Special Education Department at Drew Junior High as one of the most rewarding of her life.

Successful promotional examinations led to her service as Head Counselor, Edison Junior High; Assistant Principal, Francis Polytechnic High School and in 1984 LaMotte was appointed Principal of Horace Mann Junior High School. The tremendous improvement in students’ academic performance and social behavior was featured on several television programs including the Tom Brokaw NBC Nightly News.

“Marguerite was a leader and a voice for Los Angeles.  We honor her legacy as LAUSD is about to undergo important funding decisions that will have a long-term impact on the district,” Congresswoman Karen Bass said in a statement.
In 1988 Ms. LaMotte was promoted to Director of Secondary Instruction in Administrative Region C. She also served Region C as Administrator of Operations. With the District’s reconfiguration in 1991, she requested to return back to the schools, “back to the real action working directly with and positively changing the lives of the students.” She was assigned as Principal to Washington Preparatory High School.

Under LaMotte’s direction Washington Prep received Outstanding Accreditation Review by WASC for a maximum 6-year period. LaMotte credited the school’s staff with developing and producing an innovative school-wide Study Skills Program which provides each student with a focused 2-day exposure to the basic study skills needed to be successful and productive. In addition the implementation of standards-based lessons, a continuing effort of all departments, placed Washington in the forefront with common lesson plans for curriculum mapping. LaMotte’s staff considered her the “founder” of the Theater Arts Academy at Washington Preparatory High School.

A former teacher, counselor and principal were elected to serve District 1 of the LAUSD Board of Education in 2003. She was re-elected in 2007 and 2011. LaMotte represented a geographically and ethnically diverse area, including Palms, Mid-City, Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, Jefferson Park, Vermont Knolls, Gramercy Park, Exposition Park, North University Park, Gardena and much more.

Her many colleagues on the board and other prominent elected officials immediately begin to mourn her tremendous loss.

“When you think about her life and her accomplishments, she was an educator’s educator,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, a friend and associate of LaMotte’s for some 30 years.

Others also gave a fitting tribute.

Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP) Chair and California Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric C. Bauman issued the following statement on the passing of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte:

“We we mourn the loss of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, one of the strongest advocates for teachers and students in the history of our city.

A lifelong ally to Democratic causes, LaMotte never backed down from a hard fight.

Her leadership will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts are with her family and many, many friends.”

Los Angeles Sentinel Executive Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr., for whom a school is named in his honor and sits in her district, was also saddened by the loss.

“First and foremost Marguerite LaMotte was a friend. She was someone who could always be relied upon and each of us have a responsibility to become caretakers of a legacy that can not be duplicated in the education field,” Bakewell stated.

She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, Frank and Willie Poindexter and sisters, Elodia Rogers and Alma Ferebee. She leaves to cherish her memory, a son, Dale LaMotte of Little Rock, Arkansas and daughter, Faye Landry of Los Angeles and three grandchildren: Christopher, Clayton and Danielle; brother, Leon Poindexter of Houston, Texas and sister, Juanita Shepherd of Katy, Texas; faithful companion, Melvin Morris and a host of relatives and friends.

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