Saturday, January 30, 2010

Los Angeles Kicks Off African American Heritage Month

Say it loud! The Militant's black and he's proud! Okay, keeping his ethnic identity (or identities) ambiguous to his readers, he may or may not be. But he still didn't want to miss the City's African American Heritage Month celebration at City Hall on Friday.

Earlier that morning, the City Council honored radio and TV host Tavis Smiley, singer Chaka Khan and actor/comedian/singer Jaime Foxx in the council chambers.

After council got back to usual business, the attention went straight to the South Lawn of City Hall along 1st St where there was a mini-festival featuring entertainment, info booths and of course food. The host of the festivities was KABC 7's Leslie Sykes (who grew up in Compton).

Tavis Smiley (pictured left) got up and spoke for a couple minutes, speaking about being honored earlier in the morning and mentioning that he once worked for the City as an aide to Mayor Tom Bradley (America's first African American mayor of a large city who headed Los Angeles City government from 1973 to 1993, for all you n00bz) back in the 1980s.

Incidentally, working at the Mayor's Office wasn't
Smiley's only experience with City government. He ran for Los Angeles City Council in a 1991 special election to fill the vacancy by the death of longtime 9th district councilman Gilbert Lindsay, which was ultimately won by Rita Walters (The Militant, by the way, knocked on doors in South Central Los Angeles as a campaign volunteer for an unspecified candidate in that election).

Afterward, the crowd was treated to a 5-song live set by Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary, (pictured right) who rocked the crowd with their tunes, which get heavy airplay on KJLH (one of the Militant's favorite local radio stations, in fact). The two sisters (literally, they're siblings) from Inglewood even got some members of the crowd on the dancefloor in front of the stage.

But a good portion of the crowd was on the other side of the South Lawn, queuing up for summa dat free soul food being served up for all guests. Unfortunately, the Militant had an appointment to make at that time and couldn't partake in the free lunch. But it sure smelled good.

The Militant did find out some info he'd been meaning to pass on to you readers for sometime. A group called the Our Authors Study Club, Inc., dedicated to preserving African American history and literature in Los Angeles, puts on an annual Black History Bus Tour of Los Angeles around this time of year. The Militant and one of his operatives took the bus tour a few years ago and learned a ton about the rich history of African American Los Angeles.

This year's tour is next Saturday, February 6, and the tour buses leave at 8.a.m. from the Consolidated Realty Board of Los Angeles, 3725 Don Felipe Drive (off of Stocker St.) in the Leimert Park/Baldwin Hills area. This tour is FREE and is by all means MILITANT APPROVED. Got that? The tour lasts until 4 p.m. and covers the area stretching from the Crenshaw District to Hancock Park to Downtown Los Angeles to South Central (the real South Central, that is). The tour covers houses of famous black Angelenos, community institutions and even places that don't exist anymore (the old Sugar Hill district, now obliterated by the Santa Monica Freeway). If you're into Los Angeles history like the Militant is (or aspire to be), this tour is not to be missed. For more information on the Black History Bus Tour of Los Angeles, call (310) 854-6967.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

After The Storm: Pictures Of 'The Himalayas of Los Angeles'

It's been a dark and stormy several days, what with rain and floods and tornadoes and hail and rescued dogs. Rain is fine until you got some leaking in the Militant Compound, then it becomes not-so-enjoyable. The Militant didn't have the ability to go on any Militant adventures this past week; part of it was cleaning out his rain gutter, the other part was dealing with a very minor injury which may or may not have been weather-related.

In any event, one of the Militant's trusty operatives forwarded him this photo essay by SFV-based photographer Ken Lee (no, not that one), who went on a hike Saturday up the previously fire-ravaged San Gabriels (which he dubs "The Himalayas of Los Angeles") in Haines Canyon above the Verdugo Hills and takes some very stunning photographs (Three of his photos were chosen for the Los Angeles Times' Top 100 Travel Photos of 2009, so this guy seems to know his stuff!). Check 'em out!

Visit "The Himalayas of Los Angeles: Snow on the San Gabriel Mountains, Haines Canyon, Tujunga, CA - 23 January 2010"

Photo credit: Ken Lee.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Northridge Earthquake Turns 16

Today is January 17, 2010. Do you remember what happened 16 years ago today? Of course you do (unless you just arrived on the Greyhound within the past 15 years). That's when Angelenos woke up in the middle of the night to some violent shakin'.

The Militant wrote his memories of the 6.7 temblor back in 2008, check it out if you haven't read it.

Today is also five days since the 7.0 temblor in Haiti - a quake of slightly larger magnitude, yet thousands of times more devastating in terms of structural damage and human casualties.

Though we're living in tough economic times, and our state and City are in a budget crisis, our problems are extremely miniscule compared to what the folks in Port-Au-Prince are going through, so consider helping them out in any way possible. Google has set up a site listing various reputable charities and aid organizations already delivering assistance and relief. Locally, one of the most well-known Hatian restaurants in town, TiGeorges' Chicken located in the Historic Filipinotown district, is gathering donations and relief supplies to send over to owner George Laguerre's homeland, so do help out (and do order a lunch or dinner there, it's awesomely good food BTW). However you decided to help, it doesn't matter as long as you do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ea-gle, Ea-gle, ROCK YOU!

Though the Militant hasn't made much good on his New Year's Resolutions to increase his output lately, the recent phenomenon is mainly attributed to the fact that lately he hasn't strayed much from The Militant Compound, and when he does, it's in a part of town already covered in This Here Blog.

The Militant is no stranger to the venerable Northeast Los Angeles community of Eagle Rock, but he's noticed he hasn't yet given the place the props it deserves, so passing by the vicinity on Thursday, he decided to give some hot Militant Love on the MA Blog.

The community may be well known for its pizza institution, hipsters or the one-time residence of the President of the United States, but by far it's known for its eponymous geological feature: The Eagle Rock.

The 12 million year-old conglomerate rock formation stands like a sentry just north of the 134, a familiar sight for this Militant ever since his childhood, whenever the Militant's family trips took him to the Rose Parade or to relatives' houses in the San Gabriel Valley.

But something always bugged him about The Rock (no, not that one). It was the description of the geological feature: that the rock formation resembles "an eagle in flight."

Flight? WHUT? He don't see no wings! It's obviously an EAGLE HEAD. When the Militant's parents drove Lil' Mil down the 134 back in the day, they'd tell him, "Look at the Eagle Rock!" and Lil' Mil would say, "Yeah! I see the head of an eagle!" THE HEAD OF A FREAKING EAGLE! Yet no book, publication or website ever acknowledged this. Are they crazy or what? AN EAGLE HEAD!

What are these historians? Blind? See the beak? See the eye? IT'S AN EAGLE HEAD.

If they can't see it, and you can't see it, then - surprise - the Militant is the first Los Angeles writer/historian to acknowledge it as A FREAKING EAGLE HEAD.

Anyway, the Militant decided to take a closer look at the thing - and was pleasantly surprised. Most people simply pass this thing on the freeway at 65 miles an hour and never give it any more thought.

But at the foot of the rock - right at the very northernmost reach of Figueroa Street - is a neato little public park, with benches and all, decorated with native flora (pictured left). There's also a narrow, 1-mile hiking path called the Eagle Rock Canyon Trail, which the Militant walked for a few yards, ultimately deciding to cover this hike in a future blog post (don't wanna put all his eagle eggs in one basket!).

It turns out the little park and the trail are relatively new, just installed nearly two years ago by The Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful. Feel free to visit the park and walk the trail (treaded shoes/boots recommended) and you just might see native tobacco plants used by the Tongva Indian tribe and the caves used as a hideout by desperados ages ago.

He also discovered one lucky Eagle Rock resident lives right below the rock - there's a single-story house right at the base. Imagine looking up at that every morning (surely the occupant must take the whole thing for granted by now...).

The Militant spent the rest of the day with nearby operatives who weren't aware of the history, which wasn't very fun. But the Militant can change all that one day by taking them on a little hike...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some 'Luv' For The Eastside

Helloooooo, 2010!

Well, 2009 was a landmark year for The Eastside (that's in The Real Eastside, you geographically-challenged hipsterfool), namely the (M) Gold Line's opening in November to Boyle Heights and Eastlos that brought places like Old Pasadena, Universal City, Koreatown and Downtown Long Beach just a swipe of a TAP card away. It was not just a light rail line extension, but an extension of the mainstream consciousness of Los Angeles finally recognizing The East Side, note the foodies of the world arriving past the eastern bank of the Los Angeles river to get their squash blossom quesadilla fix. Hopefully 2009 will go down in history as The End of the Erroneous Eastside Era, as now more correct terminology like "East of the Westside"are starting to come into use - a term the Militant can perfectly tolerate.

Since this is the first post of twenty-ten, the NEw Year is a great time to start new traditions, so here we go. Today's destination is an awesome bar in Boyle Heights called Eastside Luv Wine Bar y QUEso that simply blew the Militant away during his first visit last month. Located on the corner of 1st and Bailey right in the heart of the Mariachi Plaza district, they couldn't have picked a more appropo name.

Started in 2006 by five lifelong friends in their late 20s-early 30s from nearby City Terrace (who may or may not be friends of one of the Militant's operatives) who bought the former Metropolitan bar and gave it a re-do, according to their website, "to communicate the LOVE we have for our Chicano/Pocho/Latino EASTSIDE experience." They also re-designed the interior "to look and feel like many of the beautiful turn of the century Victorian and Craftsman Bungalows that dominate Boyle Heights... only a bit sexxxier." A dumpy ghetto dive this place definitely is not!

Inside, the walls are adorned with Lalo Alcaraz (of "La Cucaracha" fame) artwork, and a Cheech and Chong flick circa late 1970s is projected up high (no pun intended) on one of the walls. The reddish, velvety room centers around the bar, which is actually waist-high and the bartenders work below floor height. Instead of stools, there are lounge chairs.

The bar also doubles as a performance stage; the big draw is their Mariachi-oke nights, on the first Sunday of the month, where an all-female 3-piece Mariachi (who sound like there are more than three people playing) will accompany anyone who wants to get their canciones on. And yes, the cultural fusion of people singing Mexican songs in a format that was popularized in Japan, in a bar in Boyle Heights (once one of the largest Japanese American population centers of the City) was not lost on the Militant at all.

Hey wait...(looks at calendar) this is the First Sunday of the Month! The Militant may or may not be there tonight (if you do see him, or think you do, raise a fist!)

Of course, for you hardcore drinkers, this isn't a full-service bar. They specialize in beer and wine. But this place is all about the vibe, the experience. It's classy, but not snooty, it's just real. It makes the Militant feel at home. But if you do wanna get borracho, the train can take you there and back, no need to worry about parking (or DUI checkpoints).

But if you do want that Eastside ghetto dive experience, just go next door to Las Palomas bar. Winnie seems to dig it. Maybe a little too much.

Eastside Luv Wine Bar y QUEso
1835 East 1st Street, Boyle Heights
Open Thursdays through Sundays until 2 a.m.
(M): Marichi Plaza Station