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Where There’s Bill, There Is A Way

Thursday, November 20, 2014

…To design a custom Snapback hat that is.


Last week I arrived at the Inglewood Today office, and upon entering the office, I was introduced to an effervescent young woman with a head care product she is launching this January called JCOE.


 In working with her and discovering more about her product and her vision for its future, I was introduced to her son and young entrepreneur Gautier Booker, owner of Urban Trademark, a line of custom headwear designed by Booker himself.


I pulled up at Booker’s storefront located on the corner of La Brea and Ellis Ave. Entering the store, the first thing that captured my attention was the layout. I can’t explain how many stores you go into and the layout is chaotic and uninspired.  Here, I immediately got a sense of clean design aesthetic. The brand’s hats were displayed like pieces of art, and their clothing line stood off to the right, in its own space where customers can focus on the clothes.


The store vibe was festive.  Music pumped through the speakers and flat screen TVs were on display. Booker sat behind the cash register and was accompanied by his partners AJ and Malika Jones.


Booker is a fashion designer that caught his entrepreneurial bug after an unfortunate run in with the law that cost him a year of his life and a strike on his record. In a lot of cases, we see individuals settle for odd jobs and under the table gigs that offer no benefits and job security due to the fact that most jobs will not hire individuals with criminal records. But Booker is no criminal. Never was. In fact, his reputation was a positive one that came with the support of Culver City, where Booker worked for 6 years prior to being involved in an altercation that dramatically changed his life.


 “I started selling hats at Venice Beach. From there, I tried to venture off and do other things because, the regular hats were okay, but buying and selling wholesale wasn’t really working. I just tried to be creative and God blessed me with a vision for this.”


Inspired by Kanye West’s Manager Don C., Booker says, “He used all python on all his hats, but he sold them at $600. So, I looked on You Tube and ended up going fabric shopping and I just started matching fabrics to the hats I already had. The process from there was just about figuring out how to lay the fabrics on the hat. My girls and I figured it out, and then after that, we came with the name Urban Trademark, and its been a blessing. Now, I travel to the bay and other areas that I know I can get some unique pieces from.”


When asked about moving forward, Booker says that he has some new aspects of the company he’s exploring, but most importantly, putting out good products and promoting positivity. “I always look back on my situation and think of how far I’ve come from being locked up, to now, and it’s a blessing.”


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) acknowledges that African Americans and Hispanics are convicted at rates disproportionately greater than their representation in the population.  Therefore, discrimination against convicted felons is deemed a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964. Discrimination in the labor industries is quiet and hard to police, since there’s no real way to know if your application was rejected because you were not qualified, or if you were a felon.


The average 25 year-old is either shoveling out hundreds of resumes to companies or working entry level jobs under the title of “Intern.” Instead, Booker created a job for himself and has built a brand that has gained the recognition of retailers across the city, and the attention of celebrities like, T.I, Miley Cyrus, Mike Will, and Kevin Durant to name a few.


A blessing is an understatement. Booker’s display of humility and optimism despite the adversities he’s faced in his quarter of a century long life is admirable and shows much promise. I’ll be following the progress of the Urban Trademark brand, rooting for and sowing seeds in their success. We all should. 


If you know anyone in the community that is excelling in business, academics, community service, and or arts and entertainment, send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Brown Saga Becomes a Movement

Thursday, November 20, 2014

All eyes are on Ferguson, MO as the grand jury there prepares to deliver evidence on the Michael Brown shooting.  CNN is reporting that the decision on whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of the unarmed black teen could come as early as Friday. 


Brown supporters have shown up for more than 100 days, carrying signs and calling for Wilson’s arrest and conviction.  Despite being pepper-sprayed, beaten, arrested, and now enduring freezing weather, the outpouring of support for Brown shows no signs of letting up. 


A group of activists from Ferguson to Los Angeles met with journalists via a conference call  Wednesday morning to answer questions, air out their grievances, and discuss solutions for change.


The panel, comprised of youth and clergy, includes Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, Pastor, Christ The King United Church of Christ; Teff Poe, Youth Activist, Rapper; Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter (Los Angeles), Rika Tyler, Youth Activist; and T-Dubb-O (Tori), Youth Activist, Rapper.  Rev. Michael McBride, director Lifelines to Healing Campaign, PICO National Network, was the moderator.


Despite what has been reported on the news, panelists say, protests have been nonviolent.  The violence has been perpetrated by the State of Missouri militarizing its police force.  Images of armored vehicles and police dressed in riot gear give the impression that civilians are starting trouble.  On the contrary, they say Ferguson police have violated the civil rights of peaceful demonstrators. 


As one unidentified speaker said on the call, “For him (Gov. Jay Nixon) to put Missouri into a state of emergency, to me, it’s an act of war.  The system has been put in place to oppress a poor class of people.  In 103 days, there has been not been one single fatality, the only people who have been hurt have been those hurt by the police.  I don’t understand what the National Guard is needed for.  I don’t understand what the rubber bullets are needed for.  It’s just a waste of money especially when you have schools closing left and right in the city.”


Tyler, who is in her 50s and grew up in Birmingham, AL remembered the National Guard being called in “to defend the protestors, to protect them from those who were not ready for change.” 


Like the 1965 Watts Riots, and civil unrests that have followed, the violence has never been the result of a single act of injustice.


“All these things happened prior to August 9, and we never heard Gov. Nixon declare this a state of emergency.  No one declares a state of emergency for poor people, black people, veterans, no one says that’s a state of emergency.  But people walking through the streets—now that’s a state of emergency,” T-Dubb-O said



Ferguson’s protest has all the makings of a growing movement.  For one thing, it has been one of the longest and most consistent showings of civil unrest since the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, AL almost 60 years ago.


“First and foremost, we want people to understand it’s not about Ferguson. It’s about a national movement,” Cullors said.   “There is no national government agency to oversee police behavior. 

FBI data reveals that young black men are 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed by police.  We’ve had Ezell Ford killed by police in L.A.  I have witnessed brutality at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department.  But people in Ferguson are unifying in a way we haven’t seen black folks unify in a long time.”


“A lot of people made a mistake, comparing this to the more legendary civil rights movements.  But there are few things that are different.  Our last great radical black male voice for my generation was Tupac Shakur.   If you look at the movement on the ground, it has that attitude,” Poe said. .


“When Trayvon Martin was killed and George Zimmerman walked, my friends and I said, ‘If anything like that happens in Missouri, this world is in for a show’ because there won’t be any George Zimmermans walk out of court and walking into the sunset.”


The panelists minced no words, calling out officials from Missouri to Congress, whom, they say have shown little if any compassion for Brown or his cause.  T-Dubb-O called out Gov.  Nixon for not stepping up:  “Here he is passing the responsibility to Rev. Traci (Blackmon).  She is left answering questions when her responsibility is not even as great as his.”   


Poe said, “We discussed the issue with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and (Attorney General) Eric Holder. He (Cleaver) gave us the politician’s answer.  He hasn’t visited St. Louis.  There has been no response to our phone calls or emails. He just told us what we wanted to hear.” 


So what does the panel expect to happen after the grand jury decision?  “I think they are preparing us for a non-indictment,” T-Dubb-O said.  “With or without an indictment, the movement continues.”  



Back To Business

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It’s been 3 weeks since the last Inglewood Council Meeting and the first public session since Mayor James Butts’ re-election.  The packed agenda included everything from proposed public works projects to financial reports and initiatives for holiday events.


Tuesday’s meeting began with a proclamation, recognizing November as National Caregiver’s Month.  Three public hearings were held—the first to consider ordinances for several building codes. There was a lot of interest in California Historical Building Code 2013.  The code will identify certain structures within the City of Inglewood as historic sites.


“The California Historic Building Code is important.  Adding the historic building code is a major step forward.  It will help developers repurpose instead of demolish,” said Anne Cheek La Rose. 


“One building we must preserve is that movie theatre on Market Street (Fox Theatre),” Gil Mathieu said.


A second public hearing was held to consider an ordinance to express the City’s intent to comply with California Senate Bill No. 7 (SB7) relating to the Prevailing Wage Law.  According to Public Works Director Louis Atwell, “(SB7) prohibits cities from using funding unless they comply with prevailing wage laws.  It also allows cities like Inglewood to ensure continued eligibility for state funding.” 


Mathieu and Leroy Fisher wanted to know what is being done to make sure prevailing wages are paid.  “I don’t see a lot of people getting these contracts who look like me,” Fisher said, alluding to the hiring of minorities.


Atwell also asked the City to consider drilling and constructing a water well at 101 W. Arbor Vitae. “The well would pump between 1,500-2000 gallons a minute.  Every time we drill, it saves the City money because we are no longer importing our water,” he said.   


Ethel Austin supports the well project:  “We used to have our own water instead of buying from other places.  This is a plus.”


Some in the audience had questions:  How is this going to affect the ground water?  How deep will the drilling be?  How much will it cost residents? 


“They dig 700 feet to get this water and the cost—we go to Congress to get funding to…maintain the water replenishing plan as well as the new well,” Councilman Ralph Franklin answered.


Mayor James Butts added that the savings accrued from having a city-owned well will “only be a hedge against future increases in water rates.”


“They go up 5 to 8 percent each year because of the cost of bringing water down from Northern California,” Atwell said.


City Treasurer Wanda Brown reported that the Fabulous Forum has generated $237,500 in admission sales tax and $561,000 in parking tax for the City of Inglewood, “compared to zero” had the City not reached a deal.  Revenue does not include taxes from concession sales.  Inglewood is expected to receive more than $800,000 in tax revenue from the Forum this year alone.


“For those who thought it wasn’t a good deal, pay attention,” Butts said. 


City Clerk Yvonne Horton got a green light to hold Inglewood’s next General Municipal Election on Tuesday April 7, 2015. 


Mayor Butts is still riding high, having captured 84% of the votes over his 3 opponents on Nov. 4. 


“This was a great statement of your leadership and we’re all proud of you,” Councilman Eloy Morales said. 


 Butts commented:  “People didn’t just vote for me.  People also voted for this council.  People voted for results.”


Councilmember George Dotson used his closing remarks to congratulate Mayor Butts on his re-election and recap last weekend’s Covered California health fair.   “I want to encourage anyone who does not have healthcare to sign up before February 15.   If you need help, call (800) 300-1506,” Dotson said.


Franklin added that there were well over 500 guests at the Covered California event on Nov. 15 and 250 began the healthcare enrollment process. “Health care is critical.  In many cases, it could be little to no cost to the family.” 


Councilman Alex Padilla also congratulated the mayor for a “well run and successful campaign.” 


Initiatives were approved for the City of Inglewood to sponsor holiday toy drives in Districts 2 and 4.


With the election behind him, Mayor Butts is making good on his promise to pay more attention to Inglewood schools. KPCC published a scathing article on Nov. 6 about unsafe and unsanitary conditions at several campuses.


“We will be meeting with the state superintendent’s office on Friday.  There is work to be done and our voices need to bring about effective change.  This city is nothing without a good school district,” Butts said.


“We have really rounded the corner.  We are on the right path.  I am proud to be your mayor. "

On Tuesday November 25, at 3:00 p.m., the Los Angeles Lakers and The Salvation Army Inglewood Citadel Corps will team up to distribute frozen turkeys, pies and all of the classic holiday trimmings to 300 deserving families – just in time for Thanksgiving.  Lakers’ star guard Jeremy Lin and six Laker Girls will be on hand to help pass out the food to those in need and share warm holiday cheer. 


The event will be held at The Salvation Army Inglewood Citadel Corps, 324 E. Queen Street, Inglewood, CA  90301, 

This marks the 7th year that The Salvation Army Inglewood Citadel Corps, along with  various community partners have hosted the “Miracle on Manchester,” food distribution event. Since the event first began, it has given more than 8,000 in need families the gift of a Thanksgiving meal. The Salvation Army Inglewood Citadel Corps will partner with the Los Angeles Lakers, Food Finder, and the Rotary Club of Inglewood whose lead gift of needed food staples for each food box helped make the event a reality. 

During the 2013 holiday season, The Salvation Army in Southern California provided more than 290,000 meals to individuals in need. Delivering food to the hungry is just one of the social services made possible this Christmas season, when money is donated to The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles stationed at storefronts throughout the city. For more information on The Salvation Army in Southern California, visit To help a hungry family in need in your community, contribute to red kettles or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. 

Reggie Theus, men’s head basketball coach at Cal State Northridge and an Inglewood High School alumni, paid a special visit to the school last Wednesday to see his No. 24 green-and-white jersey retired.


The ceremony took place on Nov. 12th, “Reggie Theus Day,” in the gym, and was attended by students, teachers, parents, former teammates and coaches and members of the Inglewood City Council.  A standout player in the 70s, Theus went on to play for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as well as several NBA teams.


Theus was an MPV for the Sentinels before launching his successful pro career.  A 1975 Inglewood High grad, he averaged 28.5 points and 15.5 rebounds a game while leading the Sentinels to the semifinals of the 4A CIF state tournament. He led the Sentinels to Bay League championships in 1974 and 1975.


“This day is not only about me, it’s about you, because I sat in the same seats that you’re sitting in now. It’s not who you are and where you’re from, it’s where you’re going,” Theus said.


Theus said he was humbled by the response received at Inglewood, and hung around to answer questions by students. 


Before becoming a college coach, Theus played for several NBA teams, including the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City Kings, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets and Orlando Magic.



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