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LA Dreamers: Our African American Pioneers

black-history-month

The celebration of Black History Month began back in 1926 and today the February tradition is still going strong.

To observe this important time — all month-long, KTLA will pay respect to ‘LA Dreamers – Our African-American Pioneers’.

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Cal State L.A. graduate Mervyn Dymally is the first black person elected to the California Legislature, the first elected to the California Senate and the first elected Lieutenant Governor of California.

The Trinidad born pioneer was an advocate for human rights, serving on the Subcommittee on Africa.

The former school teacher was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This L.A. Dreamer paved the way for minority politicians across the state and across the country.

To find out more about Mervyn Dymally and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Sweet Alice Harris is an L.A. Dreamer who has dedicated her life to her community.

Since the Watts riots of 1965 this community crusader has been striving to improve the conditions of South L.A.

The mother of seven founded the Black and Brown Committee with the purpose of starting peaceful communication between black and hispanic neighbors.

That committee blossomed into Parents of Watts, an organization that provides assistance to the disadvantaged.

This L.A. Dreamer’s programs continue to offer a variety of services, including parent training, English classes for immigrants and drop-out prevention.

To find out more about Sweet Alice Harris and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — The Williams sisters are L.A. dreamers who are two of the best tennis players of all time.

Two little girls from South Central Los Angeles, playing on bare bones public courts in Compton, have emerged as the greatest sister act in the history of sports.

For more than a decade now, Venus and Serena Williams have been the gold standard of the women’s tennis game.

They have won an astounding 22 grand slam singles titles between them and captured 13 more slams in doubles, plus three Olympic gold medals.

Yet even more than all that winning, the Williams sisters brought diversity to the women’s tennis scene.

They have proved that, with talent, determination and hard work, no one ever has to be excluded from achieving their dreams.

These L.A. dreamers are far from finished and are still among the tennis elite in 2013.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Jesse Owens is the first in what is now a long line of African-American track stars.

In the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, this LA Dreamer won gold medals in the 100, 200, 4×100 and long jump, and in the process completely debunked Adolph Hitler’s Nazi propaganda of racial supremacy.

Hitler would snub Owens and other winners, especially those of the Jewish faith.

But over 110,000 fans in Berlin’s Olympic stadium cheered enthusiastically for the 22-year-old from Alabama.

Jesse Owens died in 1980 at the age of 66 from lung cancer.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush awarded this LA Dreamer with the highest honor a civilian can receive… The Congressional Gold Medal.

To find out more about Jesse Owens and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Reverend Cecil Murray is nationally known for picking up the pieces after the 1992 L.A. riots.

In his 27-years as pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, this history major expanded the church’s membership from 250 to more than 19,000.

This former Air Force officer and his congregation created 40 task forces to address the issues of health, homelessness and substance abuse among other projects.

This L.A. Dreamer still works tirelessly to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles as chairman of Christian ethics at the USC School of Religion.

To find out more about Rev. Cecil Murray and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for a leading role.

In 1967 this L.A. Dreamer led all actors, black or white, in box office earnings with three hit movies.

This trailblazer eradicated stereotypes, portraying prestigious characters that were not offered to black actors at the time.

He turned down rolls that robbed African-Americans of their dignity.

In 2009, the Miami born Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.

This L.A. Dreamer set the stage for generations of black actors to be Hollywood headliners and big box office draws.

To find out more about Sidney Poitier and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — KTLA has been celebrating black history month all February by paying respect to L.A. Dreamers — our African American pioneers.

Now we look at Bill Cosby, an American legend and pioneer in comedy, television and life.

“I had this dream of being different, different in terms of my color — the stereotypes of my color on TV,” Cosby said.

At 75-years young, the icon has collected numerous awards, accolades and hundreds of millions of fans around the world.

“I had no intention of becoming a writer, a comedy writer, a performer,” he admits.

But before he made a living out of making audiences laugh, Cosby had conquered a challenging road, a road filled with obstacles that were not always because of the color of his skin.

“My mother was so very, very busy behaviorally with a husband with no responsibility and a husband who was very, very violent and, an alcohol addict,” he recalled.

In his Los Angeles home, Cosby opened up about the one struggle that he has rarely ever spoken about in the past.

“My wish, in those days, I don’t know, but I know that later the wish was for my father to just go away and stay, away.”

Instead, it was a then 19-year-old Bill who left to join the Navy. The rigid atmosphere there gave him foresight that the only way to get out was to get educated.

Cosby was accepted into Temple University on an athletic scholarship. Then came a series of groundbreaking firsts starting with Cosby’s big break in 1965, when he nabbed the leading role in “I Spy,” making him the first African-American actor to star on a weekly network television series and the first to win an Emmy.

Throughout the sixties, Cosby’s career in comedy also flourished.  He garnered six Grammys for his stand-up albums.

For this rising star, it always came back to the importance of education.

While earning his Ph.D and doctorate at the University of Massachusetts, he appeared on the children’s series “The Electric Company,” and developed “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”.

“Understand that life requires that you get this education… Education will guide you out of where you live,” Cosby said.

But it was his role as “Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable” that may have had the biggest impact on society.

“The Cosby Show” was loosely modeled after his own family with his wife, four girls and one son.

To this day the icon still travels the country to do stand-up, where he draws from his life with a message that remains constant, regardless of his success as an entertainer.

“The wish for the people, the education to think 100 percent, we have to put the value of the education where it ought to be.

You happen to be who you are because of your time spent thinking, doing and wanting and not being afraid.”

The Cos also garnered six Grammys for his stand-up albums, but regardless of his success as an entertainer, his stance on life has always been about education.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Whitney Young’s national presence in the fight for civil rights makes him an L.A. Dreamer.

As president of the National Urban League, he expanded the organization’s annual budget from $325,000 to $6.1 million.

This master mediator is credited with persuading corporate America to help fund the civil rights movement.

In 1969, Young was awarded the National Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.

He died in a swimming accident that same year.

But this L.A. Dreamer’s influence is still seen in the national monuments and institutions across the nation named in his honor.

To find out more about Whitney Young and other L.A. pioneers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit.

It’s called “The 90 That Build L.A.” For more information, go to www.laul.org.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Southern California’s African-American Pioneers.

Wilma Rudolph is a dreamer who changed the landscape of women’s track and field in the United States.

After being born prematurely in 1940, it looked like this future star would never walk, let alone run.

Her left leg was crippled by polio and required intense physical therapy.

She was taunted both because of her race and her disability.

But, instead of giving up on her athletic dreams, the twentieth of twenty-two siblings focused on becoming a champion.

With less than four-years of training, she made the 1956 Olympic team at the age of sixteen and won a bronze.

Four years later “The Black Pearl” made history as the first American woman to win three gold medals.

After retiring from track, Rudolph became a school teacher and a respected community leader.

This LA Dreamer’s impact can still be seen today as American women continue to dominate their international track and field competition.

To find out more about Wilma Rudolph and other L.A. Dreamers, the Los Angeles Urban League has a special free exhibit called “The 90 That Built L.A.”

For more information, go to http://www.laul.org.

-Derrin Horton reporting

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