St. Elmo Village Director
“Creating is my centering and my focus”, says JACQUELINE ALEXANDER-SYKES, a multi-talented artist who utilizes color, shape and perspective to create striking forms figures and landscapes. Her pallet includes working with acrylic, oils, watercolor and 35mm camera.
Within the past 40 years Jacqueline has found her voice in the creative process, a voice that speaks eloquently through painting, photography and other creative endeavors. After receiving her Bachelors of Arts degree in Art History from San Jose State University, Jacqueline traveled to Africa and studied in Ghana during the summer of 1974. A few of her many accomplishments are, the design of a mural located on Venice Boulevard (across from the Helms Bakery building), and a published photograph in a book entitled “Black Women for Beginners” by S. Pearl Sharp.
Since 1979 Jacqueline has lived and worked at St. Elmo Village, in Mid City Los Angeles. The Village has been an avenue for Jacqueline to share and teach the process of creativity to others as well as being a place of creativity where she can explore and develop as an artist and exhibit her work. For the past six years her work with youth has extended to be a Discussion Leader for the Getty Multicultural Internship Program, in which college interns are mentored. As a Board of Directors Member and Administrative Director of St. Elmo Village, Jacqueline has been an important part of the day to day work that the Village accomplishes in the community. In 2019 Jacqueline became St. Elmo Village’s first female Board President and Executive Director.
As a visual artist Jacqueline Alexander-Sykes continues to develop by borrowing from and recreating the “material” that life has to offer. Recently she has partnered with her husband, Roderick Sykes to paint two of the Los Angeles City Angels. In 2000 she painted two panels for the CRA/TNI (Community Redevelopment Agency / Targeted Neighborhood Initiative) that have been installed at Alta Loma Elementary School. Among her other public art commissions are art for the Junipero Serra Branch Library as part of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Public Art Program, creating art for the walls of Raymond Avenue Elementary School and producing three painted panels for Good Beginnings Pre School. The most resent mural was painted for Walter N. Marks Realty Inc. on the Helms Bakery property.
Jacqueline considers painting and photography to be her “Third Eye”. All of life is a picture to be captured and enjoyed. “The creative process can save lives, it saved mine.”
Director of the William Grant Still Art Foundation
Amitis Motevalli is an artist born in Iran. She explores the culture and survival of people living in poverty, conflict and/or war. Her experience as a trans-national migrant, is foundational in her work. Through many mediums including, sculpture, video, performance, collaboration and public art, her work juxtaposes iconography with iconoclasm. Amitis is also the director of William Grant Still Arts Center, a multi-arts exhibition and educational space focusing on community histories and broadening canons through the arts. Motevalli is invested in research, collaboration, and the potential of art to expand thought. In the fall of 2014, she was the visionary and oversaw a city wide initiative called LA/Islam Arts Initiative, which brought together multiple institutions, with local organizations as well as artists, curators and thinkers to question Art Historical definitions of Islamic Art and regions. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, exhibiting art internationally as well as organizing to create an active and critical cultural discourse through information exchange, either in art, pedagogy or organizing artists and educators.
Professor, Co-Founder BLM
Melina Abdullah is Professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and immediate past Department Chair. Dr. Abdullah earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in Political Science and her B.A. from Howard University in African American Studies. She is a recognized expert on race, gender, class, and social movements. Abdullah is the author of numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, with subjects ranging from political coalition building to womanist
mothering. She has also contributed to popular media outlets, including The North Star, The Root, Los Angeles Times, Truthdig, Los Angeles Sentinel, Los Angeles Progressive, and BK Nation. Professor Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist, understanding the role that she plays in the academy as intrinsically linked to broader struggles for the liberation of oppressed people. Professor Abdullah is a leader in the fight for Ethnic Studies in the K-12 and university systems and was a part of the historic
victory that made Ethnic Studies a requirement in the Los Angeles Unified School District, also serving on the Taskforce for the Advancement of Ethnic Studies and the Ethnic Studies Council Steering Committee for the California State University system. She was among the original group of organizers that convened
to form Black Lives Matter and continues to serve as a Los Angeles chapter lead, policy team lead for the California chapters, and contributes to leadership for the Global Network. She is co-host and co-producer of the weekly radio program Beautiful Struggle which airs on KPFK, part of the Pacifica radio network,
and hosts and produces the weekly internet radio show “Move the Crowd,” which airs on Radio Justice. From 2014-2018, Dr. Abdullah served on the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, where she initiated and chaired the county-wide hearings on community experiences with policing and was instrumental in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. Dr. Abdullah also serves on boards for the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), California Faculty Association-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA-CAN), National Association for Ethnic Studies, the Reverence Project, and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education
(SCOPE). Melina is the recipient of many awards, most recently the 2020 35th California State Senate District Woman of the Year, 2019 Community Organizing Award presented by the Los Angeles African American Women’s PAC, 2018 Community Service Award from National Council for Black Studies, 2017 Unsung Heroes Award from the Oscar Grant Foundation, 2017 Extraordinary Service Award from the African Heritage Studies Association, 2017 Justice Work Award from Beyond the Bars, 2017 Freedom
Fighter Award from the NAACP, 2017 Activist Award presented by the National Association for Ethnic Studies, 2016 Racial Justice Award presented by the YWCA, 2016 Fannie Lou Hamer Award for
outstanding community service presented by the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals, 2016 Fannie Lou Hamer Award presented by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, 2016 Sacred Sistahs Award, 2016 California Teachers Association Human Rights Award, 2016 BCCLA Ella Baker Award, 2015 Freedom Now Award, and the 2015 Communitas Award. She was recognized by LA Weekly as one of the 10 most influential Los Angeles leaders, “Urban Girl of the Year” by 2UrbanGirls, and one of the 15 “Fiercest Sisters” of 2015 by Fierce. She has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox Soul, TV One, ABC, PBS, Revolt TV, KTLA, KCET, BET, Free Speech TV, Al-Jazeera, and Spectrum News, and is featured in the films (In)Visible Portraits, Hello Privilege – It’s Me Chelsea, Waking the Sleeping Giant, 13th, When Justice Isn’t Just, and Justice or Else and the television series Good Trouble and Two Sides. Melina is originally from Oakland, California. She is a single mom of three children and resides in Mid-City Los Angeles.
Executive Director of L.A. African American Women's Public Policy Institute
Joy Atkinson is a private consultant specializing in developing and implementing community outreach programs. She served as a consultant for California Speaker Karen Bass, specializing in outreach to the African American press, the community at large, and with The Speaker’s Clergy Alliance.
Through her work with GeM Communications Group under the direction of former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, Joy has prepared community outreach proposals and coordinated public relations/community outreach programs. Through Alescia Buford & Associates, Joy has worked on press relations and administrative support for Fortune 500 companies in their corporate responsibility programs. For 16 years Joy Atkinson served as Chief of Staff for Former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore.
Upon graduation from the University of Southern California, Joy started her professional career as a Deputy Probation Officer for the County of Los Angeles and became active in the Probation Officers Union Local 685. Joy completed her Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Phoenix.
Her political passion comes from lessons learned from her politically and community conscious parents, Eddie and Antoinette Atkinson. Joy’s father was the first African American to run for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council and reach the general election. At the age of 12 she learned the sorrow of losing an election but the thrill of just being in the political process.
She served as President of New Frontier Democratic Club; serves as chair of the political involvement committee of the Los Angeles African American Women’s PAC; is a delegate to the California Democratic Party; and is the Executive Director of the L.A. African American Women’s Public Policy Institute that is a public policy, leadership, and civic engagement program focusing on minority women, For eight years Joy worked with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the non-profit Empowerment Congress. The Empowerment Congress is a major project involving citizens in civic engagement.
In March of 2002 she was appointed by Mayor James Hahn as a commissioner with the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission and served as President for 1½ years. In November 2003, she was appointed by Mayor Hahn as a commissioner with the Los Angeles City Planning Commission. She became the first local planning commissioner to serve on the citywide planning commission. In June 2009, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Joy as a commissioner to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Permit Review Panel. Named by Mayor Eric Garcetti, she is now privileged to serve as a commissioner on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.
LA City Council District 10 Rep
A life-long resident of Los Angeles, Mark Ridley-Thomas, also known as MRT, is widely regarded as one of the region’s most creative, effective and progressive voices for change in Los Angeles.
Over the course of his career, he has been at the forefront of addressing the region’s most pressing issues. These include: access to healthcare, the housing crisis, criminal justice system reform and creating economic opportunities for local residents – issues he has tackled as a City Councilman, State Legislator and, most recently, as a three-term Los Angeles County Supervisor.
Notably, MRT has been a tireless advocate in the effort to end homelessness – the moral crisis of our times — leading the fight to pass Measure H, the ballot initiative approved by voters in March 2017 that will raise $3.5 billion for homeless services over 10 years.
Appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the statewide task force on homelessness, MRT is dedicated to seeking bold policy changes that will not only provide shelter for the thousands of people sleeping on our streets, but that will also blunt the forces of gentrification fueling the inflow of people onto the streets of Los Angeles.
A thoughtful public policy maker, MRT has secured more than $1 billion in County resources into the 10th District. This funding has been used to extend Metro transit lines, build affordable housing, develop and beautify parks and plant trees.
Attuned to environmental challenges at both the policy and grassroots level, MRT supported the County’s ban on single-use plastic bags, developed LEED certified buildings throughout the second district and also beautified, revitalized and developed hundreds of acres of parks, trails and recreational spaces.
Guided by his belief in the dignity of all people MRT unites forceful advocacy with the necessary executive abilities to create systemic change. No matter how difficult the challenge, he gets things done.
He brought civilian oversight to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, pushed to have Sheriff’s deputies wear body cameras and championed reform of the County’s child welfare system.
One of MRT’s most challenging and rewarding endeavors was to fulfill a campaign promise to build the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. By all accounts, the new hospital now ranks as one of the best hospitals in Los Angeles County, lauded for its high tech and high-touch approach that combines state-of-the-art technology with compassionate patient care.
Prior to serving on the Board of Supervisors, where he is completing his third term, MRT represented the 26th District in the California State Senate. As then-chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, he led the Caucus in unprecedented levels of cooperation and collaboration with counterparts in the Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucuses. He has continued to reach out to all the communities of Los Angeles to address issues of public safety and constitutional policing, immigration, economic opportunity and civic participation for all.
He is widely acknowledged as the foremost advocate of neighborhood participation in government decision-making by founding the Empowerment Congress, the region’s most successful initiative in neighborhood-based civic engagement and forerunner of the city’s neighborhood council system.
MRT’s political career was preceded by a decade of service as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (1981-1991).
A resident of the 10th District for 26 years, MRT lives in Leimert Park neighborhood with his wife of 40 years, Avis, co-founder and director of the Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles. They have two sons, Sebastian and Sinclair, and one grandson, Duke Flynn Ridley-Thomas, who welcomed his baby sister, Maya Yvette, on December 13, 2019.