Occidental College trustee out over blackface picture | Gentrification alive in Echo Park | Eagle Rock’s comic book punk rock star

A Roundup of Eastside News & Info

An Occidental trustee posed in blackface in the 1980s during a portrayal of the Jackson 5. Gentrification troubles a paraplegic Echo Park renter and an Eagle Rock punk rock star and comic book writer gets a Netflix series. Here’s your Monday News & Notes.

Occidental trustee resigns after a picture of her in blackface surfaced 

Jennifer Townsend Crosthwaite resigned last month after a 1984 college yearbook picture of her and two other Occidental College alumni in blackface was discovered. Crosthwaite, who with her husband, has been a major funder of the Eagle Rock school, said in a letter sent out via email that she “deeply regret the decision.”

The incident is a major blow to the image of the leafy liberal arts college that often boasts its  most famous  alumni, former President Barack Obama. He was at the liberal arts school from 1979 to 1981, just a few years before the picture was taken.

“My friends and I were portraying the Jackson 5 at a talent show; at the time I was unaware and uneducated regarding the history of blackface and its social ramifications,” she wrote. “Nevertheless, my actions were insensitive, disrespectful, and offensive, and for that I most sincerely apologize.”

College administrators learned about the photograph as early as Feb. 11 as alumni prepared for an upcoming  reunion, according to the school newspaper. But the photograph had been first posted on a website by a class in 2014, although names were blurred out.

“Images of this kind, and the history and attitudes they represent, are antithetical to Occidental’s mission and values,” said board of trustee chair Susan Mallory and the school’s president Jonathan Veitch in a joint letter.  “Acknowledging and learning from this painful history is essential if we are to move beyond it. This is an opportunity to utilize our own scholarly expertise and examine Oxy’s history in a deliberate, thorough and clear-eyed way.”

But the response didn’t satisfy some. Associated Student president  Jacques Lesure said on Facebook it was “embarrassing that the parties responsible for acting on these concerns have likely missed yet another opportunity to break a cycle of the institution’s day-late and dollar-short reactiveness to issues that Black students face.”


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Echo Park’s ongoing gentrification

L.A. Taco reports on a paraplegic Echo Park renter whose new landlord is threatening to demolish her only accessible bathroom.

Tenant rights activists have come to the defense of Cassandra Tang and her elderly mother after her landlord – who purchased the $1.35 million property on Portia Avenue near Dodger Stadium last summer – said he had to take down the bathroom because it had been added illegally by a previous owner. L.A. Taco suggests the landlord knew about the illegal structures  before he purchased them and wants to tear it down so that he can rent the places out to make more profit.

Construction crews have been fended off for now, and the woman has a lawyer. But as writer Lexis-Oliver Ray points out, the fight shows how two city agencies can be at odds. On one hand, the city’s housing department known has told Tang’s landlord to hold off on demolition while on the other hand the Building and Safety department said it needs to be taken down.

Eagle Rock singer and comic book writer gets Netflix show

The comic book “The Umbrella Academy”  by Gerard Way will become a Neftlix 10-episode series .

Way, who is also frontman for the band Chemical Romance, has “emerged as singular and respected voice in comics … who embraces the bizarre and the postmodern possibilities of the medium.” That’s how the Los Angeles Times Eric Ducker describes the Eagle Rock writer in a profile. He’s co-executive producer of the drama starring Ellen Page, Tom Hopper and Mary J. Blige.

Rachel Uranga is a Los Angeles-based writer

Eastside Scene of the Day


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Parkman Alley, Silver Lake | Katrina Alexy

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