Stories about Los Angeles

Since moving to LA in 2009, I've had the good fortune of exploring the city's neighborhoods, cultures and characters through my work, including a multimedia internship at KPCC/Southern California Public Radio and a camera operator position for's teen website Cambio. Here's a small peek into the Los Angeles that I've discovered.

Street Symphony

Story by Ashley Myers-Turner with Kevin Ferguson, Photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

When Robert Gupta isn’t busy being first violin for the Los Angeles philharmonic, you might find him on skid row. He directs Street Symphony--a nonprofit group of professional musicians who bring music live classical music to those in need. Check out the full story on KPCC and audio interview on KPCC's Off-Ramp.

Memorial march for Unique Russell attracts friends, family, activists

Story and photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

About 50 community members met on Monday in Inglewood for a memorial march for Unique Russell, the 14-year-old girl shot to death on the Fourth of July while watching fireworks in her grandmother's front yard. Her death is believed to be the casualty of a gang dispute. Both friends and strangers came to pay their respects to the family. But many, such as activist Vicki Lindsey, were also hoping to raise awareness about the rampant gang violence in the community.

"It may have happened to Unique, but guess what. It will happen to somebody else and somebody else if we don't stand up and say enough is enough. Because these are our babies. Not even just babies. They are killing people period," she said.

Anime Expo

The Anime Expo brings over 100,000 fans to the LA Convention Center for 4 days of cos play, gaming, industry panels, fashion shows, karaoke, workshops and concerts.

Mars workers juggle JPL work, home life

Story by Erika Aguilar, Photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

Excerpt: Part of the lab family

When your parent or spouse, partner or sibling works at JPL — you’re likely to become part of the lab family, too. About 400 people there work on the Curiosity mission; no one's counted how many of them belong to dual-scientist families with kids.

As it turns out, the parents of half the kids at the Child Educational Center in La Cañada Flintridge work at Caltech or JPL. The daycare center maintains flexible hours to accommodate parents who work on Mars time. Its program director, Lisa Cain-Chang, said teachers there tend to focus on scientific and exploratory learning.

“Whether that probing question at four years old is why doesn’t the water stay in the sand versus later when you are an engineer or an astrophysicist and asking the more complicated questions, it's those early opportunities for them to start thinking through problems.”

The daycare is right around the corner from JPL, close enough for engineer Liz Johnson to check in on her 9-month-old daughter Kaylie and her 4-year-old son Conner Apollo during her workday breaks.

Conner loves building rocket ships in the play yard. She asks him, “Where’s it going to go?"

"To Saturn," he giggles in reply.

"And is Saturn nearby or is it far away?"

"Far away.”

Johnson and her husband work at JPL. They and other scientists and engineers often carry space photos and models of the rover home for their children to examine. But as the lab’s prepared Curiosity for its big day, she said it's been hard sometimes to get dinner on the table at home.

“Every day has been really challenging and we’ve had other families that have stepped up and said, ‘Come on over on Tuesdays.' So we’ve gone over on Tuesdays."

JPL engineers and scientists aren’t shy about expressing the anxieties and stress around the mission and their jobs. They’re trying to accomplish something that’s never been done before. Maybe because no one knows for sure how it’ll turn out, the task fascinates people beyond the lab almost as much as it does the scientists and engineers.

Tiger Boxing Gym

At the small yellow-brick gym in Melrose, former pro boxer and Olympian Charles "Young Dick Tiger" Nwokolo trains men, women, teens and children, focusing on cardio conditioning, strength, technical skill, self-discipline and self-defense.

Born in Nigeria, West Africa, Tiger started fighting at age 13, fought in the 1984 Olympics and fought professionally from 1985 - 1996, with an undefeated record of 31 wins and 1 draw, including 20 wins by knockout.

The People Concern

In 2016, two long running social service organizations, OPCC & Lamp Community, merged to form The People Concern. The non-profit is now the leading provider of, and advocate for, evidence-based solutions for the challenges of homelessness and domestic abuse. They provide a fully integrated system of care, including mental and medical health care, substance abuse services, and permanent supportive housing.

I worked with The People Concern in conjunction with Momenta Photojournalism Workshops to profile the experiences of The People Concern community members.

Former Marine creates art to combat 

civilians' insensitivity to war

Story and Photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

After seeing combat firsthand in 1991, artist Ehren Tool was shocked at how living life as a civilian means being surrounded by war.

“I came back from the ’91 Gulf War and during that war I wore a gas mask thinking that the air was poison," Tool recalls. "And I came back and it’s a toy now — for ages six and up."

Ehren Tool served with the 1st Marine Division during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After he came back to California, Tool attended Pasadena City College and the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill. In 2004, he received his Master of Fine Arts in Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley.

His new exhibit "Production or Destruction" is an autobiographical project made up of hundreds and hundreds of handmade ceramic cups, decorated with ceramic decals from pop culture and combat. There are 1,100 cups lining the exhibit walls, and 393 cups sit shot and shattered on the installation floor.

They're exhibited in units based on military formations: squads, platoons, companies. Each serve as a visual reminder of a Marine within a unit.

Tool refers to his work as “war awareness” as opposed to “anti-war."

"A lot of the cups are that collision and collusion between military and civilian cultures," he explains. "Like a World War I toy soldier. In World War I, 10,000 people a day would die, and you make a toy of that? I think if you’re making toys out of that, then war’s pretty abstract to you."

Sonos Gallery in Los Angeles makes art out of bottle noises with 'Bottle Tones'

Story by Peter Stenshoel, photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

Remember the first time you blew into a bottle as a kid? KPCC’s Peter Stenshoel does, and that’s what got him to check out Bottle Tones, the new installation at Sonos Studio--owned and operated by the electronics company of the same name.

Echo Park's Dream Center shows off its new floor and facilities

Story and Photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

Echo Park's Dream Center showed off its recently upgraded facilities to the mayor and press Wednesday. The center has been providing services to the area's homeless, mentally ill and substance abusers for nearly two decades.

Mayor Villaraigosa met with the center's head, Pastor Matthew Barnett, for a tour of the center.

"I choose to look at this not from the monetary savings, but from the savings of lives," said Villaraigosa. "I see talent here, I see great futures here."

The city has long channeled funding to the center, allowing it to renovate its offices and build an additional "educational floor," designed for those residents and visitors completing a GED or participating in an Alcoholics Anonymous program.

Dream Center staff said they hope the additions will allow them to better serve foster youth who have aged out of the city adoption system, as well as single mothers struggling to hold down jobs.

“I’ve been here for three years now," said Amber, one of the center's third-floor residents. "I found this actually on the internet and came here and saw the pictures," she said. "I saw happiness in people. I saw something that I never had and that I really longed for and I just didn’t know how to get it."

Staff said they hope the renovations will allow them to assist an additional 400-500 people, on top of the 700 they currently serve.

"My dad was a pastor as well," said Barnett, discussing his vision for the center. "We both came [to Los Angeles] thinking that we were going to build a traditional church and speak on Sundays. And we came here and we just felt that we didn’t want to be great pastors. We just wanted to be city janitors, walking into city streets and picking up broken pieces."

Chick-fil-A supporters and protesters rally over the restaurant's 

anti-gay stance at Hollywood location

Story and Photos by Ashley Myers-Turner

Controversy over Chick-fil-A's anti-gay stance continues as both protesters and supporters gathered outside the Hollywood location Wednesday.

Many cars passing by honked their horns in support of the protesters.

But American singer Pat Boone, who currently acts a conservative political commentator, came out to support the Hollywood Chick-fil-A location. He picked up a chicken sandwich and defended CEO Dan Cathy and his family.

"They are interested in supporting pro-family, pro-marriage causes, but not just that," Boone says. "They have given millions to scholarship programs for kids who couldn't afford to go to school. Yes, they have their personal preferences. They have their personal views. And in America, they're entitled to express those views — not be shut up, or run out of business!"

Protester Ari Solomon believes that raising awareness about the company's beliefs is particularly important for the Hollywood area.

"Hollywood has a very large gay community," Solomon says, "and I think that once the gay community becomes aware of the fact that Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to take away or block their civil rights, that they'll react to that and not want to spend their money here."

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