The Queen

‘The Queen’ was kidnapper and a grifter — but her welfare scam made her a symbol

By Lynell George/ Via L.A. Times



“While Taylor the person was a mere shadow, her infractions were writ large, cast in bullet points pulled from Sherwin’s case files. Bliss included them in his article: “Goes under at least 27 different names;  Uses 31 different address . . . Has 25 different phone numbers…”

The article would be one in a series that  Bliss would file on the subject. In this third follow piece about Taylor’s “larceny,” and public aid’s incompetencies — Bliss chooses a particularly resonant and indelible  identifier: “‘Linda Taylor, the 47-year-old ‘welfare queen.’ ”

The story would snowball, becoming part of the national conversation. Most significantly, however, the term “Welfare Queen” would wind itself into the lexicon. Most famously, it would become a racially coded dog whistle that former California governor and newly minted presidential candidate Ronald Reagan would invoke — and exaggerate — as a way of eliciting emotion and rallying constituents’ support in the deepest part of the conservative south. “[Reagan] made it clear that the federal government was preventing the country from reaching its true potential,” Levin writes, “but this unnamed woman in Chicago — she was the enemy too.”


You can read the rest here:

Traveling Through an Analog World

By Lynell George

via The Frame/KPCC and LAist

LOS ANGELES-BASED musician Anthony Wilson‘s latest release, Songs and Photographs, reminds us what we’ve lost in our departure from the analog life — both in music and in snapshots, rich repositories of emotion and memory.

The guitarist, arranger, and composer is the son of the late great jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Gerald Wilson. While jazz is his homebase, Anthony often deftly finds his way into different settings, sitting in with a mix of artists — among them Paul McCartney, Aaron Neville, Kenny Burrell, and Willie Nelson. He’s also been a member of Diana Krall’s ensemble since 2001.

His latest release combines his own music and photography. This new work is an “album” in a broad sense: an unfolding collection of images, both audio and visual. It’s meant to be taken as a whole, intended for reflection.

To read more click over to LAist and you can hear the review along with sound samples here at KPCC/The Frame.


Remembering Carolyn Kozo Cole

By Lynell George LA Times

Carolyn Kozo Cole gave Los Angeles one of of its richest gifts — a deeper, broader and more complex visual record of itself.


From the Shades of L.A. Project

A photograph featured in Carolyn Kozo Cole’s project “Shades of L.A” of Verna Deckard and Arthur Lewis at Santa Monica Beach in the segregated section, Aug 2, 1924. They married later that month. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)

As head of Los Angeles Public Library photo collection for almost 20 years, Cole, who died Dec. 6 because of complications of Alzheimer’s disease, is best known for her landmark project, “Shades of L.A.” The initiative collected thousands of photos from across the region — including a Japanese American family in their Sunday best posed before Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle to African American couples relaxing at the Last Word club on Central Avenue — to create more reflective vision of our city in the world’s imagination.

Read More Here

After/Image is here …


My new book of essays and photographs, After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame made the L.A. Times Bestsellers List on 4/8 (and charted #1 on Vroman’s Bookstore hardcover nonfiction list — bottom left).

I will be signing books at the Los Angeles Times Festival. I will be at the Angel City Press Booth (No. 119, near Tommy Trojan) 4/21f rom 12 to 2pm and on 4/22 from 2 to 4pm.

I will also be participating on a panel: “Photography & Narrative” Sunday afternoon from 12:30 to 1:30pm.

For tickets and more Festival information click here.

Louisiana in Los Angeles: How New Orleans Jazz Traveled to California

By Lynell George via Los Angeles Review of Books

“GOLD MIGHT BE  hiding in plain sight; some small stowaway that’s been overlooked, or somehow dislodged, knocked into plain view. I’m always hoping for some sliver of a remnant.

I knew better, but I tossed my notebook and camera into the car anyway and threaded out the driveway. A few years back, sparked by a couple of sentences I couldn’t shake, I slipped out just after dawn for a little Sunday morning ghost chasing. I’d gotten midway through Howard Reich and William Gaines’s vivid 2003 biography: Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton, my imagination adrift in the descriptions of Morton’s rollicking Los Angeles years. The broadcasting-24-hour Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe Morton (better known as Ferd or simply ‘Jelly Roll’) was his own sky-sweeping searchlight and publicity department; Los Angeles was just another stop along the frenzied nonstop press tour that was his entire life. As the self-proclaimed ‘inventor of jazz,’ Morton, despite his ornate yet delicate polyphonic piano stylings, was as much a genius as he was bombastic.

The reporter in me wanted more. The night before, I’d dashed out a couple of addresses and some approximations based on the narrative’s descriptions, and had them at the ready when I snaked south down the 110 Freeway to Central Avenue. I wasn’t aiming for the area we Angelenos consider ‘Jazz Street,’ but a corridor further north, closer to downtown’s heart . . . . 

But what I wanted to understand most: What did he and so many see when they arrived here, tired but exhilarated, finally unburdened of their pasts? What was their first glimpse? How did California suit them? How did it find its way into their creative imagination, their melodies?”


To read more click here to visit LARB

By Way Of: L.A. To L.A.


An L.A. Woman Embraces Her Ancestral New Orleans Home

By Lynell George

“Zigzagging through the crush of rush-hour commuters at L.A.’s Union Station, I’m hoping to make up for lost time. Suddenly, out of the edges of my vision, a man crosses in front of me, planting himself directly in my path. In a broad-brimmed Panama hat, cream-colored slacks and shoes to match, he’s a vision of not just another place, but another era.

“Where you from?” he asks.

I hold him in my gaze just long enough to assess the question: Rap? Ploy? Curiosity?

I land on the latter: “Los Angeles,” I say.

Without a beat, he lobs back: “Where’s your mama from?”

I let out an “I give” chuckle. Then: “New Orleans,” I respond. Full stop.

“Okay. Yes, of course.” He says nothing more, moves on so that I may do the same. But as I slide into my seat on the Metro, the exchange cycles through again and again, like always, leaving me wondering how I’m marked and how it shows.

I’m often asked versions of this same question by strangers, always other African Americans of a certain age. Where it might seem a logical inquiry within a train station—a busy hub between here and there, I’ve had it happen in other locales—markets or car washes, the dry cleaners. It’s a way of locating and understanding something essential about who we are, who we’re connected to as Americans—and who we were and what that means in a far-flung place—out of context. It’s a post-Great Migration inquiry. It’s often, in my experience, a “Southern thing”: “Oakland by way of Beaumont”; “San Bernardino by way of Knoxville.” But as time passes, and our favorite uncles and our first cousins become ancestors, I wonder how much longer we’ll be asking, and what it might mean to come from an ancestral elsewhere.”


To read more at Zócalo, click here