Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson Stands in front of the Christmas Tree with the Watt’s Primary chorus at the Holiday Tree Lighting in South LA. (Courtesy photo)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in South Los Angeles. The tree is lit on Century and  Broadway, Spotify released their zillionth holiday playlist and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza has become a Winter Wonderland filled with holiday decorations and a melanated Santa Clause. December can quickly become a month-long sprint from store to holiday gathering and everywhere in between. Sometimes we can allow holiday stress to to define the holiday season. We try to budget for more gifts or try to squeeze in more holiday house visits than Mr. Claus himself, but our holiday memories are rarely about the stuff. The toys and gadgets, even those most desired, will gather dust before long. How many of these holiday gifts do we remember years later? Our strongest memories are connected to the people we love and as adults, children remember their family or community traditions more than any gift. Winter Wonderland is a remarkable opportunity to celebrate the simple things that make the holidays in South LA so beautiful and start or continue a family tradition and create life-long memories.

I love to see our community come together and this year’s Winter Wonderland promises to be our largest celebration yet. Since its debut in 2011, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s annual Winter Wonderland has attracted more than 20,000 attendees and featured past musical performances by GRAMMY-nominated artist Aloe Blacc and Willow Smith. This year, GRAMMY-nominated singer and songwriter Marsha Ambrosius will headline Winter Wonderland. Ambrosius, formerly of the R&B duo Floetry, will grace attendees with her Billboard chart-topping singles, as well as holiday favorites we can all sing along to. In addition to the music performances, the event will be full of free winter activities for the entire family, including sledding and snowman building with real snow, holiday crafts and face painting, as well as hot chocolate and holiday treats.

I grew up in South LA and the holidays have always possessed a magical ability to encapsulate what makes our great district so special and unique. I vividly remember riding down Crenshaw Blvd as a kid and soaking up the holiday magic in the form of music, decorations and the overall festive atmosphere. You could literally feel the love around you along with a slight nip in the air. Times were different then. We were better off in some ways and worse in others. After growing up in South LA, my parents moved my younger brother and me out of South LA to keep us safe during the crack cocaine epidemic. Being forced to leave hurt. This disconnect made the holidays even more important and crystallized my deep appreciation for family and community. My decision to run for LA City Council was motivated by my desire to ensure that South LA families and residents can gather and fellowship  at safe, fun events here in our community.

Something as simple as a holiday celebration can make a real impact. Winter Wonderland brings the magic of the holidays to Crenshaw Boulevard and allows every resident to experience the season with their friends and family right here in South LA. As Councilmember, it’s important for families to have opportunities to celebrate the holiday season right here in our community without needing to leave in order to find that same holiday magic I fell in love with as a child.

Winter Wonderland will also include a visit from Santa Claus, along with toy giveaways for children while supplies last. The event returns Saturday, December 14th, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., with opening performances starting at 4:30 p.m. I hope to see many new and familiar faces at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s upper deck along Crenshaw Blvd.this Saturday.