By Francis Taylor,
Sentinel Staff Writer
Residents of Councilmember Bernard C. Parks’ eighth council district recently witnessed the 5th annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration with the lighting of the “Peace and Unity Tree,” in Leimert Park.
What started out as a normal night in front of the television set at the home of Councilmember Bernard C. Parks and his wife Commissioner Bobbie Parks, has become an annual South Los Angeles holiday tradition that is now in its fifth and ever-more-exciting year.
As the Parks watched a television news report of the lighting of the Holiday tree at New York’s Rockefeller Center on the news one night in 2002, Bobbie asked her husband, “Why can’t we do that here?”
The councilmember, who was running for his first term at that time, could not provide a reasonable ‘why-not’ but vowed that if he was elected, he would take Bobbie’s suggestion and bring a 100-foot Christmas tree to the Eighth District. Following his landslide victory, Bobbie set out to deliver on her vision and bring the “Peace and Unity Tree” to South Los Angeles.
She formed the Marlton Square Christmas Tree Committee and soon won the support of the Greater Bethany Economic Development Corporation (EDC).D.C. to put her plan in motion. At the same time she decided to expand the event beyond the tree lighting to also include a gift giveaway. All they needed now was… THE TREE!
For that, Bobbie secured the first “Peace and Unity Tree” from a designated timber area in Mount Shasta. It was towed on a stretch-bed trailer and raised by a crane at corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Marlton Avenue.
The combination of the 100-foot, 22,000 pound tree, thousands of donated gifts and Councilmember Parks doing his part to gain city support for the events made the 2003 holiday season one of the most memorable that the region had seen in years with nearly10,000 people attending the tree lighting ceremony and gift giving events where over 5,000 gifts were given away.
Successive events grew even larger and due to construction at the earlier site, the new location became Leimert Park, which was able to accommodate a smaller tree. On the other hand, because of Leimert Park’s layout and design, it allows for the entire park to be illuminated which, along with free food and entertainment, as well as Poinsettia Plants, provided by local citizens and merchants, punctuating the sidewalk, it provides for the launch of a fun-filled holiday for everyone in the community.
During the event program, Bobbie Parks declared, “If Washington, D.C., can have a tree lighting ceremony, we can too,” as she welcomed the hundreds of community-residents who were on hand for the occasion.
She and Councilmember Parks also thanked members of the Parks staff, community members, Radio Station KJLH, City Council Members, the Los Angeles Public Works and Water and Power Departments, the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department, the Sanitation Bureau, the Bureau of Street Services, The Los Angeles Sentinel, Mothers In Action, especially Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, La Opinion, and a host of others who continue to make this event possible.
They shared the microphone with Deborah Beavers, Director of Field Operations for Parks’ office and Kevin Nash and Adai Lamar, from KJLH Radio Station, 102.3.
A broad cross-section of entertainers were on hand to add to the celebration including Soloist Meshelle Lee; Poetess Bikki; the Crenshaw Bears Cheerleading Squad—coordinated by Leslie Belt-Adway; Soloist Tracy Brown, Donna Nelson and the Perpetual Praise Dance Ministry, the Inner City Mass Choir; and, Marvin Clayton and The Apollo West Voices of Soul.
Holiday food and refreshments were provided by Chef Marilyn, Leimert Park BID, the Leimert Park Merchant’s Association, the Winter Wonderland 2007 Committee, Superior Markets and Starbucks Coffee.
In closing the formal launch of the Christmas season in the 8th District, Bobbie and Councilmember Parks invited everyone to enjoy the park, “don’t just drive by.” They urged. “Bring the family, shop among the Leimert Park merchants, and enjoy the holiday season.”
They also invited everyone in the community to participate in the gift giveaway which will take place at 10 A.M. on Saturday, December 15 in Leimert Park, beside the Christmas Tree and the larger-than-life snowman.
Individuals instrumental in bringing theidea of the tree lighting ceremony to Leimert Park are: Bobbi Parks
Robert Rubin, Adrienne Mayberry, Lorinee Jackson, Cathy Brinn and Chris Hammond.