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Larry Aubry: Reflections on a Purposeful Life
By Kathy Williamson
Published May 21, 2020

Kathy Williamson (Courtesy Photo)

Larry Aubry was a consummate journalist and a dedicated activist. His columns were perfect storms of passion and facts. He had an ability to seamlessly merge institutional knowledge with current affairs. When he put pen to paper, it was to expose injustice and systemic racism. Larry took no hostages.

He was our conscience and a necessary voice. He was there on the frontlines when decisions were made that affected Black people, especially our youth. He fearlessly held elected officials and leadership accountable while chiding the Black community for complacency and not doing the same.

Larry held many leadership positions, himself. He was a member of the Inglewood School Board; vice-president and education chair of the L.A. NAACP; a board member of Multicultural Collaborative and the Inglewood Coalition for Drug and Violence Prevention; vice-president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute; a member of the Reparations United Front; a member of  the Committee to Save King Drew Medical Center; co-chair of the Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance and so many more.

In the decades that I have volunteered with the Watts Summer Festival, there were two public figures that you could always depend on to attend and lend their support: Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Larry Aubry. He seemed to particularly enjoy participating in the Community Village Discussion component that always tackled controversial and debatable topics.

I was fortunate to work at the Sentinel during the era of seasoned journalists like Larry Aubrey (Columnist), Bob Farrell (Political Editor), Libby Clark (Food Editor), Virgie Murray (Religion Editor), Ron Dungee (Managing Editor) and Betty Pleasant (City Editor) who routinely shared the rich and colorful history that was Black Los Angeles. They were not only reporters of news and culture – they were history makers themselves.

Larry and/or Bob Farrell were cut from the same cloth. They would share stories of  segregation, civil rights and the Eastside Boys – a brotherhood of like-minded men who walked the talk. They both shared tales of morality and responsibility that spoke of a time when unity and purpose were front and center – qualities that Larry championed in his writing.

If there were a Black Peoples’ Pulitzer Award, he would have won it hands down. In 2005, he was honored by The Southern California Library in 2005 for a lifetime of being unafraid to speak the truth, building bridges and working to bring justice to Los Angeles through his outstanding journalism as a columnist for the Sentinel.

Larry and the Sentinel team, under the helm of Danny Bakewell, Sr., keenly understood that the mission of Black and ethnic news outlets is to report on those stories ignored by mainstream media and to ensure that our narrative and image was not dictated by the overabundance of Black violence and criminal activity that continues to lead most other news reports.

Larry gave his readers a Black perspective rooted in pain and purpose. He did not have a desire to be popular, but he was nevertheless. His forte’ was addressing community issues that some wished had remained hidden.

He was notably outspoken about gentrification and protecting Black and Brown communities, calling it “mass displacement.” He cautioned us to look beyond the glitz of new public transit rail lines to the luxury condos and business developments that could price minorities out of their own communities. He talked about backroom deals, lobbying by developers and broken zoning codes.

He also pointed to the historic areas that would disappear or morph into something unrecognizable – The Reef, the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Mall and the Cumulus 30-story skyscraper on Jefferson and La Cienega Boulevards. This may have been one of his last big crusades.

Whenever I happened to run into Larry at meetings or events, he would reach into his pocket and whip out a copy of an investigative report or his latest column. His thirst to share information and his drive to elevate Black lives was perpetual.

As managing editor, there were times when I had to ask the columnists to reduce their word count to 800 and even 600 because we needed to adjust the layout of the page. Instead of complaining, Larry saw it as a personal opportunity to “tighten up his journalism.”

If you’ve ever sat next to Larry at a meeting, you knew one thing – he could not whisper quietly. He was oblivious to the ‘shushing’ and frowns aimed at him. He would continue to give blow-by-blow reactions to the speakers and tidbits about the players while pointing out their shortcomings. It was infinitely more entertaining than the meetings themselves.

Larry will be sorely missed but there are at least 1700 columns that he left us that are all worth reading.  Thank you to the Aubry family for sharing your father, husband, grandfather and uncle with his work family and our Black community.

Categories: Celebration of Life | Op-Ed | Opinion
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