By Laura Foti Cohen
Today Los Angeles is defined by diversity in its government, local neighborhoods, workplaces – even clubs. Our city has always been a land of opportunity, drawing the ambitious, the daring and the fed up for more than 100 years. A diverse group of our own Ebell members came here from places with less diversity and fewer opportunities. They have made their mark in LA, and while they don’t feel their own careers were hindered by their ethnicity or background, they are actively involved in keeping Los Angeles a land of opportunity for all.
Glynis Morrow’s father, a teacher and musician at Xavier University, joined the Navy as an officer, but endured many injustices. He moved his family away from New Orleans when Glynis was a preschooler in 1947. “All of my family was migrating at the time,” she says.
After marrying and having two children, Glynis earned a degree in Behavioral Science and a Masters in Public Administration. She took a job with the Los Angeles Department of Social Services, and in 1980 moved to the City Attorney’s office as a hearings officer.
“The city had just started rent control and I was hired to be a rent control hearing officer. I did that for a couple of years, then became a hearing officer in the area of age discrimination and then for the gang unit.”
For her last eight years with the City, Glynis was named the administrator supervising the hearings programs for all five branches of the City Attorney’s office. She says, “The various offices didn’t know each other, and there was jealousy and rivalry. I was able to bring all the offices together, which made for a very happy convergence.” Although she is now retired, for the past four and a half years Glynis has been an Interview Specialist working with the LAPD and LAFD interviewing prospective new hires. “I enjoy the work and I don’t take it lightly,” she says.
Glynis notes, “In 23 years, every job I had was newly created, so I never had to step into anybody else’s shoes. I’m very aware and sensitive but I never felt I was personally held back because of my race.” Glynis belongs to LINKS and is a former president of the Wilfandel Club.
Sandra Juniel-Harris was born and raised in Milwaukee and moved to Los Angeles right after college, in 1965, because her husband had a job at Hughes Aircraft. Sandra remembers, “I hadn’t seen a lot of diversity in Wisconsin. When we came to Los Angeles I was so excited about how diverse it was.”
But Sandra was surprised to find that California’s educational system was “not as strong as I thought it should be.” She and her husband decided to open a school in Watts. “We wanted to put a school in a place where it would make a difference in the community,” she says.
Their original school at Main Street and Imperial Highway grew from two children to 96, and then the couple took over a school of 102 children on Figueroa. “We’d never seen a community like Watts. Ted Watkins was running a community action committee and asked me to set up a 24-hour day care program for them. I felt it would be a conflict with me owning two schools. So we sold the schools and my husband returned to his career in engineering.”
Sandra ran the daycare program for eight years, then in 1979 went to work for the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching high school and preschool. She retired in 2009 after a 30-year career and is currently enjoying her active involvement with NAACP Women.
Pamela Bright-Moon, a broadcast engineer, began her career in the mailroom at CBS in 1981. She says, “I later found out I was hired because of affirmative action. That didn’t bother me. I was ecstatic that there was the opportunity. CBS is actually one of the most diverse networks.”
She worked on “The Young and the Restless” as an edit assistant and for the past 13 years has been a satellite transmission supervisor, working in the control room and bringing in feeds for news, sports and syndication. Pamela says, “I’m the only woman ever in the history of CBS TV in Television City that works in my department, and the only African-American.”
Women in the broadcast world are found largely on the production side, Pamela says. “That’s where you have directors, stage managers, etc. On set there are women hires. But in post-production, I haven’t seen any new women in years. In the technical realm of television, there are no 20 or 30-somethings coming up like I did: recording shows, editing, working as camerawomen.”
Pamela, a proud mother of two sons in college, also owns a video production company, With Grace Productions (withgraceproductions.com), named after her grandmother Grace Lee. Through With Grace, she does a lot of community work, including a recent shoot at the 20th annual Empowerment Congress organized by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at USC. Ebell member Areva Martin was a speaker at the event.
Karani Marcia Leslie also works for CBS and recently celebrated her 30th anniversary with the company. For the past six years she has also volunteered with the California African-American Museum and chairs its Conversations Committee. “We try to interview six times a year notables whose contributions to the community we feel should be on record,” she explains.
Karani came from a large (17 aunts and uncles!) and loving family that she credits with guiding her to success. “I’m just proud to be who I am. One of the main things that energizes me is being true to who I am. I’m sure it’s harder for younger people to maintain that core for themselves because they’re bombarded with so many images and stereotypes today. But a loving family and people around you who you can admire and emulate makes it less of a challenge. I had a lot of family members who expected a lot of all of their children. Education was always stressed. We were lucky, not everybody gets that.”