The song “I Have a Dream” by Common played in the background, as photos from 30 years of public service flashed across a large screen as Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and his wife, Avis, arrived on Thursday, Sept. 16.
The site: The new Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center, named for the city councilman and former supervisor and his spouse — longtime partners in community action.
The pair were on hand Thursday for a luncheon to celebrate both the new APLA Health building at the Charles R. Drew University and to mark the Ridley-Thomas’ three decades of service to the communities of L.A. County.
As the luncheon began outside the new building, David Carlisle, MD, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, was quick to recognize the couple: “We are proud and happy to recognize Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas for everything that they’ve done and will do for this community, the city of Los Angeles, the county of Los Angeles, the State of California, I could keep going, thank you very much. It is an honor to name our building after you.”
“It is an honor to serve people, to do all that I can to elevate the quality of life for the people in the communities that have been kind enough to vote for me for some thirty years,” the councilman said, “from the Hollywood Hills to the Willowbrook community.”
Ridley-Thomas added: “We had no idea when we began building this campus out that we would have the opportunity to help people in this way, but when you get started, and you empower people and give them a sense of hope and destiny tremendous things can happen.”
Councilman Ridley-Thomas has served in varied elected roles, including three terms on the City Council in the 8th district from 1991 to 2002 and on the Board of Supervisors, representing the 2nd District, from 2008 to 2020. He current represents the city’s 10th district. He attended L.A.’s Manual arts High and earned a baccalaureate degree in Social Relations and a master’s degree in Religious Studies from Immaculate Heart College, as well as a Ph.D. in Social Ethics and Policy Analysis at USC.
Avis Ridley-Thomas served as administrator of the Dispute Resolution Center for the L.A. City Attorney’s office until she retired in 2011.
It was jokingly asked if having a building named in your honor could mean that it has become the twilight of one’s career. The councilman replied: “There is a fourth quarter and I fully intend to embrace it with all the gusto that is resident in my being.”
He added, however: “Let me just say, there is a lot left.”
The event included speeches from Drew University officials, county Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. The event was also scheduled to include a moderated conversation with the Ridley-Thomases, Rep. Karen Bass and activist/professor/philosopher Cornel West, hosted Marc Brown of ABC7 Eyewitness News .
The wellness center named for the couple will offer urgent care, mental health counseling and wellness programs to CDU students, faculty and staff members, university officials said.
As the event concluded, the councilman was swarmed by members of the media asking for comments on the latest headlines, including news that a large number of L.A. cCity Firefighters had declined vaccination against COVID-19. Without skipping a beat, Ridley-Thomas allowed cameras to get set, then began a direct, measured response.
All in a day’s work, even on a day in your honor.