In a courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, a jury has been seated and opening statements delivered in the corruption trial of Mark Ridley-Thomas, but over the weekend the suspended 10th District City Councilman got a huge dose of support from friends, associates, constituents and faith leaders as nearly 1,000 packed into Holman United Methodist Church for a service of solidarity.
The three-and-a-half hour service —spiked with gospel music, prayers and statements of support—was meant to both encourage the 68-year old career civil servant and politician as he faces the battle of his life. Seated behind the Ridley-Thomas and his family was longtime friend and noted scholar/author Cornel West.
Speakers included host pastor Ken Walden, Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford, Rabbi Steven Jacobs, civil rights legend Dr. James Lawson, Pastors Eddie Anderson and Julian Lowe, Tavis Smiley who said that his station, KBLA, would provide daily updates in their gavel-to-gavel coverage and Pastor Norman Johnson, who leads the South Los Angeles Clergy for Public Accountability.
“We deem this moment as a kind of symbol of where we are in African American politics in Los Angeles,” Johnson said. “We really feel that it’s not just him, but us; he’s not just on trial — we are on trial.
“We want to say to him, that we stand with you; we want to say to our community that we have to stand with those who stood by us and stood with us.”
“He has been tried in popular opinion in some newspapers,” host pastor Ken Walden stated. “He has been convicted in some popular conversations among some people. But we know Mark Ridley-Thomas as a servant for all.
“We pray this service and your presence will strengthen the councilman and his lovely family and he faces some of the most significant challenges that any person could face.”
Oasis L.A. Pastor Julian Lowe recounted how even during the midst of one of the most challenging times of his life, Ridley-Thomas was asking how he could be of service to Lowe.
Noted Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford, “I am a friend of the community and a friend of the Honorable Mark Ridley-Thomas. Not just a friend, but a believer in his mission. There has never been a time when our community needed something and Mark Ridley-Thomas didn’t see how it could be done.”
Calling him a man who has “extra ordinary character”, Crawford urged the community to continue to stand behind him and to support him with their fervent prayers.
The trial is expected to last four to five weeks. KBLA’s daily updates are at 4:30 during the station’s afternoon drive show hosted by attorney/legal commentator Areva Martin.