Bill Boyarsky
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Winning the long fight to fund Bradley documentary

tom-bradley-office.jpgHaving watched filmmakers Lyn Goldfarb and Alison Sotomayor scramble so hard for funding for a documentary on the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, I was glad to see, as I returned from vacation, that they have received a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant that will allow them to finish the project by next January.

They certainly exemplified the Bradley motto of “Never Give Up” as they approached foundations, surviving members of the old Bradley crew, rich people, any one or any organization potentially willing to get behind the documentary, “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race.”

After talking to them and being interviewed for the documentary, I think the project will delve into aspects of Bradley’s career that are being forgotten as the years pass.

Bradley, who served from 1973 to 1993, was Los Angeles’ only African American mayor. He had many accomplishments in those 20 years, including the start of the revival of downtown Los Angeles, beginning the rail transit system and bringing the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles. Perhaps his most important achievement was including Los Angeles’ minority residents in a city government and political system that had pretty much dominated by white politicians and bureaucrats.

Now that we have elected and re-elected America’s first black president, an examination of just how Bradley accomplished the integration of Los Angeles politics is particularly instructive and relevant.

When I talked to them, Goldfarb and Sotomayor were deeply interested in Bradley’s process of building an interracial coalition on his way to becoming mayor. Like President Barack Obama, Bradley knew that he could not be elected without white votes. After an initial defeat in 1969, he worked diligently to win them. I spent many days following him through white areas such as the Pacific Palisades and the San Fernando Valley, watching as his reception became warmer with each visit.

It’s a great story and I’m glad Goldfarb and Sotomayor have finally collected enough money to tell it.

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