By: Garrison Asma, Life+Arts Intern for the Los Angeles Loyolan
The long-missed L.A. Rams begin their first season back in Los Angeles since their departure in 1994 and it has been quite a whirlwind finally making it to this point. Rumors, unofficial announcements and misinformation abounded. It was not until last January that the Rams officially announced their intention to move back to the City of Angels. Yet, what can we really make of all this news?
As sports fans, should we rejoice in the fact that L.A. is finally getting its only NFL football team back? As members of the community, should we be concerned about the astronomical amounts of development and construction? And as members of the LMU community neighboring Inglewood, should we worry about the impact of widespread gentrification that usually takes place in large-scale development situations such as this?
LMU Alum Diona Okunbo tackles these questions and more in her recent documentary, “Welcome to Inglewood.” Produced by LMU’s own ROAR Studios last spring, Okunbo’s senior documentary project puts an emphasis on taking us into the heart of the city — all while dispelling any common misconceptions floating around that may come to mind with the name “Inglewood.” By using the arrival of the Rams as a framing tool, Okunbo is actually able to go much deeper than simply just reporting reactions to the return of the NFL team by delivering incredibly honest looks into the importance of Inglewood and the thriving black community that many in Los Angeles are quick to discount. Major influencers including the mayor of Inglewood James T. Butts, legendary sportscaster Fred Roggin, author and journalist Erin Aubrey Kaplan and senior research associate at LMU, Deanna Cooke, Ph.D, appear in the documentary among others to voice their opinions on the matter.
No one is ambivalent about the issue — it’s fascinating to see how passionate a reaction each person has with regards to the new development plans. “This project, like the Forum before it, means better quality of life for the residents of Inglewood. Period,” comments Mayor Butts with a sense of optimism and energy that is difficult not to get swept up in. However, the critics are vocal too, with Kaplan providing many of the film’s most well-developed counterpoints: “This whole project was approved with no public input, bypassed a vote that really should have gone to [the] people, and they fast-tracked it for a reason. There’s no environmental review, and in a city that is right in the flight path. … You can bet this would never happen in a city like Beverly Hills or Pasadena.”