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Jayne Cortez, a forceful poet, activist and performance artist dies at 78

Jane Cortez Portrait Session

Bob Berg/Getty Images

American poet Jane Cortez poses for a June 1996 portrait in New York City, New York.

Jayne Cortez, a forceful poet, activist and performance artist who blended oral and written traditions into numerous books and musical recordings, has died. She was 78.

The Organization of Women Writers of Africa says Cortez died of heart failure in New York on Dec. 28. She had helped found the group and, while dividing her time between homes in New York and Senegal, was planning a symposium of women writers to be held in Ghana in May.

Cortez was a prominent figure in the black arts movement of the 1960s and '70s that advocated art as a vehicle for political protest. She cited her experiences trying to register black voters in Mississippi in the early '60s as a key influence.

A native of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., she was raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles. She loved jazz since childhood and would listen to her parents' record collection. Don Cherry was among the musicians who would visit her home and her first husband was one of the world's greatest jazz artists, Ornette Coleman.


Teenager charged in shooting that killed 1-year-old Angel Cortez in Watts

Angel Cortez


The Los Angeles District Attorney's office has charged a 15-year-old in the killing of 1-year-old Angel Cortez (above).

Donald Ray Dokins, 15, was charged Thursday with murder and attempted murder in a shooting that killed 1-year-old Angel Cortez on June 4. Mauro Cortez, Angel's father, was holding the boy in his arms as he stood outside a house with a group of people in Watts. Prosecutors say Dokins rode up on a bike and shot a handgun several times towards the group before speeding off.

Mauro was injured, but not seriously.

Assistant District Attorney Kenneth E. Lynch believes the crime was a gang act. He also said the victims were not gang members. 

The LA Times is reporting police believe Dokins is a member of a clique within the Fudgetown Mafia Crip gang called T.Funk Ridaz. He was reportedly identified as a suspect soon after the killing.

Dokins is being charged as an adult. if convicted on all counts, he faces multiple life sentences. The teen is due in court Friday morning in Compton for arraignment. Prosecutors have asked for his bail to be set at $3 million. 


The city is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of 1-year-old Angel Cortez's killer

Angel Cortez


The city it offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer of 1-year-old Angel Cortez.

Angel Cortez was fatally shot while in his father's arms Monday night, near the corner of 105th and Hickory Streets in South Los Angeles. Cortez and his father, Mauro Cortez, who was also hit, were rushed to the hospital, where Angel was pronounced dead after life-saving efforts failed. 

Police say a young man on a bike, at the corner of 105th and Hickory Streets, was the shooter. They would not speculate on a motive for the shooting, but the LAPD’s criminal gang homicide division is investigating. So are federal agencies. Police dismissed speculation that someone had targeted the family because of the color shirt one of the baby’s relatives wore. LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes Watts, said the focus should be on finding the boy’s killer. 

"We talk about the gang issue," he said. "Let me be clear. Angel Cortez was not a gang member. He was a one-year-old child. He should not be subject to this violent act. And we as a community will not put up with it."


Bicycle-riding shooter kills baby boy, injures father on Watts sidewalk

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East 105th and Hickory streets in Watts, where a 1-year-old baby was shot and killed on Monday, June 4, 2012.

Police are searching for a bicycle-riding gunman who shot and killed a 1-year-old baby as he was being held in his father’s arms in Watts on Monday evening.

According to the LAPD, the shooter is believed to be a teenager on a bicycle who rode past the 24-year-old father and his son at about 7:50 p.m., suddenly firing several rounds from a handgun, the L.A. Times reports. The father, standing in front of a house near East 105th and Hickory streets, was struck in the shoulder, the baby in the torso, CBS reports.

The shooter, said to be between 15 and 17 years old, fled on his bike and has not been found. The baby was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and died at about 11 p.m., according to reports. The father is said to be in stable condition.

Although a motive is not certain, several reports say that police are leaning towards gang rivalry as the cause of the shooting. According to the police, a clash between rival Latino and African-American gangs led to several deadly shootings last year -- and in Monday’s incident the shooter was African American, while the victims were Latino.