The Church in Ocean Park will honor three exceptional community leaders during the 17th Annual Communitas awards event on Saturday, Sept. 12. Communitas honors members of the church and the larger community who have greatly contributed to fostering peace and justice and who embody and elevate the spirit of community. This year three creative, compassionate and courageous people whose impact can be seen in this community and beyond will be recognized at Communitas.

Each one of the inspirational honorees has worked and continues to work for friendship, peace, social justice and connection across cultures in our community and in the broader world.

“The 2015 honorees work tenaciously to bring about a more beloved and just community. They have each made a positive difference in the lives of many, many people,” said Janet McKeithen, minister of the Church in Ocean Park, which hosts this special event at 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Professor Melina Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist. She is a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, serves on the leadership team for #BlackLivesMatter and is a recognized expert on race relations. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission in 2014. Professor Abdullah has emerged as a national leader in the effort to advance ethnic studies.

She is active in political and community organizing and frequently delivers public lectures and contributes to radio news programs, print and online media. Melina is a member of the Beautiful Struggle collective and co-hosts/co-produces a weekly radio show of the same name, which airs on KPFK (90.7 FM) and streams worldwide. She is also a “soccer mama” of three children.

Mildred Pitts Walter is an educator, author and a lifelong activist and was the recipient of the 1987 Coretta Scott King Award for Literature. Her award-winning book “Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World” is just one of over a dozen children’s books she has authored. She is an avid supporter of civil rights and at the time of her Coretta Scott King Award, Walter was walking for peace from Leningrad to Moscow along with two hundred Americans and two hundred Soviets.

Mildred is one of the founders of the Northeast Women’s Center in Denver, which serves as a resource to women who wish to improve their economic, social and political awareness. At the age of 93, Mildred continues to work for the rights of women and the Black community. She loves to travel and is humbled to be honored with an award at this year’s Communitas.

A specialist in Gerontology, Linda Laisure was the founder and director of H.O.M.E. (Helping Our Mobile Elderly), a licensed residential care facility and nonprofit organization. Twenty years later this led to the establishment of the H.O.M.E. Foundation, a private foundation that has helped numerous vulnerable and economically disadvantaged older adults throughout the United States. Linda’s involvement with the Church in Ocean Park began in 2012 when she rented an office there for the H.O.M.E. Foundation. Seeing a need, she began to make improvements around the church, inspiring others to help beautify the building. She established improved tenant records and procedures.

Now retired, Linda continues to volunteer for St. Joseph Center in Venice. She has also served on the Board of Directors for GLEH (Gay & Lesbian Elder House) Triangle Square, the first affordable housing in the nation focused on the LGBT community. She has been honored for her work with older adults by the Los Angeles City Council for improving the status of women and received the first Caregiver’s Award from the Alzheimer’s Association in 1993.

Reverend McKeithen shared that “We are honored to celebrate them and their work in a joyous event that includes an inspirational program, food, spoken word and lively conversation.”

All are welcome on Sept.12 at Communitas 2015. Individual ticket price is $75; for more information and to purchase tickets, please call (310) 399-1631 or email:

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