Written by Tanya Monaghan
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
The systemic, devastating racism currently on vivid display in America is a cancer that must be removed. As with any disease, the first step is to diagnose it, to shine a light on it. Then, we must study its causes and find remedies as quickly as we can. We must work together tirelessly to remove it. We must recognize, educate, and stand up against it to prevent its spread. All of that is most easily and best achieved together, as a united people. Our differences are not something to be feared, but to be celebrated. For it is in diversity that we can find great strength.
I know this to be true, because I have experienced its extreme opposite - I was born in South Africa during the time of apartheid, when inclusion was literally against the law. It was a country torn apart by racism and oppression, and saved by Nelson Mandela and countless others who gave everything to create a “Rainbow Nation” - a vision of a society where all are welcome and have equal opportunity, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or color of their skin.
The truth is that the South Bay is a privileged community, and one that has not been diverse. But it is also a place of creative and hardworking people, so when we recognize a weakness, we work at it. We look to the lights in our community, to the leaders that can help us turn a weakness into a strength. We must invite those different to ourselves in, and learn how to be more inclusive. It was that spirit that saw so many in our community come together to participate in heartfelt BLM protests, even during the pandemic. Of course, that is not even close to being enough, but it is the beginning of a conversation and an education. We need to celebrate, include and lift up BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) within our own communities to create that inclusive society, with diversity as a pillar of its strength.
An amazing example of that leadership is Cedric Jones, owner of Beastie, a boxing gym in Manhattan Beach. Cedric is also a dancer, actor, boxer, trainer, motivator, philanthropist, and general human dynamo. But my favorite way of describing him is less about what he does and more about the most powerful value he embodies – he is truly kind. Cedric has an empathy for people that is borne from the hardships he has endured in his own life, and his generosity is unparalleled. His story inspires us to be better and do more.
Always looking for ways to help others, Cedric launched his beloved foundation BMoved, with the primary goal of helping inner city kids. He goes into detention centers, shelters and on to the streets helping people dealing with homelessness. Even when Covid-19 hit, he was still out there, under the bridges in downtown LA, handing out supplies and food. Cedric wants to help bust the myths and negative association about homelessness. Sometimes the cause can just be unfortunate circumstances, which was what happened to him - in his early twenties, he experienced homelessness because things just didn’t work out. Now, during Covid-19, people experiencing homelessness are in even greater need because others are scared to go near them. But not Cedric - he puts his mask on, goes out there and does his best to help.
Cedric’s next goal is to raise $200,000 to build the first Beastie community center. It will offer a safe place where kids can exercise with state-of-the-art equipment, learn on computers, be tutored, fed and sheltered if needed. The center will have a fridge stocked with food and even offer beds for abused children who need a safe haven. Cedric’s idea is to bring inner city kids together with fortunate kids so that they can interact, connect and learn from each other. Inclusion can be a great teacher.
Adnen and Lenora Marouani of Barsha are more shining lights in our community. They both represent qualities we all strive for: hardworking, kind, generous, smart, determined and strong. Together they are unstoppable, even under the most difficult circumstances. Between owning two restaurants, home-schooling one of their daughters and dealing with all that the past few months have dealt them, it’s fair to say that no one hustles more.
They have a true passion for food and wine, but their greatest is for community. They have built their lives around these passions, from meeting in the kitchen at a restaurant in Las Vegas to creating their own South Bay oasis, called Barsha. Their restaurants offer more than delicious food and excellent wine, they warm you with a feeling that you’ve been invited in their home. Adnen always greets you with a smile and kind eyes. He takes the time to talk to everyone who walks in, and all feel welcome. Lenora will captivate you with her exquisite, ethereal beauty. She draws you in with a rare stillness that is deep, spiritual, intelligent and strong. She is a leader and a teacher, but retains the humility to grow and learn.
At her most powerful, Lenora is an activist, never afraid to stand up for what is right. When the story broke about the horrendous legacy of Bruce Beach Park, she started studying the history and researching that era of Manhattan Beach. She even reached out to the Bruce family to connect the dots and ask how she could help. She might be the busiest woman I know, working around the clock at her restaurants while also caring for two young children, but Lenora somehow also makes time to attend Manhattan Beach City Council meetings as an advocate for the Bruce family.
Cedric, Lenora and Adnen are leaders and builders – of businesses, friendships and community. There are none more deserving of the love and support of the place they call home. The strength of our community depends on it.