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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Drivers on the Bus Go Sing, Sing, Sing

August 01, 1993|SANDRA HERNANDEZ

Lonell Anderson loves to sing anywhere, but especially while driving his bus through South-Central.

"I sing on the bus all the time, and my passengers enjoy it," said Anderson, 33, a Metropolitan Transit Authority bus driver for the last eight years.

"I think it makes them feel better to hear a little music in the morning, a little gospel."

And after finding that he isn't the only MTA employee who likes to sing, Anderson started a gospel choir whose members are mostly drivers, mechanics and supervisors from the agency's Division 5, which serves South Los Angeles.

Anderson formed the choir, known as Pride At "5," in October to boost the image of Division 5 and of South-Central following last year's riots.

"You know, during the riots I was driving the 204 Line down Vermont and you saw fire and people hollering everywhere, but no one tried to hurt me because they knew me," Anderson said.

"After that, I wanted to do something positive for South-Central and something for my co-workers. I wanted to bring a positive attitude to the division and this community. And the way to get to people is through singing, so I formed the choir."

At first only a few men and women from the division answered Anderson's call for singers, but nearly 10 months later, the group's membership has mushroomed to 38 and includes spouses of workers.

"I've never really done anything like this before," said Ronald Hughes, a driver whose wife recently joined the choir. "But this has afforded me the opportunity to be with my co-workers and have fun."

Choir members rehearse up to five hours a week. They pay weekly $5 dues that go toward paying for their bright green robes, saving for a piano, and saving to buy Christmas toys for needy youngsters.

Pride At "5" has performed at several churches around the city, including Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Los Angeles. The choir was also scheduled to perform at Jordan Downs housing project this past Saturday.

"We go out and sing in communities, and that helps expose people to see that there is something positive coming out of this area," said Joseph Brown, assistant manager of the division and a choir member.

Word of their musical talents has already reached the streets and helped dispel the sometimes negative images people have of bus drivers, choir members said.

"A lady just got on my bus yesterday and said to me, 'Aren't you one of those singing bus drivers?' " said Gregory Oliver, a driver and the choir's chaplain. "I guess she saw me perform at her church."

For now, Anderson says he is content to fine-tune the choir's repertoire, which consists mostly of traditional gospel songs such as "Jesus Loves Me." But Anderson, a seasoned gospel singer who has performed with the late James Cleveland and the Los Angeles Gospel Messengers, said his ultimate goal is to perform at the White House.

"We'll sing 'Hallelujah' if we get there," Anderson said, "I want the world to know about Pride At '5.' "

"Yeah, we just want people to see that good things come out of South-Central, not just crime," said choir member Alphea Marshall.

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