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Around the South Bay

A graffiti master now devotes his art to God.

March 23, 1995

TAGGER TURNAROUND: With all the revulsion--and even aggression--aimed at graffiti artists these days, one would think super-tagger Chaka might be keeping a low profile.

Hardly. There he was last week, doing his multicolored thing on the broad side of a church bus in Hawthorne. Yet his latest shenanigans are unlikely to get him shot at or even arrested.

Because this time he's doing them for God. Or, more specifically, for Del Aire Assembly of God church and Inner City Youth Ministries, the latter of which Chaka credits with turning his life around.

Chaka, 22, whose real name is Daniel Ramos, became the Paul Bunyan of taggers when he was arrested and accused by prosecutors of defacing nearly 10,000 walls, signs and other paint-ready surfaces between Oakland and Orange County. His promising art career withered in the face of jail time, drugs and premature fatherhood with a 14-year-old girl he impregnated.

"I was tired of being strung out . . . sex, drugs, all that," Chaka told youth group members at Del Aire on March 15. "I felt a burden in my heart to leave a place I'd been 20 years, the projects."

Chaka credited a "supernatural experience" with prompting him to move into the Lancaster youth ministry in February, 1994. He is repaying the ministry by selling hats and T-shirts he designed, and by visiting inner-city ministries such as Del Aire.

"He is a young man who is a gold mine of talent," says JoJo Sanchez, his mentor at the youth ministry.

His future plans don't stray far from the skills he acquired through his years of, uh, on-the-job training. He plans to get involved in film animation, continue designing clothing--and to repaint with murals some of the walls he and his ilk so joyfully defaced.

*

AEROSPACE ACCOLADES: Hollywood's Walk of Fame bestows honors on stars who have played Amelia Earhart, the Wright brothers and Chuck Yeager.

Westchester's version honors the aviation pioneers themselves.

Yeager and civic leaders unveiled plans last Thursday for Flight Path, Westchester's salute to aerospace pioneers that will feature plaques embedded along Sepulveda Boulevard sidewalks. The first nine plaques--on display at the ceremony--will be placed near the 89th Street intersection.

"This is something you're in the center of--the aerospace industry (the history of it anyway), and it should have been done a long time ago," said Yeager, who in 1947 became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Others getting the inaugural plaques were Earhart, the Wright brothers, Charles A. Lindbergh, Howard Hughes and pioneering aircraft designers John K. Northrop, Donald O. Douglas and J.H. (Dutch) Kindelberger.

"It's not easy to come down here and be the only living person to be honored," Yeager quipped to the crowd.

One plaque won't even go to a person, but to Los Angeles Municipal Airport, now LAX. Douglas Aircraft Co., North American Aviation (now Rockwell International) and Northrop all tested planes at the field. Although his historic flight was above Muroc Dry Lake Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), Yeager says he often came to the L.A. area to test planes and simulate flights.

Flight Path will also feature public displays of art and aerospace memorabilia displays at local businesses. The first, to be located in the Ralph's parking lot, will be a tall pillar with carved depictions of momentous events in aerospace history.

First up, however, will be getting city of Los Angeles approval to build Flight Path. Councilwoman Ruth Galanter says she will help--and Yeager took note of it.

"Your councilwoman is doing a tremendous job," Yeager told the crowd. "I hope she doesn't bitch too much when we tear up her sidewalks."

--Compiled by DAVE GRIMM

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