Larry Aubry: The journalistic soul of an activist

There are but a handful of journalists I have grown to have unadulterated respect for. Two of them come from the same household: Larry Aubry and his daughter, Erin Aubry Kaplan

As I started to wade knee-deep into my journalism career as a reporter, I had the good fortune of getting to know both. 

I got to know about Aubry Kaplan by reading many of her wonderful editorial pieces as a prolific writer and reporter for LA Weekly, and later for the Los Angeles Times. In the case of her dad, it was more of a hands-on learning experience every week as Larry would often drop nuggets of advice to me on how best to cover the issues in South Los Angeles. To be more specific, black issues. 

After his recent passing, elected officials, activists, and community leaders reflected on Larry’s societal contributions-both as a journalist as a strong proponent of addressing concerns afflicting the black community.   

“Larry was a persistent journalist that was a serious truth seeker and he had no problem calling out those in power that wouldn’t tell it,” said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Brent Burton. “Larry and I had a good relationship, he knew my father from the activist days of the 60s.  Larry often told me stories of Fremont High back in the day when it went from White students to Black students when he went there in the late 1940s.”

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Journalist and activist Larry Aubry (pictured right). This photo appears courtesy of Leroy Hamilton via Facebook

The basic functionality of a journalist’s core is to inform. Los Angeles is a better city because Larry did that unapologetically. For those who knew him, and there are many people who did, Larry Aubry’s existence was about seeing doors of equality being opened up in education, civil rights, and in criminal justice reform. His decades-long allotment of hard-hitting weekly columns, editorials, and ramblings for the Los Angeles Sentinel is reflective of that. 

“I have known Larry Aubry and his family for more than 40 years,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said in a statement. “He was a man who always had his finger on the pulse of the needs of African Americans in greater Los Angeles, and he earned a reputation for dealing with the issues of equality and injustice within our community.”

“Larry was never afraid to use the power of his pen as a brilliant, wise, and highly respected columnist at the Los Angeles Sentinel to shine a light on the plight of African Americans,” Waters continued. “His column was a staple in the Sentinel for 33 years, and his thoughtful commentary and analysis on issues like criminal justice reform, worker’s rights, and education was highly regarded by local residents and community leaders.”

For me, seeing Larry out and about in the community covering meetings or activities related to the concerns of Los Angeles residents about gentrification, education, police reform as well as other issues, it was the teacher teaching the journalistic pupil on how not to be afraid to ask the hard questions no matter how uncomfortable that question may be.  

Being blunt and straight to the point is probably the most distinctive attribute that I take away from any time that I was in Larry’s space. Just like the columns he wrote, Lary didn’t mince words. He didn’t bulls— you. He got right after it with you; he’d show you his latest article, tell you why the issues he wrote about was important to read,  and then he was off to the next meeting.  

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Journalist and activist Larry Aubry (pictured left). This photo appears courtesy of Leroy Hamilton via Facebook

Simple-minded conversations were not in Larry’s DNA. He didn’t have time for that kind of nonsensical thinking. Larry spoke and moved with an urgency to save the soul of South Los Angeles. Discussions about police brutality and law enforcement reform were important to him. Meetings about the educational welfare of our children mattered to Larry. 

Whatever went down, you could count on Larry being there front and center. That was just his way.         

“Like many in Los Angeles, I first came to know Larry Aubry on the picket line,” Congresswoman Waters said. “Larry was the epitome of an activist. He spoke truth to power and was persistent in his pursuit of fairness. His activism spanned decades, and his leadership and service on the Los Angeles NAACP, the Inglewood Coalition for Drug and Violence Prevention, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute will never be forgotten. Larry knew all of the African American elected officials, and he did not hesitate to engage them on the issues in their respective legislative bodies. Larry was particularly concerned about education in the Black community and even served on the Inglewood School Board years ago. He was a constant presence at many community events, and he was a skilled public speaker who could rapidly articulate his concerns and recommendations — no matter how short the time frame he was allotted to speak.”

For the greater part of his 86 years on this earth, Larry Aubry did his part in trying to make the world a better place. The many wonderful tributes bestowed upon Larry by other members of the media, professional colleagues, and well-wishers, are the long-overdue flowers that are overwhelmingly due to him. 

Larry’s voice meant representation. By bringing his opinions to the issue table, Larry was able to help other activists and journalists find their voices. Now it is incumbent on the rest of us to step up our game to make sure the very things that Larry Aubry fought for do not wither away in vain. Certainly, Aubry Kaplan will not let her father’s ferociousness of being on the frontlines in fighting injustice dissipate. 

“The first time I met Larry Aubry at a Reparations Rally, 1997, or 1998,” said Los Angeles activist Morris “Big Money” Griffin.”At first there was tension between us because I was a leader in the Reparations Movement. I didn’t recognize who Larry Aubry was nor the work he had done in our black Los Angeles community.”

“I was taught who Larry Aubry was, plus he was an elder,” Morris added. “Larry was a good man, a decent man, and a respectable man. Rest in peace, brother Larry. Your contributions will be missed. As we continue to fight against the issues that plague our existence, may the children of Larry stay strong and keep their eyes on the prize. God bless!

Editor’s note: Feature photo of Larry Aubry appears courtesy of photographer Leroy Hamilton 

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