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Attorney Robert Ball is one of South Los Angeles' finest. The USC Law graduate is a product of Verbum Dei High School and Cal State Dominguez Hills. He now resides in Beverly Hills, where he worked for one of the top 10 law firms in the nation before he started his own law firm, focusing on civil rights, police brutality, and wrongful terminations.
At an early age Ball chose the right path. While many boys in his age group were joining gangs, Ball chose the books and sports. Gang life was always around him, and he had to co-exist with individuals who were terrorizing his neighborhood. But Ball was able avoid the street life in his area near Rosecrans and Central.
"It was challenging in that there were a number of neighborhood youths that were caught up in the gangs," Ball said. "I had to avoid it and do positive things."
Sports was Ball's outlet. The gang members noticed Ball's talents, so they left him alone to chance his dreams.
Ball credits his parents, who he said never told him no to anything that he wanted to try.
"They allowed me the flexibility to try a lot of different things in terms of sports and other type of activities," Ball said. "That had the biggest effect on what was driving me."
Ball was not the only one to succeed in his area. He said that within a few blocks from him there were a few of his friends that grew up to be doctors and lawyers. He points out that there were local kids that grew up in the same environment that he did, but they chose a different path.
Ball looks at present day South Los Angeles, and he does not see the same opportunities that he had as a child.
"There were opportunities for young people to pursue things if they chose," Ball said. "Those opportunities are no longer available to youth in the community because of budget cuts, which basically reduced the resources in places like Parks and Recreation. The outlets that allowed people like me to peruse positive things."
Ball believes that there is a direct link the amount of opportunities available to youth in the community and the amount of youth who rise above to do positive things. Without very many opportunities there will be less youth who will succeed.
"There needs to be an outreach," Ball said. "There needs to be an effort at reaching the kids at schools. It is difficult to reach them at home sometimes, but there needs to be an effort to also get to the parents. There's no parent that would not want the best for their kids. If they don't know how to get access to certain programs, it is like they do not exist.
Ball's experience at USC was very eye opening.
"I was in school with individuals who were groomed for that environment since the time they were four and five years old," Ball said. "I was competing with people who had their eye on this very prize since they where children. I was there, and I competed very well."
After that experience Ball knew that he could compare to anybody, no matter their race or background.
Even though a Black man has been elected President, Ball points out that this country still has a ways to go in term of race relations.
"Just because we have President Obama, that's one person, for the masses, they have to deal with the same stereotypes and biases that people had to in the '60s," Ball said. "The majority of the other races do not view the average Black person as they do Obama.
"The problem from my stand point is that American is designed so that the average white person can make a decent living and raise his family. But if you're Black you still have to be better than the average white person. It shouldn't be like that."
Ball enjoys helping others, including some of the gang members that he grew up with. He has represented some of them in court cases.
"I feel like a soldier," Ball said. "A soldier that is going to battle for people who cannot other wise fight for themselves, because I have been given the tools to be that warrior for them."