LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: (L-R) Tony Sarandos, Nicole Avant, Ted Sarandos, Clarence Avant, Alex Avant, and Holly J. Mitchell attend the official unveiling of The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center on April 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center)

Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center Opens in Los Angeles – Billboard

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UPDATE: More than 100 special guests joined the Clarence Avant family at the name unveiling and dedication ceremony for the Jacqueline Avant Children & Family Center this morning (4/28). The County of Los Angeles invested $55 million to build the 50,000 sq. ft facility located in South Los Angeles’ Watts/Willowbrook community. 

Welcoming those in attendance was Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, Second District who also read a note from close Avant family friend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He was unable to attend owing to a last-minute schedule change. His message said in part, “I have no doubt that every time a child walks through these doors, the spirit of Jackie will be giving them a comforting hug … You may never know the magnitude of your contributions, but I can assure you that its impact on the health and wellness of the children of this community will be felt for generations to come.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Jacqueline’s daughter Nicole Avant thanked the center’s supporters including the MLK Health and Wellness Community Development Corporation. “I know she’s smiling down now,” noted Nicole, who then asked everyone, on the count of three, to please say in unison “Thank you, Jackie.”

Spotted among the family and guests at the ceremony and reception were Clarence and son Alex, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Sony Music Publishing chairman/CEO Jon Platt, film and TV producer/Motown legend Suzanne de Passe, A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss, producer Jimmy Jam, artist manager Benny Medina and music executives Phil Quartararo and Antonio “L.A.” Reid.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: (L-R) Tony Sarandos, Nicole Avant, Ted Sarandos, Clarence Avant, Alex Avant, and Holly J. Mitchell attend the official unveiling of The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center on April 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center)

Tony Sarandos, Nicole Avant, Ted Sarandos, Clarence Avant, Alex Avant, and Holly J. Mitchell attend the official unveiling of The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center on April 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center)

Getty Images for The Jacqueline

PREVIOUSLY: When Nicole Avant and her brother Alex were growing up, they watched their late mother, Jacqueline, devote her time and efforts to various charities and underserved communities — especially focusing on children and the Watts/Willowbrook neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

“My mom would go back home to Beverly Hills and bring people from there to Watts,” recalls Nicole. “She’d say, ‘Listen, these are our neighbors. And we have a moral obligation as human beings to do the right thing in as many places as we can.’ That was her whole motto.”

That motto comes full circle with the formal dedication of The Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center today (April 28). The opening of the brand-new facility — the first of its kind in South L.A. — comes nearly two years after the December 2021 murder of the philanthropist and wife of music industry legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree Clarence Avant, aka the “Godfather of Black Music.”

Ahead of the ceremony, Nicole gave Billboard a tour of the center (1741 E. 120th Street, Willowbrook, Calif.). Working in association with the MLK Health and Wellness Community Development Corp., the three-floor center houses the MLK Pediatric Clinic. With its first floor already in operation, the center plans to serve 4,000 children and teens annually by providing medical and mental health evaluations for those who have been exposed to violence, and primary pediatric care for children in the foster care system. Enhanced outpatient clinical services for at-risk pediatric and adolescent patients and their families will also be provided.

Nicole Avant and Jacqueline Avant

Nicole Avant and Jacqueline Avant

Courtesy of the Avant family

Slated to open at the end of this year, the second floor will offer family-focused services including an autism wellness center run by the Special Needs Network and a clinic run by Saint John Well Child Center. The third floor, opening next year, will focus on youth mental health services. 

The center’s cream-colored walls and warm accent colors, like blue-green, also play a role in creating a comforting and nurturing environment for patients. As do three vibrant paintings by L.A. artist Floyd Strickland, titled The Believers, The Teacher and The Dreamers. Commissioned by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, the portraits and the wallpaper mural behind the artwork celebrate the rich culture and history of South L.A.’s Watts/Willowbrook community. Floyd collaborated with the neighborhood’s current residents, using family photos dating back to the 1940s as source material.

“It feels safe and healing,” says Nicole who also sits on the board of the after-foster care organization A Sense of Home. “My mom’s whole thing was about physical, emotional and spiritual healing; she really believed in the power of art. And the art here is full of joy with a sense of family and friendship, which is very good for children because that’s the first thing they should see.”

Prior to the dedication ceremony, Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, representing the Second District, noted in an email to Billboard, “I am honored to celebrate the unveiling of the Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center. The center is a meaningful addition to our community and will provide hope and a multitude of health and mental health services to children and their families in South Los Angeles.”

Nicole credits longtime Avant family friend and Jacqueline’s fellow community outreach devotee Candace Bond McKeever for playing a key role in bringing the center to fruition. Prior to Jacqueline’s death, the two would drive and walk around the Watts/Willowbrook neighborhood — home also to the neighboring Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center and MLK Medical Campus — with Jacqueline visualizing that one day she would raise enough money to build a center to help children. 

Jacqueline Avant Center

Jacqueline Avant Center

Greg Baker, the CBRE Facilities Director

“We’d begun raising money and were making progress,” says Nicole. “Then after my mom didn’t make it, people were asking where and what they could donate to honor her. I called Candace and said, ‘It’s got to be at MLK; that’s what she wanted. And Candace said let’s do it.’ It’s a crazy twist of fate, but here we are with exactly what mom visualized.”

At the time of this interview, her dad Clarence had only seen photos of his wife’s dream fulfilled. Asked his reaction, Nicole says, “It was emotional but he was also like ‘Wow, this is amazing. Finally, the world gets to see what Jackie’s been doing this whole time.’”

As for her mom’s reaction, Nicole says, ‘I can feel that she’s very happy. She wasn’t just a collector of art and other things. She was a collector of souls who wanted to make sure everyone got the chance to fly.”



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