Written by: Shelby Smith
What could be more Black N’ LA than Leimert Park? Absolutely nothing! Founded in 1927, as one of Los Angeles’ first planned communities, the village itself is 1 ½ square miles nestled between what most locals know as South Central and the upper echelon Black area of Baldwin Hills. Dubbed the “Black Greenwich Village” by the late filmmaker John Singleton, the historic neighborhood is widely regarded as the cultural hub for African Americans in LA.
At first glance, Leimert Park may appear to be just another neighborhood in Los Angeles. But, when you take a closer look, you will find that it’s served as a safe space for cultural celebration, community gatherings, art, music, and activism. This all began in 1967 with the Brockman Gallery, which filled a void by creating space for Black artists to showcase their politically charged work. Unfortunately, the Brockman Gallery is gone but the cultural awakening it sparked can still be felt today. Leimert was home to the famous 5th Street Dicks, The World Stage, and The Vision Theatre owned by Marla Gibbs (of The Jeffersons and 227).
In recent years the cultural diversity of Leimert Park has been challenged thanks to gentrification (Boo!). When you mix increasing property values, and folks selling granny’s house to the highest bidder, many Black people are being pushed out of the only place they called home. But we aren’t letting go without a fight.
Even though the face of Leimert has begun to change in recent years, it doesn’t mean it’s any less than the mecca it’s always been. There’s still plenty of things to do to get the full Leimert experience! When you visit, be sure to grab a coffee or tea at Harun Coffee or Hot and Cool Café. Then head over and check out Eso Won Bookstore, an independent Black-owned bookstore that features books BY us FOR us. You are guaranteed to find a story that speaks to your entire soul.
After feeding your soul, it’s definitely time to feed your stomach. If you’re looking for something simple, try the famed Earle’s Hot Dogs where you have your choice of vegan or meat goodies. If you’re like every other Californian or tourist, you can’t miss out on the famous tacos at Worldwide Tacos, featured on HBO’s Insecure, or Taco Mell’s gigantic THREE MEAT BURRITO. Now, if you want to add some variety to your life and change the way your tastebuds think, hop on the bike you just picked up from Ride On Bike Shop and Co-Op and order up some jamaican flavor at Ackee Bamboo Cuisine. You won’t be disappointed.
Leimert is never short on creative spaces so pop on over to The Metaphor Club to Write. Create. Relax or head on over to the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center for a concert.
Coming soon…Leimert will have its own train stop. Scheduled to open in 2020, the Leimert Park Station is one of eight stops on the future Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line. Although, widely contested, it is sure to bring a more highlighted view of a neighborhood that has served its community well. The underground station will have a direct entrance to Leimert Plaza Park and the Vision Theatre. So before it all changes, be sure to drive down our Avenues, look up, and take it all in; you are in Black LA baby, you’ve made it!