Belizean conch fritters at South LA’s Joan and Sisters Restaurant



Samuel Bevans, owner of Joan and Sisters | Logan Heley

Samuel Bevans, owner of Joan and Sisters | Logan Heley

At Joan and Sisters Restaurant in South L.A.’s unofficial “Little Belize” neighborhood, cooks serve up conch fritters, rice and beans — all typical foods of Belize that represent the Central American country’s wide-ranging ethnic influences.

Belizeans can be Black Creoles of slave descent, Hispanic Mestizos of Mayan and native descent, or Garifuna, a group whose ancestors are a mix of Carib Indians and West Africans arrived from wrecked Spanish slave ships in 1635. East Indians, Middle Easterners and East Asians have also made their way to country on the coast of the Caribbean.

Jerome Straughan, a Black Creole from Belize, moved to the U.S. in 1980. In his Ph.D. dissertation about Belizeans in Los Angeles, he wrote that Belizeans can more easily interact with other ethnic groups in L.A. than in other places, because the city is so diverse. [Read more…]

Sergio Urida and Bombassmuzik, the last of the South LA record stores



Sergio Urida at his store, Bombassmuzik, in South LA | Andy Vasoyan

Sergio Urida at his store, Bombassmuzik, in South LA | Andy Vasoyan

At the corner of Vernon Avenue and Main Street less than a mile from the 110 freeway, the terrain is a mix of small housing and smaller shops, blending slowly from residential to commercial districts. On the very edge of that border, sandwiched between a now-defunct flooring store and a combination barbershop-taco stand, is Bombassmuzik, one of the last record stores in South Los Angeles.

Bombass is owned by Sergio Urida, a native of the Figueroa Corridor neighborhood who lives within biking distance of the shop that he’s kept alive for 16 years.

Urida works behind a counter on which he’s taped pictures of him posing with Ice Cube and other rap notables, as well as an anime-style drawing of himself that he says a customer gave him. [Read more…]

Aun vive el Gabo: Tribute poem to Gabriel García Márquez



Editor’s Note: Gabriel García Márquez died April 17 leaving behind dozens of writings and a legacy that touches young writers around the world. Miguel Molina of Reporter Corps South L.A. is one of them. To pay homage to “El Gabo,” Molina penned the poem below (in Spanish and English) and a first-person piece titled, “He wrote for us all: A South LA tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”

One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famed novels, "Love in the Time of Cholera" | Ross Angus

One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famed novels, “Love in the Time of Cholera” | Ross Angus

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Q&A: SAJE’s South LA loteria



SAJEloteria-row

What images come to mind when you think of South L.A.? That’s the question Strategic Actions for a Just Economy took on for its “SAJE Loteria South LA Style” project – a creation of 55 hand-drawn images assembled as a game set to sell as a fundraiser for the South L.A.-based organization.

Some of the artworks are on display at Nature’s Brew Café in West Adams through the end of May. SAJE is hosting a reception to celebrate the project on Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m.

We spoke with Teresa Eilers from SAJE to learn about the inspiration behind the project. [Read more…]

New era for business in Leimert Park



Within a month, a quiet closure and a successful opening on Degnan Boulevard

Michelle Papillion | Kevin Tsukii

Michelle Papillion at her gallery. | Kevin Tsukii

March 15 marked the first month of business for Papillion, a contemporary gallery created and run by Michelle Papillion. The art space opened amid construction on the neighborhood’s anticipated Metro stop and the Leimert Park Village Committee’s plans to restore the historic Vision Theater. The gallery is the first new business to emerge from the “renaissance” of Leimert Park. Despite the closure of a neighboring business and anticipated rent increases due to the neighborhood’s proximity to the light rail, Papillion said the cutting-edge gallery has been a success.

She called the first month “amazing,” explaining, “We had our grand opening on Feb. 15 and 500 people showed up…what happened at our opening was exactly how I envisioned it.”

Papillion added that the initial days of any business are especially tough because the period of time usually requires a higher overhead cost to establish the business and deal with unforeseen issues.

But as Papillion began to look forward to more successful months, Zambezi Bazaar, a family-owned shop and Papillion’s next-door neighbor, quietly closed its doors.

“I didn’t know they were actually leaving,” Papillion said with a surprised look. [Read more…]

Leimert Park Art Walk: Audio slideshow



Leimert Park art walk in March | Intersections

Leimert Park art walk in March | Intersections

Intersections staff members took a trip to the Leimert Park Art Walk on a blustery Sunday last month for a lively afternoon of music, art and conversation. Dozens of people were drumming and dancing, shopping and eating, and of course, checking out all kinds of art — like the special “Pop Up Plaza” that closed off a stretch of 43rd Place in front of the Vision Theater. Created by USC’s “Tactical Media” class in collaboration with Kaos Network and the Leimert Park Phone Company, the plaza featured five interactive art installations: a re-imagined phone booth, a spray-painted newspaper distribution box, a community garden planter, a magnetic poetry display and a bench-turned-drum machine.

Check out some of the sights and sounds in our audio slideshow with commentary by Kaos Network’s Ben Caldwell, musician Steve Billionaird, and USC’s “Tactical Media” professor Francois Bar. (Also visit our Flickr page to view more than 150 photos from the event.)

Caldwell and Bar are helping to develop a “People Street” proposal for Leimert Park that would create a permanent “Pop Up Plaza” at 43rd Place.

See also: Leimert Park envisions the neighborhood in 2020

The next Leimert Park Art Walk will be Sunday, April 27.

Credits: Stephanie Monte, Daina Beth Solomon, Sinduja Rangrajan, Olga Grigoryants and Willa Seidenberg.

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Click to discover more from Leimert Park’s third renaissance.

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South LA vs. South Central: What’s in a name?



Florence and Normandie, considered the intersections where the 1992 riots ignited. | Intersections

Florence and Normandie, considered the intersections where the 1992 riots ignited. | Intersections

Ten years ago, by local decree, “South Central” became “South L.A.”

The name change represented City Hall’s effort to halt the stigmatization of an area that had put up with gangs, shootings, urban blight, diminished resources and poverty for decades.

Some called the change a foolish move that would only bring superficial change. Others took offense, saying they were proud of their “‘hood” roots. All the while politicians like Jan Perry and Mark Ridley-Thomas said the new moniker could give the neighborhood a much-needed boost. One resident (from Vermont Square, to be precise) said the media had made “South Central” synonymous with urban poverty. She told the Los Angeles Times:

“Anything bad happens, you get on TV, and the first thing you say was ‘South Central.'”

Today, city officials along with mainstream media and many Angelenos call the collection of neighborhoods south of the 10 freeway “South L.A.”

If a name can carry as much weight as the proponents for the change seemed to believe, then it’s time for a check-up. How does a name affect the way people see South L.A. — both looking in and looking out? And what can we learn about developments in South L.A. over the past ten years just by asking about a name?


View South Los Angeles in a larger map

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A decade after the name change experiment began, Intersections wants to take the pulse of the city. We are asking Angelenos of all stripes to let us know what they think. Scroll down to read comments from city officials, organizers, workaday moms and dads, writers, educators, students, seniors, youth and others, and check back soon for more. 

And we want to hear from you! Please write your thoughts below to join the discussion. Every week we’ll feature new responses at the top of this page. Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

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JOSH SIDES

Professor of history at Cal State Northridge

I take it on faith that there were many people for whom the name change meant something really important. It meant that they had shed this stereotype of a community in endless violence, unemployment, poverty, dysfunctional families, drug abuse and all that. So, the psychological benefits that residents derived from that is not something anyone has measured, and I can only imagine that they’re fairly substantial. But I cannot make the connection between the psychological benefits and the material changes. The material changes are happening entirely on a separate track from that psychological benefit.

Sides teaches at Cal State Northridge and is also a writer and editor. The quote above is an excerpt from the full interview with Intersections.

OSCAR MENJIVAR

Founder/CEO, Urban Txt

I think “South Central” brings a sense of community for the people who grew up in South L.A. I never felt that it was such a bad place to live. It was portrayed very differently in the movies, it was portrayed bad. If anything, “South Central” is a sense of pride, and sense of community. A place where people grew up with similar issues, similar challenges. I’ve overcome great challenges, and I’ve done amazing things.

My question would be: What were the goals of changing the name to South L.A? Was it to change the stigma South L.A. had? Have we accomplished that? And if so, how? And by changing the name to South LA, who did it benefit most?

What do you see as an important issue now in South L.A.?
There’s a big access divide to technology. If you look at the trends in education right now, there’s lots of trends moving to online systems. Well, if I’m a kid in South A. and I don’t have Internet access, but my teachers are telling me I need to study online, then how do I get that? The access to high-speed Internet affects education, economic empowerment, and access to information to be able to be knowledgeable about what’s happening in your community. I want our kids in South LA to be able to create with technology — not just to consume information, but to create media pieces, to create apps, to create websites. || Daina Beth Solomon

Menjivar’s “hackerspace” for Urban Txt is slated to open in the summer of 2014. To learn more about his organization, read an article from Intersections: “South LA teens code their way to success by learning technology basics.”

EmoryHolmes

EMORY HOLMES II

Writer

I used to hate it when I would hear people, mostly white newscasters, when they would refer to any place where Black people lived … as South Central.

What they were saying is, this event is associated with Black life, Black depravity, Black hopelessness, Black despair, Black crime, Black poverty. Any time you heard someone say ‘South Central,’ what they were actually trying to evoke was the goblin of Black horror. || Sinduja Rangarajan

Click to hear more from Emory Holmes: 

Emory Holmes II is a Los Angeles based playwright, novelist, poet and journalist. His news stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Sentinel and other news outlets across the country. He is author of novels “Black Rage” and “Sunday Hell,” while his crime stories have appeared in three anthologies: “The Cocaine Chronicles,” “The Best American Mystery Stories 2006,” and “Los Angeles Noir.”

ElzaGonzales

ELZA GONZALES

Resident

“South Central” — that’s the way I’ve known it. South Central, the ghetto. People get scared when you say South Central. The only difference [between South Central and South L.A.] is that when you hear South Central you think it’s all about gangs, criminals, and violence. South L.A. is like the buildings, all the good views, all the good stuff that people come and see, that the tourists come and see. But if you go to South Central you see something else. You’ll see violence. That’s the way I see it. But I live in South Central, not South L.A. || Ashley Hansack

TaniaCortesQuote

TANIA CORTES

Resident

I call it “home” because that’s where I grew up. Because that’s where my family is. That’s where I live. I wouldn’t move out of L.A. Everything’s here. Every freeway that you want to go, each direction is all around Downtown L.A. and South Central. There are beaches about 20 miles away. Disneyland the other way. Hollywood. Why would you move out? Everything’s here. That’s why people are here. || Ashley Hansack

ErnestoGallardoQuote

ERNESTO GALLARDO

Resident

I call it “South Central” because that’s how it’s always been called. They started saying that South Central was a negative term for “South Los Angeles.” People were saying that it was ghetto and all this. I think it’s bullshit… If you ask me where I’m from I’ll say South Central. I’m not ashamed of where I live, I don’t need to sugarcoat anything. I think that’s what it is. South L.A. is just sugarcoated for South Central. You feel me? I think ultimately the hood is going to be the way the people make it. || Ashley Hansack

JoaquinJOAQUIN CIENFUEGOS

Organizer, CopWatchLA

I call it “South Central” because I grew up here. To me, “South L.A.” always meant south of South Central. South Central goes all the way into Watts. Once you get into Compton, the South Bay, Huntington Park, or the Southeast, to me, that was South L.A.

South Central has a powerful history. Since many people migrated here from the South or moved here from Mexico, their struggles intersected. And I think this community is one of the only areas where you don’t see animosity or tension between black and brown folks. Especially for young people, because they grow up together. You have black youth that listen to rock en espanol, or Chicano youth who are into hip hop. The culture here in South Central is more mixed. For me, saying “South L.A.” erases that history. || Daina Beth Solomon

LinaLINA FRAUSTO

Resident

I’ve never heard anyone call “South Central” “South L.A.” until today. I do therefore believe it is a superficial action because it seems that it is dividing the community more than anything. …Compton and Inglewood supposedly aren’t included in the South L.A. line divide and those are two of the most affluent POC [people of color] communities that were once grouped in with South Central. || Skylar Endsley Myers

Lina Frausto is a 24 year old from Watts who has spent most of her adult life in New York City.

XochilXOCHIL FRAUSTO

Intersections South LA Reporter Corps

“South Central” is a word people use to represent culture, language and events that have occurred here. It’s really specific. “South L.A.” is kind of like, ‘let’s forget about all of that and sort of pacify what has occurred in the area.’” || Skylar Endsley Myers

Xochil Frausto is a 24-year-old Watts Native who now lives in Oakland.

Prokop1

EDWARD PROKOP

Captain, LAPD Newton Division

The name change is one piece of that pie of how the community has changed. Certainly, violent crime is not what it was in 2003. The entire neighborhood changed. How we do policing changed, how we do outreach changed, how we do partnerships has changed. Collectively, all of this is having an impact. The name change, I don’t know how much weight that carries, but it happened at a time when everything started to change. You can’t discredit one thing; many things have had a fight in our success here. || Daina Beth Solomon

Williams2JONATHAN WILLIAMS

Founder and CEO, The Accelerated Schools

I’ve worked in South L.A., and what’s considered South Central, since 1990. And as much as it is associated, nationally as well as internationally, with crimes and drugs and bad things, I have learned to appreciate South Central.

There are wonderful people here. I feel I have a moral obligation, through the school as well as through all of our relationships, to elevate that story. We need to work as hard at capturing the great things as focusing on the murders and drive-bys.

Cosmetics like names are important, because they can inspire and capture value. But at the same time, if we can actually do the heavy lift of preparing kids for college, that’s ultimately what’s important. || Daina Beth Solomon

MikePoet2MIKE THE POET

L.A. writer and author

I think that the name change has helped with the healing process and helped with improving South Central’s image. But names alone can’t change much and I am sure old-timers would miss “South Central.” || Sinduja Rangarajan

Carlos1CARLOS JAUREGUI

Organizer, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy

I say South Central. I think it’s the appropriate name for the culture, which can actually go beyond the bounds of Historic South Central. Historic South Central is just a small piece. But the similarities of the culture extend through the entire area south of the 10 to the 105, and Crenshaw to Alameda. It’s difficult to distinguish one neighborhood from the other. They all have their own little quirks, but a lot of the issues, and the people and the culture, are the same. And the reason they changed the name, I guess because of the stigma “South Central” had, affected the entire area.

I live in Gramercy Park. If you ask me where I live, outside of South Central, I’ll say South Central. If people in South Central ask, I say Gramercy Park.

I don’t say “South L.A.,” because the reason for changing it was the stigma, as if that was going to change all the ills. I believe the way to address it is through politicians and developers and activists.

I’ve never heard a Latino or any immigrant call it South L.A.. It’s “sur centro.” The people that I hear call it “South L.A.” the most are people that don’t live there. Or, the people that do live there are the politicians, and the developers. I think it’s just white-washing. || Daina Beth Solomon

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We want to hear your perspective! Write your thoughts below to join the discussion.

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Leimert Park arts center auditions princesses and frogs for South LA production



Director Brandon Rainey sat behind a piano in a practice room at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center — a nonprofit in Leimert Park that provides free music and arts classes — and asked the 11-year-old girl standing in front of him to yell. Aiyana Lopez-Spaari responded with a shriek. Aiyana is one of many girls who are auditioning for the part of Princess Tiana in Rainey’s live-musical adaptation of the Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.”

The idea of putting the first Disney film to have a Black princess on a stage in an area known as an enclave of Black culture in Los Angeles originated with a conversation between Rainey and Fernando Pullum, the nonprofit’s founder, late last year.

After working with high school students on productions such as “The Lion King” and “Dreamgirls,” they both wanted to work with elementary and middle-school-age children.

“We wanted to give back to the younger generation with the production,” said Rainey. “It’s a reminder to little girls across the community that they’re princesses and they can have dreams and standards too.”

See also on Intersections: Leimert Park’s World Stage fights eviction

[Read more…]

Artist Ramiro Gomez: Painting LA’s ‘invisible’ workers



Artist Ramiro Gomez creates paintings of L.A.’s gardeners and janitors, nannies and housekeepers — the fleet of workers who keep some of the city’s most upscale households running smoothly. Many live in low-income neighborhoods like South L.A. and make daily commutes to the far-flung affluent neighborhoods of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Without showing even the expressions on their faces, Gomez’s art highlights their painstaking efforts as well as their quiet dignity.

You can view some of Gomez’s latest works, including magazine-based paintings and David Hockney-inspired canvases, at the Charlie James Gallery in Chinatown through Saturday, March 8.

[Read more…]

Earlez Grille relocates to make way for Crenshaw/LAX line



Earlez sign | Ela Bernal

Earlez Grille sign at Crenshaw and Exposition. | Ela Bernal

There’s something special about a place that adapts to changing times while remaining true to its origins. For more than 25 years, Earlez Grille in the Crenshaw district has done just that.

Earlez owner Duane Earl said his secret recipes for hot dogs, burgers and chili have less to do with ingredients than simply “paying attention to how you cook” and using “common sense.” Oh, and one more thing: “People can tell when you don’t put love into food.”

Hear the sizzle of the Earlez grill in an audio piece from Annenberg Radio News:

[Read more…]