Lynn Manning, co-founder and artistic director of Watts Village Theater Company, died of liver cancer Monday at 60.
From Leimert Park to Central Avenue last Sunday, bikers took over Martin Luther King Boulevard, enjoying the mild weather, live music and food from local businesses. Check out our snapshots of the day:
Michael Williams is battling a series of
Editor’s Note: This piece is a
personal traumas to bring African-American comedy back to L.A.
On any given Thursday night in the late 1980s, Michael Williams would watch from the wings as up-and-coming Black comics, including Jaime Foxx, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac and Chris Tucker, performed at the comedy club he founded in South Los Angeles.
The Comedy Act Theater was one among the first comedy clubs in the country to cater to the Black community and was the launch pad for many successful Black comedians.
For 12 years, comedy fans packed the house. The first night, 200 people crammed into a room that could accommodate only 160. Within a few weeks, the place regularly sold out — a streak that lasted five years. Williams opened outposts in Atlanta and Chicago.
Williams, who had worked for six years as a stage manager and event producer, started the club after being frustrated by the way L.A.’s comedy scene failed to speak to Black patrons like himself. [Read more…]
Initially designed as a peaceful vigil for victims of police brutality, the high-profile shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Ezell Ford in South L.A. turned Thursday’s National Moment of Silence into an outlet for anger.
Crowds swelled in Leimert Park to voice their frustrations, just days after a LAPD officer shot and killed Ford, 25, a little less than 5 miles away from the gathering. Like Brown, Ford was also unarmed.
A community activist known as Feminista Jones—whose real name is Michelle according to USA Today—was, like many, glued to the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. She took inspiration from a planned vigil in New York to create an event called National Moment of Silence, popularized through its hashtag, #NMOS14.
From Long Island to San Diego, the event was designed to be, according to the Los Angeles Facebook page, “not protests, not rallies, just peaceful gatherings of friends.”
The L.A. gathering was held in Leimert Park, an area significant to African-Americans in South Los Angeles. People from outside the greater L.A. region also came to show their support, such as Joanna Lopez from the Inland Empire. Lopez came out for her 4-year-old son who is half-black and half-Latino.
“I feel like if I don’t step up, no one will,” Lopez said. “He will soon be a young man, and I would like him to feel safe.”
At around 4:00 p.m., a large crowd comprised mostly of African-Americans gathered peacefully with a variety of signs that read, “We stand with Ferguson,” and “Black lives matter.”
The gathering was led by citizens such as Najee Ali and members affiliated with Revcom, who gave speeches on police injustice against people of color throughout the country. When the group called for a moment of silence for victims of police brutality, the crowd raised their hands—a nod to Brown who, according to witnesses, was shot with his hands in the air.
NMOS14 was meant to be a quiet vigil, but anger and impatience ran high in Leimert Park, especially after the recent death of Ezell Ford, who was shot by the LAPD on Aug. 11. After the moment of silence, speeches by Ali and Revcom members were met with cheers and calls to “stop just standing around.” Actress Jenifer Lewis, who grew up around Ferguson, took up a microphone and recounted that “she was one of those people.”
“I want you all to take to social media, write so many letters to the White House that they can’t get out the door,” Kuenta said as she stamped her foot. “We need to tell the authorities to stop shooting our children.”
This prompted the crowd to march down Leimert. LAPD officers were nearby, and a drone even flew above the demonstrators, but authorities kept their distance.
The vigil-tuned-protest caused some mixed feelings from Breanna Jordan, a teacher who came to honor one of her students who was shot, unarmed, by police last year.
“Protest is good, but eventually these things die down. I want to see how we can organize to actually make change,” Jordan said. “All this yelling, I understand why some people are upset, but at the end of the that that’s just going to start nothing.”
Others, such as Alphi Black, want to see more action taken in situations of transparent police brutality. Black is from St. Louis, Mo. and is temporarily living in Los Angeles. She came to Leimert Park because she wanted to give support even though she couldn’t be in St. Louis.
“I’m going to be honest, in Ferguson there’s a lot more than peaceful protest that’s needed. It’s ground zero—the anger and energy is higher there, the police are agitating the situation. I’m not saying violent protest is needed, but if they are meeting us with violence, then we deserve to retaliate.”
For many people in the crowd, angry emotions stemmed from personal connections—such as Lopez’s fear for her son and Lewis’s childhood around Ferguson. The gratitude expressed by Deric Lewis, Michael Brown’s cousin, served as a reminder that the gathering was of a united community. Lewis even gave thanks to the media, who were initially slow to cover events in Ferguson until national outlets arrived on Tuesday.
“I came to show my support along with these people,” he said. “So thank you for coming out here to let people know what’s going on.”
Beyond the anger, some people called for peace. Mir Harris took up a microphone to tell the crowd to be mindful of how they treat others in their daily conversations. Change, it was implied, starts with individuals showing respect to each other in their communities.
For those who were critical of the approach, Harris made her feelings clear: “Don’t worry about who’s in front of the camera. Fuck knowing my name, just know that I’m as passionate as you are.”
Though NMOS14 was supposed to be merely a vigil, the high emotions that ran in Leimert Park strengthened the ties between those from both inside and outside L.A., and hardened people’s resolve to support the people protesting in Ferguson against racial injustice and police brutality.
This Reporter Corps story published Oct. 13, 2013 recently aired on KCRW as a radio piece produced by Kerstin Kilm and Skylar Endsley Myers. Fast forward to 8:10 to hear Myers talk with her childhood friend Randall about why the two pals ended up taking different paths.
I opened the door to see my best friend from childhood, Randall, chewing on a pen top, facing me in his baggy jeans. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly a decade. As kids our lives seemed like mirror images and we were inseparable skateboarding, biking and playing basketball on our block of South Central Los Angeles. But something changed in middle school. In eighth grade, while I was worrying about which private high school would give me a scholarship, he was getting arrested for the first time.
How was it that my ace homie growing up–the one who I would run the streets with for hours–ended up on the fast track to prison while I sped toward opportunities? [Read more…]
When Magic Johnson helped lead the Lakers to victory over the Boston Celtics in the NBA championship of 1987, South L.A.’s Leimert Park Village burst into festivities that ran late into the night. Jerri Wingo remembers residents breaking into joyous cries and blasting R&B music on boom-boxes, while restaurateurs cooked enough food to fill Wingo and her friends for days to come. Wingo also remembers that it was this moment that made her feel welcome in Leimert Park after moving to L.A. from a small town in Michigan.
Every weekend for nearly three decades, Wingo has set up shop in the grassy park that anchors the neighborhood. With a stand next to the iconic white fountain, she sells wide-framed sunglasses and Afro-centric pins along with handcrafted beaded necklaces and wooden earrings. Although she lives in Ladera Heights a few miles away, Wingo said events like the monthly Art Walk draw her back into the area for art, music and shopping.
For this reason, Wingo said she hopes Los Angeles City Council approves a proposal to permanently close off part of the street to create a pedestrian plaza, which she thinks would enhance the feeling of community. [Read more…]
Within a month, a quiet closure and a successful opening on Degnan Boulevard
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…]
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.
The next Leimert Park Art Walk will be Sunday, April 27.
Credits: Stephanie Monte, Daina Beth Solomon, Sinduja Rangrajan, Olga Grigoryants and Willa Seidenberg.
The new 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX light rail line could change the look of South L.A. by bringing an influx of businesses and pedestrian traffic. It could change the South L.A. landscape in another way, too: By cutting down about 100 trees along a two mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition and 48th street to make room for the train.
Romell Pace, a local who sells shirts at the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson Boulevards, said the trees need to stay.
“Once the trees are removed… it’s going to be slow on business,” he said. “I believe that the trees should stay there because they are landmarks.” [Read more…]