Public radio station KPCC teamed with Intersections this week to present “Touring South LA’s Manchester Square,” an audio slideshow by Skylar Endsley Myers about the neighborhood where she grew up. Myers created the project as part of Reporter Corps South LA, our program that trains young adults to cover their South LA communities using multimedia journalism. KPCC will broadcast and publish online more Reporter Corps “neighborhood tours” over the coming months.
When people think of South Central, they think of crime, gangs, hyper-violent ’90s rap culture. But I live on a peaceful street full of very colorful family homes.
My family has been here for basically three generations. My grandma moved to San Fernando Valley from West Virginia and my grandpa moved from Oklahoma. They decided to move down to South Central because of the hip music scene and the thriving African American culture that was going on in the ’60s.
One of my favorite places in the area is Ma’Dears Bistro on Western. I love to eat, and it just so happens that this place is the best place to get chicken & waffles in South LA. And you can quote me on that.
In charge of the kitchen is Chef Norman. “One of the biggest things that I sell the most is our turkey meatloaf. Also, we have something that’s called a Soul Burrito. Red beans & rice, with fried chicken in it and cheese,” said Norman.
Sounds interesting, but I’d probably never try it. Chef Norman continued sharing exactly what makes Ma’Dears so special: The regulars who come in every day. One of them is Reverend Darnell Jones of First Missionary Baptist Church. I wanted to know what he appreciates about South Central.
“Probably that everything is at hand,” the Reverend said “You want to eat well it’s right up the street. Going to sports or whether you’re going to the movies or you’re trying to just interact with people. Got great churches all throughout the city, so there are no excuses for folks to not worship.”
I liked that answer, but I know there are problems as well, and the Reverend agreed.
“Of course, nobody likes the fact that there is still a lot of violence,” he said. “I don’t like the idea that so many of our men are either incarcerated, on the streets, or places where they should not be and that the young men are raising themselves.”
This is a problem I’ve seen growing up in South Central. At the end of my block is a crack alley. It’s not as active as it was when I was younger, but you would still see crackheads and drunks passed out from time to time in the alleyway.
Whenever I pass by the alley I tend to keep my head down or continue to look straight ahead. It’s not like I’m trying to criminalize anybody for selling crack, but whenever I pass by this alley I think about the crack epidemic of the ’80s and how it was the downfall for the African American Los Angeles community.
If you are a newcomer coming into this area you should probably first realize there are gang affiliations, and if you do look like you aren’t from the area, you will stand out as an outsider. So, the things you can do to not stick out as much is bring someone who looks like there affiliated with the area.
That’s all I have to say about the advice for coming around here. Check out the food. It’s a great place to shop and there are plenty of stories and cool people to meet, so come through.