Black churches in South L.A. facing a Latino demographic shift

black churches

The weekly meeting of The Ladies of the African American Cultural Awareness Ministry of Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. Clockwise from left: Monica Lewis, Eva Gallegos, Cathy Brown, Dolores Ricks and April Stone.

“En el nombre del padre del hijo y del espiritu santo,” echoes the congregation gathered at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. In unison, they touch their foreheads, chest and arms in the sign of the cross.

Banda music celebrating Jesus’ ascension into heaven soon fills the large 90-year-old sanctuary adorned with a stained glass window and statues of Black saints.

The music begins to fade upon entering a meeting room next to the main church, located at West 31st Street and Jefferson Boulevard. Inside, members of the African-American Cultural Awareness Ministry begin their weekly meeting.

“We want to help maintain an African-American Catholic identity, not to be divisive, but to worship in a style we’re accustomed to. — in gospel, music and liturgy and bring them to the table,” said Dolores Ricks, a devoted parishioner of 15 years.

“There are two churches in one parish,” said Ricks. “We can’t fight the cultural barrier.”

Within the last decade, the once predominately Black area of South Los Angeles is now two-thirds Hispanic, according to a report by USC, prepared for the Community Coalition. [Read more…]