In down economy, Leimert Park urges residents to ‘Buy Black’

By Laura J. Nelson

imageObinne Onyeador remembers when the streets of Leimert Park were jumping all night.

Until 4 a.m. and later, the gallery owner would hear saxophones wail from inside Fifth Street Dick’s, where men and women from all over the world played chess, drank coffee and soaked in the culture of one of Los Angeles’s most dynamic arts neighborhoods.

Leimert Park Village still seems a black bohemia, where shopkeepers vend batik earrings, photos of the Obama family and books by black authors, where residents linger over rich coffee and sweet potato pie at the local jazz club. But business has changed.

Red, green, yellow and black, often associated with Africa, adorn the streets of Leimert Park, including this streetlight pole on Degnan Boulevard.

In the last 10 years, rents have skyrocketed from $700 to $2,000 and above a month, Onyeador said. Many businesses have left. And in 2000, when Fifth Street Dick’s owner Richard Fulton died of throat cancer, much of the area’s culture died with him.

The strip of small, specialty businesses on Degnan Boulevard that vend to a limited clientele is now struggling in the wake of an economy that was particularly hard on African-American disposable income.

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