Leimert Park Evictions

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cobb

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Jan 4, 2003, 12:16:48 AM1/4/03
to
i'm passing this on without the kind of specifics that i think will
make a difference, like the name of the new owner and the bank they do
business with. i agree that leimert park is all that, but there is
more than one kind of pressure that can be brought to bear here, and
i'm a little pissed that whomever started this mass mailing can't
think passed poetry and protests. be that as it may - here's your
news.

hey black people,
here is some background info on leimert park. this is the same shit
that is happening/has happened to harlem, brooklyn, west philly,
north philly, south philly, chicago's neighborhoods, houston's 5th
ward, and countless other black neighborhoods that i'm sure you can
help me list.

Every major war was fought over land, EVERY one! we afrikans (in
america) and worldwide are at war on many fronts, so subtle it may
be.
but we are the only dummies who still beg for 'justice', 'rights'
and 'laws' while relinquishing our "Power".
our enemies understand and respect violence and the threat of
violence.
we can't picket or sit-in this one away y'all. we gotta rumble,
gotta rumble.

ummm, ok ok, since you all know me, you KNOW me, so i will say
nothing else here. just remember, whatever you build, be ready to
protect and defend, including your children. stay black and buy
black!
WE will free us.
love,
steve


When Deeds Speak, Words Are Meaningless



*********************************
Rally to save Leimert Park Village �€" Saturday, January 4, Leimert
Park Village, 2pm

These thoughts was sent to us by Michael Slate, a member of the
steering committee of the Artists Network of Refuse & Resist! It is
well worth the read.

Just a few thoughts after hearing about the recent moves by
developers to destroy Leimert Park Village. Too often we allow
these things to happen and years later we have wisps of memories
and too many regrets that we didn’t stand up and do something
when it really mattered. Sometimes this happens because what
exactly is going on is not always so clear. Let’s not allow
Leimert Park Village to become another regret.

Leimert is a very rare thing in America today. It’s a center for
Black culture that has been carved out of what used to be a very
rough and almost abandoned part of the city. Kamau Daáood, a poet
and one of the founders of the World Stage Performance Space on
Degnan, used to talk about having to reclaim the streets from
prostitution and junkies when the Stage first opened its doors. But
Black artists came into the area and turned it into the Village it
is today. The late Richard Fulton, all dreadlocked and gravel
voiced, turned 43rd place into the place to be until the early
hours of the morning- dozens of people playing chess on tiny
sidewalk tables under strings of white twinkle lights while jazz
musicians jammed in the upstairs performance space. Richard’s
place, 5th St. Dick’s was known all over the world as a place to
hear great music and engage in all kinds of conversations. Kamau
and the late Billy Higgins opened the World Stage for performances,
jam sessions and music lessons that reached out deep into the
communities around the Village. On Wednesday nights the Ananzi
Writers’ Workshop featured some of the finest poets in the city
as well as a workshop where these very same poets would seek
comments on their own works in progress and then help newer poets
develop thei work. The Stage was also known worldwide and every
major jazz musician who came through LA throughout the 1990s made a
point of passing through the Stage.

And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the night when the whole
guiding principle for a lot of the artists in Leimert was made
clear to me. I was walking down Degnan with Horace Tapscott, the
late, great jazz pianist. We were looking for a spot to sit and
talk for a while when he decided that the Stage was probably our
best bet. We left the door open while we talked until it became
clear that as long as people, especially young people, knew Horace
was inside the Stage hanging out, they would come in to talk to him
about their music and his thoughts on what they should be doing
with it. We had to talk so Horace finally got up to close the door
and as he did he turned around with a half pained grin and said
that he hated to shut people out �€" it just didn’t seem right
“cuz it’s all about passing on the vibe. If we aren’ t doing
that, we aren’t doing what we need to do.”

For me this has always been what’s behind Leimert. It’s a place
built by Black artists where Black culture is promoted, developed,
nurtured and passed on. It’s a place where the community came
come to take part in and enjoy their culture and this is
unfortunately a rare space these days. And it’s a place that
crossed generations and artistic genres. It featured and nurtured
all kinds of African American culture and was an especially
important home for artists who made major contributions to the
Culture of Resistance. On one corner you have KAOS Network and the
hip hop of Project Blowed. Two doors down was the Vision Theater
�€" the main stage of a theater complex once owned by actress Marla
Gibbs and dedicated to both bringing in Black performances and
training the youth in theater. Around the corner was jazz, stained
glass a rtistry, painters’ studios, voice teachers, theaters,
museums focused on Black artists and Black history and African
Dance schools. And in between all this are the merchants whose
shops are kept alive by the changes the artists brought to Leimert.

And while Leimert is a center for African American art and artists,
the Village warmly embraced people of all nationalities and valued
its role as a place where people could learn more about each other
and on that basis help and support one another and stand up for
each other in the face of need or attacks.

The Artists’ Network of Refuse & Resist has a special bond with
and debt to Leimert Park. The World Stage was the scene of the LA
chapter’s first Inside the Culture of Resistance interview with
jazz lyricist and vocalist Oscar Brown Jr. And Leimert has a
special place in my memory and in the hearts of anyone who has ever
worked on or come to an ArtSpeaks concert because Leimert was the
birthplace of ArtSpeaks! When we organized the first concert we
were 10 people at most with very little experience and zero money
or equipment. And we were trying to pull off a concert where we
could express our feelings against police brutality. We really had
no place to go until Leimert opened up its arms for us. Richard
turned over 5th St. Dick’s for our weekly meetings and helped
secure sound equipment. He introduced us to Cedric, who managed the
Vision Theater and who gave us the theater at a huge discount. And
many of the musicians and poets who played at that ArtSpeaks! came
out of the spaces in Leimert. It is no exaggeration to say that
without the support and participation of the people in Leimert Park
ArtSpeaks! would not exist today. And in the second year of
ArtSpeaks! the artists and other people of Leimert rallied around
the concert again, including standing up to the police who tried to
intimidate people and isolate the concert by pulling off an armed
raid of the theater the night before the concert.

Leimert is also an oasis for progressive political thought and
action. When Geronimo Pratt was released from jail one of his first
speeches to the community was in Leimert Park. Immediately in the
aftermath of September 11th, Leimert Park hosted an especially
crucial rally in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

And for all these things, Leimert has also been attacked over the
years. I’ll never forget the night the LAPD pulled off a brutal
raid at Project Blowed. And what about the day the bank took the
Vision Theater Complex away from Marla Gibbs. And who has shuddered
at the new signs of progress creeping down Degnan as developers
with dollar signs for eyes buy up place after place.

Gentrification is not just a money thing. In this case it is the
tearing out of a heart.

Come to the rally on Saturday at 2pm. This is not a place we can
let slip away. Try to think for a moment about how many places like
this exist in the city, the state or even the country. And now
think about how many of these spots are homes for African American
culture and artists. And now try to think what it will mean if we
let them destroy Leimert Park the same way they tore apart Central
Avenue in LA and countless other scenes in Black communities across
the country. Let’s not open the door for future generations to
talk wistfully about what used to be in Leimert Park. Let’s keep
Leimert. Let’s stop the relentless greed machine. Let’s stop
the systematic destruction of African American culture. And most of
all, as Horace Tapscott would say, let’s make sure Leimert is
always a place where the vibe is passed on to new generations.


Poet Kamau Daáood captured it best in his poem.

Leimert Park

My heart is a djembe drum Played upon by the dark hands of a 5th
Street cappuccino My invisible turban is an angelic saxophone solo
The sidewalk is hardened mud cloth Massaging the soles of my feet I
do West African dance steps Reflecting the sun off of my Stacey
Adams shoes I stand on the OG corner and tell old school stories
with a bebop tongue to the hip hop future I see new rainbows in
their eyes As we stand in puddles of melted chains Visit the black
sensei with a grumpy voice wrapped in juju And warrior spirits
guarding a roomful of stereotypes and ancestral stories A Moor in a
pork pie hat stands with a video camera in front of a stain glass
museum I low ride on a Zebra in front of Congo Square We clothe
ourselves in sun and Africa by the yard Hand-woven the fabric of
our life we sculpture You see, there are trees in Leimert Park
under which old men do divination with the bones of dominos Degnan,
a river, a new Nile on whose banks young poets sharpen their hearts
Under polyrythms of Billy Higgin’s smile On the World Stage where
Tapscott’s fingers massage your collective memory At the
crossroads a vision is shaped by a woman who labored as a maid and
gave her wages to her village Here where children play double dutch
with dreadlock ropes and believers wash the streets with Koranic
tears under a kente sky Vomit up your television set Take a deep
breath and exhale your fear Scrub the tombstones of those who die
young until they become mirrors in which to see yourself Take long
stares at your hand until true love returns to your touch Then
touch Stand right in a garment of light I want to pour poems into
the open arms of your drums I want to get in between your piano
keys and unleash the healing secrets I want to stuff your dreams
with a bed of cleansing herbs I want to wipe the bulls eyes off the
backs of your children In Leimert Park

(transcribed from Kamau Daáood Leimert Park)

Note: New property owners have doubled the rent for all the artists
in the building where the World Stage resides. They have refused to
meet with the people and have shown no respect or concern for what
has been built there by the people.

For more information on the situation in Leimert Park call: Phyllis
Battle at 323 290-9026 Dwight Trible at 323 934-6313

Wayne Johnson

unread,
Jan 4, 2003, 12:52:45 AM1/4/03
to
On 3 Jan 2003 21:16:48 -0800, co...@mdcbowen.org (cobb) wrote:

>i'm passing this on without the kind of specifics that i think will
>make a difference, like the name of the new owner and the bank they do
>business with. i agree that leimert park is all that, but there is
>more than one kind of pressure that can be brought to bear here, and
>i'm a little pissed that whomever started this mass mailing can't
>think passed poetry and protests. be that as it may - here's your
>news.

Mike,

I don't think specifics on the landlords is going to do a whole lot,
precisely because we're seeing the holdout beatniks being moved along.
Some of them really can't get it - that zones they kept refreshed,
free, and broke as hell can't stay that way forever.

None of these poets, actors, and no-contract musicians can cobble up
the money (or even enough of an appreciable audience) to get a real
resistance campaign going. All this "movement attitude" and fancy
names followed by exclamation points isn't going to put a coat of
paint on a building.

I think everyone was somewhat saddened when Marla Gibbs lost Memory
Lane, but it was inevitable. Los Angeles isn't as concentrated as
Harlem, or other places where there was a distinct place where this
kind of offbeat artistry could take root, and the place simply died.
I know that I didn't relish traveling through thirty miles of Los
Angeles traffic to get there, and it didn't matter if it was Pacoima
or Compton, there was no way to easily get to this Renaissance spot.

The sad part is, these guys can't figure out a way to get any
marketing of their stuff together - because there is no market for it.
Pounding on bongos, wearing daishikis, sporting huge naturals or
pillbox hats, and retreading sad imitations of the Watts Prophets just
isn't going to cut it.

I hope they manage to salvage something, or relocate to some other
location, but Leimert Park is deep into gentrification (for good
reason) and the neighborhood homeowners damn sure aren't going to
support them. Here comes Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, and
P.F. Chang's, and that's what everybody wants, no matter how many
"community activists" who know they're getting locked out of the
economic pie walk around with signs.

Wayne "Still, I agree...it's a damned shame...but where were these
people when they shut down the Kappa House" Johnson

************************************************

"Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something."
- last words of Pancho Villa (1877-1923)

cobb

unread,
Jan 5, 2003, 10:48:57 PM1/5/03
to
cia...@pingme.com (Wayne Johnson) wrote in message news:<3e167582...@netnews.attbi.com>...

>
> The sad part is, these guys can't figure out a way to get any
> marketing of their stuff together - because there is no market for it.
> Pounding on bongos, wearing daishikis, sporting huge naturals or
> pillbox hats, and retreading sad imitations of the Watts Prophets just
> isn't going to cut it.
>
> I hope they manage to salvage something, or relocate to some other
> location, but Leimert Park is deep into gentrification (for good
> reason) and the neighborhood homeowners damn sure aren't going to
> support them. Here comes Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, and
> P.F. Chang's, and that's what everybody wants, no matter how many
> "community activists" who know they're getting locked out of the
> economic pie walk around with signs.
>

funny i didn't know that about the kappa house. so what.

update. my info says that the world stage was paying about 500 a month
in rent. the old owner of the building died. the family sold the
joint. the new owner basically doubled the rent.

before lucy florence came, i was hoping for a b&n and a starbucks, but
everybody in that crowd already goes to magic johnson's franchise just
over the hill anyway. the brothers who own lucy florence own the
building. apparently none of the others, all these years have been
anything but tenants. chalk one up for black capitalism, another
ujamaa bites the dust.

the irony is that the more people show up at the protest, the more
justified the new owner is in raising rent.

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