Culture defines the south-central. Geography limits it.


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Student journalists at Los Angeles Collegian, the student voice of Los Angeles City College since 1929, worked hard this summer to develop a special set of in-depth reporting with support from Cal Humanities. We are honored to present their work here.


More than 800,000 people live in South Los Angeles. They represent a black monolith, and they want to break it.

South Central Los Angeles is not just an invisible part of the city that some avoid at all costs. It’s not just a place shrouded in stigmata created by outsiders.

Historic South Central Los Angeles is a 2.55 square mile region resembling a jigsaw piece. The area is flanked by downtown Los Angeles to the north, with Washington Boulevard marking the invisible boundary between the two, and by Vernon Avenue to the south, the Harbor Freeway to the west, and historic Central Avenue to the east. is.

Tom’s Market, a brown brick building with a green roof, stands one story a short walk from the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. The building is located at the epicenter of the infamous 1992 unrest caused by the verdict of the Rodney King trial.

It lies within the imaginary boundaries of the “cultural” South Central, but it lies outside the 2.55 miles that geographically define the historic South Central. The Baldwin Hill, Crenshaw and Leimert neighborhoods are also located outside this perimeter.

The city council changed the name from South Central to South Los Angeles in 2003, according to a KCET report. The perception of South Los Angeles as a haven for something “less” has crossed the ocean.

The British press failed to distinguish between the historic and geographic south of LA In an article published by the UK’s Daily mail in September 2016, titled “(Almost) straight out of Compton,” journalist Ruth Styles wrote about the area where Meghan Markle’s mother lived.

“Crime-ridden and riddled with street gangs, the troubled Los Angeles neighborhood that 60-year-old Doria Ragland calls home couldn’t be more different from London’s leafy Kensington,” Styles wrote. Markle’s mother lived in the Crenshaw neighborhood of View Park, where homes cost between $800,000 and $2 million. The homes are mostly mid-century gems with oddly shaped pools and sweeping downtown skyline views. The majority of the owners there are black.

Race Trumps Location, Geography

Crenshaw Boulevard is 23 miles long. Cars travel along Mid-Wilshire Boulevard near the affluent area of ​​Hancock Park to the north through Central Los Angeles. It passes through the Crenshaw District which includes View Park and Windsor Hills ending in the affluent Rolling Hills area of ​​Palos Verdes. Crenshaw is a boulevard running through a group of neighborhoods, not a town.

In other words, almost anywhere there are African Americans east of Interstate 405, it is culturally considered “South Los Angeles” and often with a derogatory connotation.

Compton, Inglewood, and Long Beach are all border towns with similar demographics and similar histories. Geographically, they are not from the center-south. Some people in these places live mundane and ordinary lives. Others have interesting and even extraordinary lives that have nothing to do with the imagery popularized in movies, music, or even real events like the Troubles of 1992. Travis Lacy is a writer and doctoral student specializing in music and African-American culture.

“South Los Angeles is no different than many other LA neighborhoods,” Lacy said. “There are many different types of people… working in all kinds of positions, from simple retail jobs to management, to hospital staff, to nurses.”

South LA properties with mortgages make up 76% of homes. The median value of a home with a mortgage there is $467,350, according to Point2Homes.com, an Internet real estate site. Lacy says that South Los Angeles is working class and not that different from other parts of Los Angeles.

“He also has his collection of well-known people, Ray Charles, who lived not too far from here in the Baldwin Hills-View Park area,” he said. “Tina Turner and her husband [Ike Turner]Stevie Wonder also had a house up there…it burned down in a fire.

However, there is crime, and there are street gangs, illegal drugs and violence.

African Americans are the image of “who” lives in South Central Los Angeles, but they make up only 10.1% of the population of Historic Downtown Los Angeles, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. lead with 87.2%.

South-central Los Angeles has never been a “ghetto,” by definition. The “Black Beverly Hills” as it was known in the past, the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw District and Leimert Park are the only predominantly African-American neighborhoods in the city. Windsor Hills, Baldwin Hills, and Ladera Heights are the wealthiest African-American areas on the West Coast. However, the place of African Americans in South Los Angeles continues to disappear.

James W. Johnson has resided in South Los Angeles for nearly seven decades. He and his family emigrated to South Los Angeles from a small town in Texas in 1955.

“That’s the biggest problem the black community has right now, getting [their] parents’ remains and sell them,” Johnson said. “I had a friend of mine, he sold his [grandma’s house], a duplex. He had been living in one of them rent-free for years. For years, but her grandmother passed away. He sold the house and moved to the Moreno Valley.

History and Culture Live in South Los Angeles

The Crenshaw district became home to many Japanese families after race-based housing clauses were ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable. Not illegal, just unenforceable.

Prior to World War II, South Central Los Angeles, much like the easternmost neighborhood of Boyle Heights, was diverse. Blacks, Japanese, Italians, Mexicans, Chinese, and Jews all lived together, as they were not allowed to live in the whites-only quarters of the city.

Lacy grew up in South Los Angeles and the unincorporated area called Lennox, south of Inglewood near LAX. Lacy, his wife and baby daughter moved into their 1922 Spanish Revival bungalow in South Los Angeles near the Los Angeles-Inglewood border in 2005. Their purchase is located one mile from the epicenter of the 1992 Watts Rebellion.

He says his neighborhood is “pretty quiet” and most of his neighbors are older people.

“The neighborhood is not what you would normally hear about in South Los Angeles, [as] away than drugs and violence or something like that. It’s been pretty quiet,” Lacy said. “[The elder neighbors]they moved here before the 1966 covenants were removed and have been here ever since.

South LA is home to more than 140 places of architectural and historical significance, like the 80-year-old Vision Theater in Leimert Park. The Spanish-style art deco movie palace was once operated by Fox West Coast Theatres, according to culturela.org. The Los Angeles Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, the Watts Towers, a group of 17 interconnected structures built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia over a 30-year period, and the 1930s planned community of Baldwin Hills Village are all National Historic Landmarks. .

Christian Brake is a 16-year-old high school student studying software coding. He says people are surprised that iconic institutions are located within the borders of the South Los Angeles area.

“There’s the Natural History Museum and some really good universities like USC here,” he said, swiveling his gaming chair and commenting on his neighbors. “They can be tough, I grew up with some of them, and some of them are nice. Some can be dangerous too.

People in South Los Angeles are thought to be inferior and not worth caring about. It is emblematic of systemic marginalization. Politicians often operate on tough-on-crime platforms, which usually means a heavy-handed approach where everyone is guilty and no one feels safe.

But in the Mediterranean climate, we are also witnessing the abandonment of good neighborly policies. There is a lack of interest on the part of local decision makers for people and their needs.

It’s a disservice to simply paint all of South Los Angeles and its people as bad people in a bad neighborhood.

Bloods and Crips live in parts of these areas. The same goes for anime fans, PhDs, teachers, students, celebrities, dentists, and lawyers. There are struggling families and thriving families.

As Snoop Dogg says “you don’t know” if you think everyone in South Los Angeles is just someone to avoid. They are not pillars of despair, nor of decadence.


California Humanities awarded $150,000 in research grants to 10 California community colleges to support projects by emerging student journalists. Projects reflect the perspective of journalists and the “context and research” of the humanities, as students develop their media literacy and practice audience engagement.

Students also receive support, feedback, and advanced training in workshops hosted by Cal Humanities. Entrants are selected through a competitive process and are drawn from LA City College, San Diego City College, San Francisco City College, Fullerton College, San Bernardino, and other California community colleges.


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