Dubbed the “Black Greenwich Village” by filmmaker John Singleton, the historic neighborhood of Leimert Park is widely regarded as the cultural hub for African Americans in L.A. Leimert Park was the brainchild of developer Walter H. Leimert, who began the subdivision business center project in 1928. One of the first planned communities in Southern California designed for upper and middle class families, Leimert Park was considered a model of urban planning - car traffic near schools and churches was minimized, utility wires were buried or hidden from view, and trees lined the streets.
Potential homeowners were attracted by the community's state-of-the-art design features and meticulously manicured lots. Over the following decades, the 230-acre plot of land grew more diverse and became known for its hip-hop scene, poetry jam nights and authentic Afro-Caribbean cuisine. Famous Leimert Park residents include legendary musicians Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, and former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley.
The neighborhood has inspired a digital series, Leimert Park. Part of Sundance's Indie Episodic Program 6, Leimert Park made its debut at the film festival earlier this year. Created by Mel Jones, Davita Scarlett and Kady Kamakaté, Leimert Park tells the story of three best friends and roommates living in a "vibrant but rapidly gentrifying Leimert Park." In its review of the series, The Hollywood Reporter notes that "what really stands out about Leimert Park is that it showcases and flatters the title neighborhood superbly."
Read on and discover cultural attractions, historic landmarks and dining spots in Leimert Park.
The Leimert Park Art Walk takes place from 2pm to 8pm on the last Sunday of the month along the streets of 43rd Place and Degnan Boulevard. Launched in the summer of 2010, this free event features an array of entertainment and activities the whole family will enjoy. Throughout the day, cultural spaces such as KAOS Network, Vision Theatre, the World Stage, artist studios and storefronts will share art exhibitions,fashion, food, and local artisans. The festive event includes DJs, spoken word and the legendary drum circle.
Founded by artist Mark Bradford, philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton, and community activist Allan DiCastro, Art + Practice (A+P) is a nonprofit foundation based in Leimert Park Village. A+P supports the needs of South L.A. foster youth and provides the community with access to museum-curated contemporary art. A+P presents its programs and activities from a 20,000 square-foot campus that includes an Exhibition Space, Public Programs, and the Foster Youth Practice Space.
Eso Won Books is an independent bookstore located in the heart of Leimert Park Village. Meaning “water over rocks,” Eso Won “provides fluid, safe, stirring opportunities that flow to a reservoir of knowledge for all people to experience.” In addition to its wide selection of books on the African American experience and the African Diaspora, Eso Won hosts author events that have previously featured Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Misty Copeland, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley among many others.
Ben Caldwell founded the acclaimed community media lab, KAOS Network in 1990. Since then the institution has garnered a worldwide reputation with its signature program, Project Blowed. Held on Thursday nights at KAOS Network, Project Blowed was co-founded in 1994 by Aceyalone and Abstract Rude, and is renowned as the longest running open mic youth workshop in the world. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Lenny Kravitz have reportedly attended sessions.
Much more than a neighborhood park, Leimert Plaza Park has also been the site for decades of cultural celebrations, community gatherings and a vital space for African Americans to raise their voices together in protest. The famed drum circle takes place at the park every Sunday, including the monthly Art Walk.
Located at the south end of Leimert Park Village, the Vision Theatre is an Art Deco gem that first opened as the Leimert Theatre in April 1932. The movie palace was designed in the Spanish Colonial style by Morgan, Walls & Clements, the architectural firm responsible for some of L.A.'s most famous and historic venues, including The Mayan, Belasco Theatre, The Wiltern, The Fonda, and El Capitan. Operated by the City of L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs, the landmark theatre recently emerged from a multi-million dollar renovation and continues to provide a performing arts venue for the diverse cultural talent of the Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills communities.
The World Stage was founded in 1989 by the late legendary jazz drummer, Billy Higgins and poet and community arts activist, Kamau Daáood. Affectionately known locally as simply "The Stage," the educational and performance arts gallery has a capacity of 100, with a full schedule of affordable weekly workshops and ticketed performances from a range of renowned artists. Offerings include Monday’s Drum Workshop for children of all ages, Tuesday’s Jazz Vocal Workshop and Vocal Jam, Wednesday’s Anansi Writer’s Workshop, Thursday’s Women’s African Drum Circle and Jazz Jam Session, Saturday’s Jazz Workshop, and Sunday’s Woodwind Workshop, Roots First Global History of Rhythm Class, and Sisters of Jazz Jam Session. Performances usually take place on Fridays and Saturdays - check The World Stage calendar for updated events.
Scheduled to open in 2019, the Leimert Park Station is one of eight stops on the future Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will extend from the existing Metro Expo Line at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards. The line will travel 8.5 miles to the Metro Green Line and will serve the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, Westchester and surrounding area. The underground station will have a direct entrance to Leimert Plaza Park and the Vision Theatre.
Named for the national fruit of Jamaica, Ackee Bamboo is a lively spot with mint green walls and about a dozen tables. You order at the counter and food is delivered to the table. Priced at $9.95, popular daily specials include the curry chicken (Tuesday) and the ridiculously tender jerk chicken (Thursday). All plates are served with rice & peas (or white rice), steamed vegetables, plantains and festival bread. Add $3 to substitute the steamed vegetables for callaloo. Pro tip: if you’re dining with a friend, order the combo (which will get you extra chicken, meat or seafood) and share.
Adassa’s Island Café
Sister restaurant to Ackee Bamboo and located directly across the courtyard, Adassa’s Island Café (named in memory of the family’s Jamaican matron) is a fine spot to meet a friend for a cup of coffee or sandwich. Bring a hearty appetite for the gargantuan wraps.
Brooklyn Deli & Mini Market
Sandwiches are the name of the game at Brooklyn Deli & Mini Market, opened in September 2014 by a husband-wife couple from New York. Build your own sandwich or try one of their signatures. Specials include a $10 lunch special (sandwich, side, soda or water) and a daily $5 sandwich - Brooklyn Deli picks the meat and you do the rest. A section of the menu is devoted to Customer Favorites, like the spicy Hakeem's Favorite - chipotle chicken on a French roll with pepper jack cheese, mayo & horseradish, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, banana peppers, sea salt & pepper, olive oil & vinegar. The Skateboard Special features pastrami and maple turkey on sweet wheat with pepper jack cheese, honey mustard, mayo, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, pepper, olive oil & vinegar.
Dulan's On Crenshaw
Dulan's On Crenshaw is a casual restaurant that serves generous portions of soul food in takeout boxes. Soul Food Lunch is served Monday to Saturday and includes two sides and two cornbread muffins. Soul Food Dinner is available all day Monday to Saturday and adds a third side. Served all day, the Sunday Dinner ($19.45) includes one entree, choice of rice & gravy or cornbread dressing, choice of two sides, dessert and sweet tea or lemonade. Feed the whole group with the Family Special for $26.95: one whole chicken (8 pieces), three large sides, four cornbread muffins. Add a couple of bucks for Smothered Chicken.
Earle's On Crenshaw
Brothers Duane and Cary Earle started with a hot dog cart and have since grown into a thriving restaurant in the heart of the Crenshaw District. Formerly known as Earlez Grille, Earle's On Crenshaw serves gourmet hot dogs with the motto: "Not fast food. It's good food fast." Earle's offers a variety of options, from spicy beef to turkey, kosher and vegan. Load your dog with included toppings, or add extras like chili (beef or vegan), cheese and New York style onions. Don't miss the gloriously messy chili cheese fries, available beef or vegan. Daily hot dog specials include Turkey Tuesday ($1.34) and Vegan Wednesday ($3.99).