The Re-Branding/Marketing panel at the Leimert Design Charrette featuring Armen Ross (President, Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce), Jan Perry (General Manager, EDD), and Darrell Brown (Senior Vice President Consumer
Banking, US Bank). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
As I listened to speakers on the “Creative Industry Business Development, Tourism Markets, Branding, Marketing, Event Management, Business Alliances, and Program Partnerships” panel at the Leimert Park Design Charrette this past January, one question kept bothering me:
Why is so much discussion being directed at marketing Leimert Park to the international arena?
It makes perfect sense that they would be thinking big, of course.
As the area undergoes changes courtesy of the new rail line, the Leimert Park station that will (indirectly) connect the Crenshaw and Leimert communities to LAX, and the new development that will likely follow, there is the potential to draw tourists to the area, deepen relationships with sister cities or communities, or even attract innovative investors looking to build new partnerships with local artists and cultural care-takers.
Make no mistake — all of that is incredibly important. It would be wonderful to see Leimert take its rightful place on the map of must-see destinations for being a powerful creative community, the cultural beating heart of the black community, and an important African marketplace.
But Leimert Park, at least in my experience, is still not a particularly well-known quantity to many Angelenos.
While it is on people’s radar because of the construction of the Crenshaw Line, because it is part of “South Los Angeles,” it is vulnerable to being associated with the many stigmas that unfortunately come with that label. Even for many of those who do know something about the community and its history, Leimert’s location within South L.A. still acts as a deterrent — people are afraid they will have to travel through “dangerous” or “sketchy” areas to get there.
Part of the reason that it has been hard to dispel such outdated notions and create a more positive image for the area is that, until recently, Leimert has not been particularly adept at getting the word about what it has to offer the city.
The heart of Leimert Park Village, the proposed Metro station site, and sites owned by community members. The pop-up plaza will be set up at the corner of 43rd Pl. and Leimert Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
For residents living in the area or people that regularly frequent places like the independent, black-owned Eso Won bookstore or artistic hubs like the KAOS Network, the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, The World Stage, or the new Papillion Art Gallery, keeping up with cultural events and happenings probably isn’t too hard.
Someone like myself, who loves the neighborhood but can’t be there all the time, tends to find out about exciting events a week or two after they have happened, when stopping by to see friends or to follow up on a story.
People completely unfamiliar with the area likely never hear about what it has to offer at all. And, despite the fact that so many of the musical, literary, and artistic greats in the African-American community have come through and/or been shaped by the neighborhood, an interested observer would be hard-pressed to find a central source of information detailing that history (although, this documentary and Erin Aubry Kaplan’s work at KCET help fill in some gaps).
That all is beginning to change. Read more…