CicLAvia Open Thread: It Was a Great Day for South L.A.

Members of the L.A. Real Rydaz and World Riders post up on MLK Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Members of the L.A. Real Rydaz and World Riders post up on MLK Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“I am such a terrible reporter,” I texted my boss as I left Leimert Park around 4 p.m. yesterday. “All I did was talk to everyone I’ve ever met in the last three years…”

It was true. Instead of just taking in the event or snapping photos of happy participants, I went from pit stop to pit stop, seeking out the folks who were working to make sure L.A.’s re-introduction to South L.A. was a fantastically positive one.

If they weren’t busy behind the scenes, they were riding with their group, supporting the community organizations, acting as unofficial ambassadors for the area, and helping local youth access the event, as the East Side Riders Bike Club did by “picking up” students from Fremont High School on their feeder ride up from Watts.

South L.A. youth that rode with the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz to CicLAvia. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
South L.A. youth that rode to CicLAvia with the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz take a break at the Free Lots! site and chat with Sondrina Bullitt of CHC. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

And true to South L.A. advocacy fashion, just about every conversation I had assessed the day’s events, the turnout, and the work that was left to be done.

At the Free Lots! site (hosted by Community Health Councils, TRUST South L.A., Esperanza Community Housing, the Neighborhood Land Trust, Kounkuey Design Initiative, and the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN)), I talked with LURN Senior Associate Luis Gutierrez about both their efforts to see vacant lots transformed into community assets and the possibility of a cross-cultural dialogue on strengthening communities like South L.A. and Boyle Heights from within (see photos by LURN’s Rudy Espinoza, here)

Over at the Jazz Park Hub, I spoke with Reginald Johnson of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development about CRCD‘s effort to put together a Business Improvement District along Central Ave. and about the challenge of communicating South L.A.’s needs and aspirations to agencies that have little connection to the area or are reluctant to shed old stereotypes, either about its people or the community as a whole.

The Free Lots! site on MLK Blvd. featured live music and activities for kids. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The Free Lots! site on MLK Blvd. featured live music and activities for kids. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

In Leimert Park, I spoke with Ben Caldwell of the KAOS Network about his effort to work with some amazing younger artists and musicians to bring a new vibe to the Village (hello, The Crockpot!). We also chatted about the guide CicLAvia put together — seen as problematic by a number of South L.A. stakeholders who felt it didn’t offer enough historical context and portrayed the area negatively on a day they hoped would offer an opportunity to rewrite that narrative.

Continuing to move South L.A. and its neighborhoods forwards, in other words, is never too far from most advocates’ minds.

An African dance workshop by the Anani Cultural Center at the CD 9 Constituent Center begins with some yoga stretches and a calming flute melody. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
An African dance workshop by the Anani Cultural Center at the CD 9 Constituent Center begins with some yoga stretches and a calming flute melody. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As for the turnout, overall it was lower than that of other events I have attended.

Larger press outlets hadn’t really promoted the event until the last minute and people are unfortunately either still wary of South L.A. or unconvinced there is something of value to see there. And getting the word out in South L.A. isn’t easy — as was true in Boyle Heights, door-knocking and face-to-face interactions are the best (but also the slowest and most resource-intensive) way to get people to come out for events

And some of the things advocates had hoped to be able to show off in time for the event — like the bike lane for MLK which is now months overdue and the People St. Plaza project in Leimert Park — were not quite ready to be rolled out.

Skateboarding grandmothers are the best. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Skateboarding grandmothers toting purple parasols are the best. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

But those that were there to explore the area seemed genuinely excited to be able to do so.

Newcomers finally learned how to pronounce “Leimert,” were pleasantly surprised to spot Community Services Unlimited‘s lush mini-urban farm on the corner of King Blvd. and Bill Robertson Lane, happily toured the Dunbar Hotel, enthusiastically got their African dance or drumming on, or hungrily packed themselves into Ackee Bamboo looking for some Jamaican Cuisine.

Smoothie samples at Community Services Unlimited's mini urban farm. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Sampling smoothies at Community Services Unlimited’s mini urban farm. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The local community turnout was quite good for a first time through the area and, for many of the advocates I spoke with yesterday, that felt like a tremendous victory.

So did finally pulling up to Leimert Park a little after 2 p.m. and seeing how packed it still was with both community members and people from every corner of the city. Leimert Park is festival central for South L.A. — it is constantly playing host to cultural celebrations, performances, and art events. But to see so many people who were new to the area be so surprised and thrilled to discover that open secret was truly exciting to me.

So, as far as I am concerned, it was a great day for South L.A.

And I’m guessing some of you might have more fun experiences and photos to share (like those by Andy Rodriguez and Michael MacDonald of all the fun things I did not do found here). Please let us know how you spent CicLAvia in the comments below!

  • Sirinya Matute

    We also saw the woman with the purple parasol on a skateboard! We saw her in the afternoon heading eastbound on King Boulevard. I was on the phone with a friend in Florida, trying to explain CicLAvia to her and where we were exactly in the LA area when I saw the skateboarder.

    We had a lovely day. I admired the Superior Grocery store in the first floor of a mixed use building on Central Avenue, and wondered how the process went to get them into that building. We ran into Damien and his mom, Jon and Amy Weiss and their son, our friend with whom we were transit activists in school, and people from LA Walks. In Leimert Park, a woman came up to us to answer our questions and to provide us information about the area. She told us about the People St Plaza plans that were delayed but forthcoming. I wish I had gotten her name and found out if she was with a particular organization as staff or volunteers. To be perfectly honest, I felt really, really welcomed by her. Thank you. I look forward to coming back again.

  • sahra

    Damien and I were laughing via text yesterday over the fact that we’ve never seen each other at a CicLAvia yet, as far as I can remember. And, I’m glad to hear about your experience in Leimert Park — they were keen to welcome people and help them get to know what they were doing in the area. She was probably linked to the stakeholders group from the 20/20 Vision Initiative. They worked hard to pull that whole program together.

  • Sirinya Matute

    Well… I think we saw each other once at a CicLAvia, but it was in passing on the train. That doesn’t really count, does it?

  • M

    I made it out to this Ciclavia and I actually had an awesome day just biking back and forth on the route while talking with my friend. It was pretty much a perfect weekend day for me. Here’s a blog post with some my photos and a more complete writeup:

  • Mike

    I rode the route twice on a bike: in the morning with another bike-advocate type, and in the afternoon with three friends that’d never been to South LA and also hadn’t been on a bike in months. Selfishly, I was glad that this one wasn’t very crowded for their sake: it was newbie friendly. It made the ride very relaxing. For my newbie friends, I can’t say that I managed to sell them on the beauty of South LA, but, at least they have some real and updated idea of the geography and life of the Leimert Park and South Central.

  • Had a fantastic ride with my 5 year old. Went from Normandy/King to the north end of Central. Saw some local bike heroes and Santa! Great day out of the Valley. Looking forward to next time!

  • sahra

    For some reason I really love the picture of the dude that coordinated his outfit to his bike.

  • I actually think that we saw each other briefly on the “CicLAvia to the Sea”, but it was just in passing. I have a memory of one of the Heart of L.A.’s of running into John Jones multiple times and him telling me he just saw you.

  • Great event. The community was wonderful and welcoming. Loved showing some parts of the city to my Mom that she hadn’t seen before. Did anyone notice the Great Streets promo at Jazz Park?

  • M

    I enjoy the costumes, but there are some people that just pull it together for the event and it’s so much fun! I saw another guy that matched his customized bike perfectly – they both were wearing primarily black with these very striking and large black and white graphic patterns in patches on both the frame and his shirt! I loved it! Or the woman dressed up as a Mrs. Claus with her 2 little dogs dressed in matching outfits(!) At the Leimart end on the little traffic median stage, a guy was talking with the audience after a performance. He called out a woman in the audience dressed in a fantastically colorful striped dress with colorful accessories out as looking wonderful, like a bag of skittles. He was totally right and her outfit was fun and bright and I’m pretty sure she made many people smile throughout the day. Those little things make me enjoy Ciclavia even more!

  • calwatch

    I volunteered to flag traffic at Figueroa and King. One thing I did note was the lack of protests, die-ins, or even marches for any of the recent police actions around the country or in Los Angeles. There were a few people from the Revolutionary Committee handing out pastel colored “Ferguson is Everywhere” stickers but remarkably little of that where I was volunteering, or when I biked the route around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

  • sahra

    I am not surprised at all, to be honest. It’s been a constant topic of conversation, art, and action for many people from the community since August. A number of the people from the community that were involved in hosting CicLAvia have been vocal about events, as well. In fact, there have been few conversations I’ve had lately where some reference hasn’t been made to those events, people’s own personal experiences, etc. … and those conversations are just outgrowths of the conversations I’ve been having with people in the community about these issues for years. So, strange as it might seem, I really didn’t expect protests… I expected to see/hear it in the art, music, and spoken word performances (which I did see a bit of in Leimert Park) and in the conversations I had. There is a community forum Tuesday night at SCOPE and people are continuing to talk about next steps… At this point, I think, they want to go beyond protesting and see actions that move us toward some sort of tangible change.

  • sahra

    Like this:…”
    Come support a night full of poetry, music & art for a purpose!!|| cc: @mavericksflat|| “No Justice, Just Us” …This Sunday after #CicLAvia lets get together and vibe in a positive environment… @mavericksflat
    … There will be a special guest poet! You do not want to miss it!!
    Just added our local favorite band the #WyldeBunch will be supporting
    the artist on stage. Come out and enjoy visual art , poetry, live DJ @dj_wrekit_q and good music !!! If you have something you would like to express, come out!!! Contact @lynmareee @broplaywright or @kali11eg
    for more info!!! See you there!!!||#WeCantBreathe||#Shutitdown||
    #SoulLounge|| #MikeBrown|| #Ferguson|| #BlackLivesMatter||
    #MavericksFlat|| #MVTProjects|| #MixnMingle #Cocktails #HappyHour
    #Weekend #Art #Music #Food #Fashion #NightLife #Beauty #DTLA #LA #Mixer
    #Network #Social #Poetry #Culture #Drinks #Community #Media

  • User_1

    You think you’ll ever interview skateboarding grandmothers toting purple parasols?

  • sahra

    She moved too fast! If I can catch her, I will!

  • I want too!

  • VG

    I saw so many people that I gotta be surprised I didn’t see you. I was just walking, so it may helped. I came late. lack of good food was disappointing..

  • michael macdonald

    In Leimert? Besides Ackee Bamboo, the Belizean stand in the parking lot was excellent.

  • M


Extend Your Hours of Cyclo-topia: Start CicLAvia in South L.A.

Just one week after Angelenos proved they could happily bike and walk their way through Carmageddon, they get to put their freshly honed skills to the test at the nation’s biggest car-free festival. CicLAvia‘s back, y’all! Grab your bike, your family, and/or some friends and experience almost ten miles of cyclo-topia in the heart of […]