A haven of black history

Times Staff Writer

The place

An oasis of African American culture, Los Angeles is lucky to have Leimert Park. One of the city’s rare walking districts, it is a haven for artists, poets and musicians, who have numerous outlets for their crafts and creations in the various galleries, shops and performance spaces.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Nov. 9, 2002 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 09, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 315 words Type of Material: Correction
Leimert Park -- The Road Trip article in Thursday’s Calendar Weekend mistakenly identified the founder of Leimert Park as William H. Leimert. The area was named after Walter H. Leimert.

Where to find it

South Central Los Angeles. Anchored by Leimert Park on its south end, it is bounded by Crenshaw Boulevard to the west, Leimert Boulevard to the east and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north.

The main drag

The 4300 block of Degnan Boulevard has more culture per square inch than most neighborhoods in the city. A mecca of African Americana, it’s packed with art galleries, eateries and shops, as well as jazz clubs.


The arts

The storefront studio Dance Collective offers classes in a variety of disciplines -- from West African to Cuban to salsa. Classes often fill and spill over onto the sidewalk, turning practice into performance. Sunday afternoons, a drum circle forms to pound out beats in the park. The Museum in Black is a treasure trove of African and African American history. The front room is jammed with statues, masks, pottery and instruments from all parts of Africa; the back is loaded with 5,000 pieces of black memorabilia, much of it from the slavery era. Gallery Plus offers contemporary African American art and books. The Zambezi Bazaar features ethnic jewelry and clothing, with a pretty great selection of vintage jazz vinyl and rare books upstairs. For handmade jewelry, visit Sika. For stained glass and mosaics, peek inside Ramsess Glass.


Largely regarded as the best blues bar in the city, the 40-year-old Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn once played host to blues legends B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. These days, live acts perform five nights a week. For jazz, poetry and spoken-word performances, visit the legendary World Stage or Lucy Florence Coffee House. The Regency West Theater is a supper club, playing host to theatrical and comedy performances. Thursday nights, Project Blowed opens its doors to aspiring rappers.

Great eats

Authentic soul food is around almost every corner. Check out the Kitchen or M&M;'s for some of the best in the area. The smell of mesquite will lead you to Phillip’s, a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint that serves to-die-for baby-back ribs and fixins. The Jerk Pit makes excellent and reasonably priced Jamaican fast food. And La Fuente del Sabor cooks up authentic Mexican and Salvadoran fare in a festive and colorful environment.


The area is named after William H. Leimert, a real estate developer who purchased 240 acres there in 1927. Predominantly a white neighborhood, its demographics began to shift after 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt desegregated manufacturing plants. Local government began to neglect the neighborhood, contributing to its decline. Following the 1992 riots, a coalition formed to develop the area into what it is today.


Leimert Park

1. Lucy Florence Coffee House, 4305 Degnan Blvd., (323) 293-2395.

2. Dance Collective, 4327 Degnan Blvd., (323) 292-1538.

3. Museum in Black, 4331 Degnan Blvd., (323) 292-9528

4. World Stage, 4344 Degnan Blvd., (323) 293-2451.

5. The Kitchen, 3347 1/2 W. 43rd Place, (323) 299-7799.

6. Project Blowed, 4343 Leimert Blvd., (323) 296-1491.

7. Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn, 4339 Leimert Blvd., (323) 295-9112.

8. Phillip’s Bar-B-Que, 4307 Leimert Blvd., (323) 292-7613.