As part of our exploration of Leimert Park, we asked our readers to submit their stories and memories of the neighborhood and its surrounding areas. These first hand accounts will help us tell the story of a neighborhood born in the 1920s as a planned community designed by the Olmsted Brothers, and for the past several decades has been considered a hub of African American arts and culture.
You can help shape our narrative by sharing your stories, like the ones seen below, that tell your personal experiences in the area, provide insight, or define "the best" of Leimert Park. We'd love to hear from you!
Now let's hear what the community has to say:
You can't forget the jazz era in Leimert Park that started in the 80's when Carl Burnett (famed drummer with Freddie Hubbard) opened Artworks 4 artist gallery. It was followed by The World Stage, then 5th Street Dick's. Lots of great culture was inspired during this period. Many African American artists made Leimert Park their home as a result.
KAOS Network. In the mid to late '90s this spot hosted Project Blowed open-mic on Thursday nights -- the go-to place to hear freestyle hip hop, from local underground artists to up and coming neighborhoods kids, and everyone in between. Local kids and adults alike who were apart of hip hop culture gathered here; newbies honed their craft, and seasoned vets debuted new material. Aceyalone even made a song about it. But it wasn't just hip-hop, there was spoken word, dancing, etc. There was even a free Capoiera class here back then. Local dancers attended the classes to learn new moves, neighborhood kids attended just to have something to do. I was immersed in hip hop culture back then, and this place became sort of a refuge for me. My grandmother died in 94, the year I graduated high school. All of the programming at KAOS allayed my pain at the time. I didn't even know Ben Caldwell at the time, but this guy probably saved more kids lives who grew up in this area than anyone. Peace and blessings!
Dale Fielder says:
The Dale Fielder Quintet was the first band to perform at Richard Fulton's 5th Street Dick's. We walked in during the summer of 1992 and talked to Mr. Fulton, and he agreed to start us off at $125 per night + tips. Of course over the years the money picked up. We worked every Friday & Saturday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. During 1993, the place quickly gained attention as people flocked there. Those days we played to packed audiences and an after hours slot opened up when we began to alternate with the late guitarist Ronald Muldrow's group. Friday we would play the 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot and Ronald would do the 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. after hours. Saturdays we would reverse.
A real serious jazz scene opened up because of 5th Street Dick's as the after-hours session became the place to be Friday and Saturday nights. National jazz artists performing elsewhere in L.A., after their gigs, made their way to 5th Street Dick's to jam. I've had Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, Wynton, Branford and Delfeyo Marsalis, and countless others joining us. Plus the jazz writers were there, some from as far away as Sweden, who heard about what we were laying down at Dick's. We played non-stop from 1992 until 2000, when Richard Fulton passed away. It was a true labor of love and an experience everyone will never forget.
Rhonda Cobb says:
My family moved to Leimert Park in the mid or late '60s. I have been a part of the culture and arts and businesses since the days of 5th Street Dick's and The Museum in Black. I have stories.
Damaris Bernard says:
My experience in Leimert Park has been life changing! I started in 1998 doing volunteer work for the children of this community with other parents and neighborhood leaders concerned with the widening gap of access to quality arts, music, and science programs available to our youth. My husband Dennis Smith and I, with the support of Ben Caldwell of KAOS NETWORK, founded KIDZ @ 43RD PLACE, a program where parents and other people come and share their talents with children in the community free of charge. We offer acting, art, music, dance, yoga, martial arts, TV production workshops, photography, puppet and mask making, poetry, and just about any other creative workshops that you could imagine!
The youth ensemble of KIDZ @ 43RD PLACE are invited on a regular basis to perform in many venues around the city, which gives the children the opportunity to express their talents in front of live audiences, and to encourage others to follow their example and challenge themselves to represent the highest of what their own communities have to offer.
Leimert Park is a rich, vibrant and diverse community overflowing with creative people dedicated to art, music, intellectual and spiritual discourse and love. It's a place where adults and children from all walks of life come to share, learn and experience simultaneously the gifts of our community, which is what the definition of community should be!
Kwaku Person-Lynn says:
Started my first adult class (Afrikan World Civilizations) there at KAOS Studios (Network) owned by Ben Caldwell. Later I started my youth class (Black History 4 Young People) there, which still exists in the summer. Used to go to the Leimert Theater in the 1950s, when the area was predominately a white neighborhood. Lived down the street from the theater for seven years. Have seen the area change over the years.
Nichelle Monroe says:
Historic Leimert Park is now being dismantled by new property owners to want to re-gentrify the area, by kicking out present business-owner tenants. Among the new businesses on Degnan Street, the heart of the artist district, in Leimert Park, will be a gun store.
Tenants of the stores on Degnan Street have made numerous attempts to contact the new owners to make rental agreements. The new owners are unidentifiable and incognito. They have hidden themselves with in LLC companies. They refuse to make contact with the tenants. This seems like a diabolical attempt to push the store owners out of the area.
Truly, positive changes need to take place to cure a stagnant energy in Leimert Park. However, most of the residents and business owners fear that things will change in a negative way, especially since a gun store will possibly open on Degnan. The LAST thing this area needs, is just that sort of business. A GUN store? Really?