Angels, maybe, but one thing L.A. does have is stars. From Hollywood to Watts, from Magic Johnson’s theater complex to Fred Price’s Crenshaw Christian Center, African Americans have hugged the limelight since the first pioneers settled here in 1790. More than half of those settlers-26 of 46-were of African descent, and Hollywood’s been swinging ever since. Even the hills that the rich and famous now call home was land once owned by Maria Rita Valdez, whose black grandparents were among those founding folk.
You won’t find a central African American hub in L.A., however. The city covers a lot of turf, including Hollywood, Inglewood, Century City, Universal City, South Central, Watts and dozens of other neighborhoods such as the lively and largely African American Leimert Park. This district offers a generous mix of culture and entertainment (see “Inside Leimert Park,” Verve, June 1997).
L.A. has much to offer museum-goers. In the Crenshaw district, Black Gallery (107 Santa Barbara Plaza; 213-294-9024) is the premier museum celebrating African American photographers. Other fine art can be viewed at the Museum of African American Art (4005 S. Crenshaw Blvd.; 213-294-7071) and the California African-American Museum (600 State Dr., Exposition Park; 213-744-7432). Want to put a face to the name; Visit the Hollywood Wax Museum (6767 Hollywood Blvd.; 213-462-5991) with its lifelike figures of Tiger Woods, Diana Ross and others. To visit homes of some of Hollywood’s brightest stars, contact Gloria Vinson Tours (5286 Village Green; 213-295-0888) or Black L.A. Tours (3450 W. 43rd St.; 213-750-9267).
On the restaurant scene, try Elephant Walk (4336 Degnan Blvd.; 213-299-1765), patronized for its California French cuisine and 1930s jazz motif. To satisfy a Cajun hunger, head to Gagnier’s (1315 Third St.; 310-319-9981). In Hollywood, Georgia (7250 Melrose Ave.; 213-933-8420), co-owned by Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen and Norm Nixon, is where celebrity-watchers go for soul food. For light fare and fun, 5th Street Dick’s (3347 W. 43rd Pl.; 213-296-3970), a jazz coffeehouse, is a late-night favorite for chili, cobblers, cakes and live music. After dinner, get a few laughs at the smoke- and alcohol-free Comedy, Comedy (625 S. Fairfax; 213-673-3521), featuring comedy shows and open-mike nights for poets, singers and comics.
Pay tribute to the nearly 100 African American entertainers remembered along the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. (between La Brea and Gower streets and along Vine St. from Sunset to Yucca). African American heroes are also honored at the Promenade of Prominence (Ted Watkins Park, 1335 E. 103rd St.; 213357-3032).
As the entertainment capital of the world, the city is loaded with media outlets. Over the air waves, tune into KJLH (102.3 FM), an urban contemporary radio station owned by Stevie Wonder; 24-hour jazz station KLON (88.1 FM); KACE (103.9 FM) for adult R&B; gospel station KMAX (107.1 FM); and KGFJ (1230 AM) for an R&B oldies format.
Most publications targeting the African American community are free weeklies distributed on Thursdays. The Los Angeles Sentinel is the largest African American newspaper in California. Other papers include the Los Angeles Scoop and Wave