It’s said to be the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in the country. More than 70,000 people are expected to line the route Monday for the annual MLK Day parade in South Los Angeles, which starts at Normandie and King Boulevard, and spills into a festival at L.A.’s historic Leimert Park Village.
Leimert Park became popular with prosperous black Angelenos during World War II and emerged as a thriving center for black culture during the 1960s, when a number of black-owned galleries, nightclubs and other local businesses sprang up there.
These days, the Leimert Park Village Merchants’ Association boasts a variety of locally owned establishments, from beauty salons and printers to boutiques, cafes and restaurants. African-themed jewelry, clothing and artwork can be found on Degnan Boulevard, alongside a performance gallery that features jazz, blues, spoken word and drum circles.
But in the past several years, business has been lagging in Leimert Park Village. Owners are struggling to keep their establishments vital as customer traffic has declined. What would help? An MTA stop that would funnel customers and their dollars into the neighborhood, for one thing. Despite widespread community support, a proposed stop along the Crenshaw-LAX light rail line has been stymied due to lack of funds.
What does it mean for L.A.’s African-American business community?
Bernard Parks, Councilman, 8th District (includes the Baldwin-Hills, Crenshaw, Leimert Park, Chesterfield Square, Vermont-Knolls, Hyde Park, Angeles Mesa, Green Meadows, Jefferson Park, North University Park and West Adams communities)
Brenda Shockley, President of Community Build, Inc. and Manager, Leimert Park Village Crenshaw Corridor Business Improvement District.