Mayor Villaraigosa, Sup. Ridley Thomas and Council Pres. Wesson stand together in celebration of African American Culture that Resonates in Leimert Park Village
As the evangelical icon The Rev. Cecil ‘Chip’ Murray fired up hundreds of elated supporters with three chants of “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” a corridor in the midst of the sea opened up at the celebration of approved funding for an underground station on the planned Crenshaw Line at historical Leimert Park Village, on Friday May 24.
Rev. Murray began a celebration that almost never was. One that was stalled for two years in tangled negotiations and left to die on a respirator. The 8.5-mile Crenshaw Line would run south from the Expo Line at Exposition Boulevard along Crenshaw Boulevard through Inglewood, terminating at the Green Line near LAX.
However, a relentless group of leaders led by Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Herb Wesson and civil rights leader Danny J. Bakewell Sr. breathed so much hope into the Leimert Park station that now it is alive.
During a Metro Transportation Authority board meeting last week Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa second a motion by Ridley-Thomas, which insisted that a Leimert Park station be inclusive in the planning of the Crenshaw Line.
It ended two years of fighting for a light-rail station in Leimert Park, with the approval of $80 million full funding for a stop in the heart of L.A.’s African American community.
“Good News! Good News! Good News! Good News in Leimert Park Village today, clap your hands and give somebody a high-five and tell them there is Good News in the Village today!” proclaimed Ridley-Thomas.
The supervisor referred to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” paraphrasing it to ‘It takes a village to cause a train to stop at Leimert Park Village.”
“In other words we did it together. Say Mr. Mayor we did it together! Mr. Council President we did it together! Ms. (Jan) Perry we did it together! We did it together with the Sentinel! We did it together,” Ridley-Thomas added, also mentioning churches, clergy and community organizations that were instrumental in solidifying the station.
That was the theme celebrated in the same location that three to four years from now will be an artery through, to and from the single region in Los Angeles that is most symbolic of African American culture.
Mayor Villaraigosa smiled continuously and then reflected on the long journey of not just the Leimert Park station but also his 33-year relationship with Ridley-Thomas.
“For 33-years mark Ridley-Thomas and Antonio Villaraigosa have been working together. From the co-chairs of the Latino/Black Roundtable to work on his campaign for city council, mine for the state assembly, my first second and third run for mayor we have understood that when we work together we get things done,” said Villaraigosa.
The mayor concluded by saying the event is a celebration of the Leimert Park Village community that has always been a big part of this town from the very beginning. “This is a community that has a cultural destination point that people from all over this town should come and visit.”
Leimert Park was developed in the 1920s as an all white neighborhood known for lush golf courses, but after the 1965 Watts riots, Black musicians, writers and artists began to transform it into an African American cultural destination for entertainment, food and business.
Sounds of Jazz can frequently be heard throughout the community, lined with shops, art galleries and the last Black-centric bookstore in the region. Leimert Park is the last African American business corridor in Southern California.
“Let me just say this. The role that the Sentinel has played in this outcome, frankly has been under reported,” said Sup. Ridley Thomas. “ I want to publically acknowledge the rather, pivotal and critical role that the publisher (Danny J. Bakewell Sr.) of the L.A. Sentinel has played in this. That’s no overstatement, that’s just frankly the facts. So two years to the date was not the day we hope that it would be, but today is the day we hope for.”