From left are Asm. Isaac Bryan and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis at Hot & Cool Café in Leimert Park.  (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)

On a sunny Saturday on February 18, Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan (D-55, Los Angeles), led California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis on a tour of small Black businesses in the historic Leimert Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

The tour began on the corner of 43rd Place and Degnan in the midst of a majority-Black crowd of hundreds, intertwined with the sounds of drums, fragrances of incense, scents of ethnic foodS, and sights of Black art.

“Leimert Park is the cultural heart of Black Los Angeles,” said Bryan. “Some of the most influential moments in music, theater, dance — all areas of the arts — were created in this neighborhood. Our community is part of what makes our state so special, and we were grateful to have Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis here to share in it with us.”

Top photo, L-R Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Asm. Isaac Bryan, and Councilwoman Heather Hutt and Akil West, co-founder of Sole Folks. Bottom photo, The tour stopped to meet Sharon Williams-Askia and Umaar Askia at Nappily Naturals.  (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)


Joining Bryan in welcoming Kounalakis were Councilmembers Heather Hutt (CD-10) and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD-8) and the group interacted with community members walking throughout the village streets and sidewalks.

Among the businesses visited was Nappily Naturals, a wellness shop run by husband-and-wife team, Umaar Askia and Sharon Williams-Askia.  Members on the tour were entranced by the immediate aroma, vibe, and diverse offerings.

The group also stopped by Sika Jewelry, made by Leimert Park icon, owner Sika Dwimfo and his daughter, Milan; Community Build, a nonprofit community development corporation offering outreach and wraparound services for at-risk youth; and Sole Folks, a community-based retail hub and artist collaborative providing mentorship and financial support, founded by Akil West, Nika King, and Taz Arnold.


Top photo, The tour visits Hot and Cool owner, Anthony Jolly.  Bottom photo, Community Build President Robert Saucedo, right, speaks to Asm. Isaac Bryan, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, and Councilwoman Heather Hutt. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)


Ride On! BikeShop/Co-Op led by Adé Neff was another business that the elected officials visited.  The shop also hosts the Leimert Park Zero Emissions Mobility Community Pilot program, an electric bicycle mobility program through Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator.

Another business that the group enjoyed was Hot and Cool Café, owned by Tina Amin and Tony Jolly, which is a vegan café with their own coffee label, Crenshaw Coffee Co. The café is a community hub featuring performance space and art by local creatives.  And rounding off the tour list was Neighbors Skate Shop, a local skate and merchandising store in Leimert Park.

For Hutt, Harris-Dawson and Bryan, Leimert Park is home and the tour afforded the opportunity to interact with their constituents as well as purchasing a few of their favorite items.  Like most who visit “the village,” Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis couldn’t resist buying items along the tour, while absorbing the culture and people.


Top photo, L-R are co-owner Cleon Arrey, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Asm. Isaac Bryan, and Councilmembers Heather Hutt and Marqueece Harris-Dawson at Neighbors Skate Shop.  Bottom Asm. The tour visits with Adé Neff (middle) at Ride On! BikeShop/Co-Op  (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)


“I was honored to join Assemblymember Isaac Bryan in his district today at the historic Leimert Park Plaza — a thriving community of Black history, art, and culture.  After visiting. I understand why Leimert Park is considered the cultural heartbeat of Black Los Angeles,” said Kounalakis.

“As we celebrate Black History Month this month, I hope all Californians take the opportunity to celebrate the rich culture and history of Black Americans and remember that Black history is American History.”


Leimert Park icon, owner Sika Dwimfo, shares art with Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis at Sika Jewelry. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)

E. Mesiyah McGinnis contributed to this story.



Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis on her tour of Leimert Park.  (E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel)