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Reviewing the politics of Destination Crenshaw


While still savoring both the Juneteenth and 4th of July arts and culture celebrations in Leimert Park (and patiently waiting for the re-opening of the renovated Vision Theater), we can re-look at the continuing plans for Destination Crenshaw, L.A.’s very ambitious 1.3 mile Open Air Art Project down Crenshaw Boulevard.

Yes, it is still both being planned and operationalized at this time.

Currently, the approved plans call for the bulk of the project to be completed by spring of 2023, including all seven of the permanent artworks identified for Destination Crenshaw (DC) which are slated to be ready by next fall (even though all seven have not yet been fully authorized and commissioned).

Fundraising, the usual culprit, has actually been going well, and it now stands at about $72 million. The Getty Foundation is also providing another $3 million in grants to commission and fabricate the project’s seven designated sculptures, and to conserve them.

The DC project, which is intended to eventually include more than 100 works of art by Black artists (to be displayed from Obama Boulevard to Slauson Avenue) is to become “the nation’s largest art and cultural celebration of African American contribution to world culture.”

Destination Crenshaw, with its planned streetscaping, pocket parks and large-scale sculptures, is essentially a part of the new Crenshaw LAX Commuter Train system that should have already opened for business, but is instead now scheduled for fall, 2023 (we’ve been told that equipment is being field-tested, operators hired and trained, etc.).

According to public plans, the Destination Crenshaw project is aimed at boosting local businesses in the area, and letting train-riders see a vibrant and positive slice of Black L.A. life that has grown up in the wake of the Rodney King riots of the 1990s. That is a tall order. Artistry instead of gun-shots and car doughnuts will be a blessing.

In the past, besides rap artists, the Crenshaw area (part of South L.A.) has been well known for bringing forth many prominent Black artists and entertainers, including stand-up comedian Redd Foxx, rapper Ice-T, and singers Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner and Nancy Wilson. It was also the center for the former hit TV show “Soul Train,” which was started in Chicago by Don Cornelius but brought to L.A. and became the massive hit many of us remember from our youth. It was the local L.A. high schoolers who regularly crowded Soul Train’s stage that showed off fashion styles and new dance moves (sort of like Tik-Tok does today) that were then copied by teens across the country.

Destination Crenshaw wants to recapture that spark of community artistry and demonstrate the creative talent and vivacity that Black youth still possess.

We anxiously await this cultural renaissance for South Los Angeles. It is very much needed and very much wanted. So let’s get on with it.

Stay tuned.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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