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Pulsing With Culture

On what was once farmland at the foot of the Baldwin Hills sits the core of black Los Angeles, where African drums beat, jazz drifts from eateries and Afrocentric boutiques invite passersby.

July 21, 2008|John L. Mitchell

Back in the 1920s, developer Walter H. Leimert built a neighborhood on farmland where soy once grew. He donated a piece of land to the city, and in exchange, the city named it after him: Leimert Park.

Today you can stroll through Leimert Park Plaza -- a small, triangular patch of greenery at the foot of the Baldwin Hills -- sit on a bench, listen to water cascading in the fountain and, on special occasions, watch dancers move to the rhythms of African drums.

In the village shopping district surrounding West 43rd Place and Degnan Boulevard, there are barbershops and beauty salons, Eso Won books, Afrocentric boutiques and art galleries, and takeout joints and Southern-style restaurants that feature live jazz and blues.

This stretch of L.A. celebrates Kwanzaa and Christmas and is the last stop on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.

It is a neighborhood rich with Art Deco apartments and office buildings, Spanish colonial homes and post-World War II bungalows, including one where former Mayor Tom Bradley once lived.

If you're looking for the cultural heartbeat of black Los Angeles, look no further. Leimert Park is the spot.

-- John L. Mitchell

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