Occasionally (and too often), we kill the patient we are trying hard to save.

This is the story of attempting to save the Crenshaw Corridor, home of the Leimert Park Black cultural nexus, from the dreaded gentrification monster. Harlem, New York did not escape it, and Harlem has been home to an international Black culture for over 100 years.

So what makes Crenshaw different? Some say it is the Destination Crenshaw project, that essentially is scheduled to bring art, digital technology, and a giant 120-foot tower to bear on ensuring that the area from 48th street to 60th street is full of dynamic cultural representations from street paintings, poetry shows, musical engagement and any other creative idea one can throw into the mix.

As James Burkes, the creator of the African Marketplace, once said, ‘we may not be able to stop the moving vans coming in, but we can certainly solidify the permanence of this Black cultural space. Move on in, but the cultural background of Leimert Park, etc. will meet and greet you, and will force you to adapt yourself to it.’

Of course, there are many who say that won’t work. To sustain this “cultural heartbeat of L.A.’s Black American and Caribbean culture,” they say, we must fight tooth and nail to keep outsiders out and insiders drum-beating in the park, and the Leimert Village Plaza. There is a steady underground of resistance to putting a tower in front of the AFIBA Center on Slauson and Crenshaw, insulting the community activists who regularly meet there. And there is resistance to prettifying Crenshaw Boulevard enough to attract the privileged and private investors (whoever heard of putting a gaudy Observation Tower in the center of Crenshaw?).

Property values are expected to rise violently (not, incidentally, upsetting the lucky homeowners in the area), immediately displacing those of low to moderate incomes. Additionally, a number of community activists say, about those promised new jobs the project proclaims, ‘we’ve been promised them many times before and every time had our hopes dashed on Crenshaw’s concrete streets time and again.’

Most of the African American businesses, however, welcome the developmental plans and see the whole thing as a massive upgrade that will help their bottom lines. The elected representatives of the area, council districts 8 and 10 (Mr. Wesson and Mr. Harris-Dawson), are fully on-board, and the Metro Services Board is ready to zoom ahead.

Can anything slow down this train? Should anything slow it down?

The idea that making Black cultural exhibits large, relatively complex, and bold as a bulwark against the bedrock community losing control of its cultural heritage, while not new, has never been fully tested, either in Los Angeles or elsewhere. Perhaps, unwittingly, this Destination Crenshaw project will be a crucible to properly evaluate this method as a way to tamp down the negative effects of gentrification. Maybe not.

One thing for sure, the project is already underway. Plans have not only been drawn up, contracts signed, shovel photos taken, artists committed, and stone and concrete are already being moved. Ready or not, the Crenshaw Corridor and Leimert Park are set to be reconstituted and re-envisoned.

You can read more about it and discuss what’s happening at https://www.instagram.com/ p/BtSHZ5YDkzk/ and by attending the Park Mesa Heights Community Council (Neighborhood Empowerment Zone) meetings on the 2nd Saturday of the month, 10 am, 3140 Hyde Park Blvd.

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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