Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Black History Month Events

[Thanks to the West Adams Heritage Association for sharing this summary of Black History month events]

We are in the midst of Black History Month, and the West Adams District holds a treasure trove of landmarks (designated, or not yet recognized) of African American history that we celebrate and honor. It’s WAHA’s tradition each February to spotlight some of these resources. The art work directly below, for example, is a section of the large-scale interior murals at the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building, 1999 West Adams Blvd. Golden State Mutual (GSM) and the murals themselves are designated Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) No. 1000.

Conservation of the murals at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company Building

In 1949, Architect Paul R. Williams designed new corporate headquarters for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance, at the time the country’s largest black-owned company. Because of Golden State Mutual, thousands of African Americans were able to combat rampant racial discrimination and obtain home loans, thus helping families build transgenerational wealth. The Late Modern style building also houses two site-specific murals, entitled “The Negro in California History,” which were conceived by Williams and librarian/historian Miriam Matthews. Noted African American artists Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff painted the oil-on-canvas works, which depict African Americans’ experiences in California from the state’s founding through 1949. Each mural measures more than sixteen feet long and nine feet tall.

Unfortunately, GSM became insolvent. In the wake of the company’s liquidation, the Los Angeles Conservancy, West Adams Heritage Association and the building’s owners, Community Development Impact, successfully nominated the building inside and out as a landmark — in part as an advocacy effort to stave off the California Insurance Commissioner’s attempt to strip the contents of the building, including the murals, sell them, and ship them away from Los Angeles.

Because of this preservation “save,” Community Development Impact not only was able to beautifully restore the building, but also engaged in an intensive effort to conserve and repair the murals. Read more about this effort here.

Below are more Black History Month activities and information (along with a few other events you may be interested in):

We think Black History Month is a great time to sample (if you haven’t already) some of our community’s black-owned restaurants and cafés, such as South L.A. Café (just opened at Jefferson and 4th Avenue). It’s a tough business in the best of times. Others which would benefit from your year-round patronage: Harold and Belle’s in Jefferson Park (2920 Jefferson Blvd at 10th Avenue). Natraliart Jamaican Restaurant has been serving island cuisine and fruit juices for 35 years at 3426 West Washington. Weigie Soul Food, located in the Mercado la Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave. Chef Marilyn’s, which is celebrating 35 years in business (2638 S. Crenshaw). Pip’s on La Brea (1356 S. La Brea) offers jazz and blues alongside its fare. Post & Beam (3767 Santa Rosalia at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Shopping Center) and Alta Adams (5359 West Adams) have both won coveted top positions in the LA Times’ annual “101 Best Restaurants” guide. No doubt we’ve missed some; please let us know.

NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN BOOK EXHIBIT Until March 10 Peterson Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd.

The Petersen Automotive Museum’s The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibit remains on view until March 10, 2024. This exhibition, developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with award-winning author, photographer, and cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor, offers an immersive look at the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-century America and how the annual guide served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising African American middle class and evidence of a vibrant business class. Yes, this exhibition departs from the Petersen’s usual fare (but if you love cars, there are plenty on display as well). Check it out here.

Visit The African American Firefighter Museum

Family Day(s): Sunday, February 11, 18, & 25, 1 – 4 p.m.
African American Firefighter Museum, 1401 South Central Ave.
Family Day at the African American Firefighter Museum includes a 40-minute guided tour of historic Fire Station No. 30. Hear stories about the African American firefighters’ legacy in Los Angeles, experience a real fire truck up close, and enjoy a Kid’s Corner creative space.

Black History Month at USC

Black History Month at USC. Click here to view more.

waheedworks: Bodies as Site of Faith and Protest
Wednesday, February 28
7:30 p.m.
Bovard Auditorium

USC’s Visions and Voices presents the West Coast premiere of the dance performance, Bodies as Site of Faith and Protest. Partially set to speeches from the Civil Rights Movement including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “We Shall Overcome,” the newest work by waheedworks beautifully and powerfully explores the idea of bodies uniting in protest, carrying on the Philadephia-based company’s mission of creating a radically collaborative body of work that speaks to human life. This performance will be accompanied by a conversation with the artists.

Black History in Opera, And More
LA Opera Online Recital
The annual Honoring Black History from LA Opera Connects presents a free online recital, featuring beloved and favorite musical selections from the worlds of opera and art songs, musical theatre and American standards, spirituals and protest songs. Click here to watch on YouTube:

Celebrate Black History Month with the dancers of Lula Washington Dance Theatre, which has electrified audiences for four decades. Click for Tickets.

Sunday, February 25, 12 noon – 8 p.m.
Leimert Park Village

Leimert Park Artwalk

This happens every month! Black History Month is a good time to experience the Leimert Park Artwalk, a public celebration of art, music, cinema, and history, with food, gift shops, films, kids’ art making, music and spoken word, and a continuous African Drum Circle.

Check out the Central Libary and the LA County Library

The great Central Library is a wonderful place to spend a day, rainy or not, and it’s an easy Expo Line or bus ride away. Pro tip: Parking on weekends is only $1 with validation. Visit the multiple exhibitions, browse the shelves, take a docent tour, join a class in Korean, Italian, Persian, or other languages, convert your old videos to digital files in the Octavia Lab, or shop at the excellent store.

Or you can explore online offerings for African American and Black History Month

Culinary Traditions
Food nourishes the body and helps tell people’s stories. Explore the rich culinary traditions of Black Americans through cookbooks and capture your own culinary story using the recipe card template. Streaming from Los Angeles County Library

African American History Videos
A collection of over 50 YouTube videos that range from Chicago House music through the Rodney King riots to an interview with RuPaul.
Streaming from Los Angeles Public Library

Exploring Black Indian Ancestry
Award-winning author Shonda Buchanan, discusses her memoir, Black Indian, an inspiring work of non-fiction that explores her family’s legacy as African Americans with American Indian roots and how they dealt with not only society’s ostracization but also the consequences of this dual inheritance.
Streaming from Los Angeles County Library

The Compton Cowboys
View a discussion with Randy Savvy from the Compton Cowboys, learn about the rich legacy of African Americans in equine and Western heritage and their influence on music, entertainment, and fashion. Recommended for adult audiences.
Streaming from Los Angeles County Library

Virtual Tours at the Grammy Museum

Explore the recent exhibitions “This Is Nat King Cole” and “Motown: The Sound of Young America” (+ others) to see how these pivotal musicians reflected and moved American history. Free with signup to the Museum’s mailing list.

West Adams Heritage Association is celebrating 40 years protecting our historic neighborhoods through intensive preservation advocacy, educational tours and publications, and community building. We are entirely sustained by memberships; we need your support and invite you to join us now! If you’ve been a member in the past but are unsure of your current status, please reach out to [email protected]. Thanks!

© 2024 West Adams Heritage Association

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