Sunday Afternoon in Leimert Park Village

Residents congregate every Sunday in Leimert Park Village's main square to celebrate African American music, culture and giving back.

Leimert Park Family enjoys "Love Jazz" band's Sunday Performance.

It is a Sunday afternoon in Leimert Park Village, California. Degnan Boulevard, the city’s main street, is alive with the cacophonous sound of music. African drums seemlessly blend with jazzy electric guitar and piano. A woman adlibs cries between musical lyrics, while people of all ages gather together and dance on plastic chairs, using their surroundings as timpany. An patch-work of rythmns and sounds, blending together to create the unique symphony of Leimert Park Village.

For many, Sunday signifies "a day of rest", while others opt for church services or catching up on emails and chores; but for the residents of Leimert Park Village, Sunday represent a day to celebrate cultural identity, unity and a day to give back to their community.

Founder, C. Eziokwa Washington joins in making music with the "Love Jazz" band to raise money for the WE CAN Foundation.

“Once a month I’ll have some professionals come through, they’ll rap, sing or even play their instruments,” said C. Eziokwa Washington, pointing towards a jazz band called “Love Jazz”. "Donations from today's event will be given to the foundation."

Washington, a 70 year-old Leimert Park resident, is the vice president and director of the WE CAN Foundation in Leimert Park. The WE CAN Foundation is an organization which helps bring technology to schools in Africa and Leimert Park.

"The organization is rooted in the community giving back to education, as we are trying to get supplies and equipment to African and Leimert Park,” says Washington.

Washington is currently planning to expand the WE CAN Foundation by collaborating with jazz musician and community activist Barbara Morrison, the founder and director of the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center.

Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center

Located on Degnan Blvd, the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center is within walking distance of the WE CAN Foundation. The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center is one of Leimert Park's most respected establishments, providing residents with a space for artistic and musical expression.

“It's in the natural growing process, but I have talked with Barbara Morrison and we plan to establish a program called the "Cotton Club", which would allow for more opportunities for African American musicians to perform in Leimert Park," said Washington.

Washington says he is looking forward to inviting more of Leimert Parks talented musicians and expanding the program to include performers from the Barbara Morrison Performing Art Center.

For more information on how to donate to the WE CAN Foundation visit:

Justin J. Jackson: Keeping Culture Alive in Leimert Park One Portrait at a Time

A young music photographer says that Leimert Park Village provides a ideal backdrop for his photographer studio.

"Leimert Park Village is known for some of the Jazz and Hip-Hop's 'greats'," said Justin J. Jackson, a successful photographer and founder of the J3Collection. Jackson is currently renovating a space in Leimert Park Village into his photograpy studio.

The young photographer dedicates his career to shooting portraits, headshots and album covers for some today's top music artists. His clients include musicians such as Anthony Hamilton, Willow Smith, Neyo and Jene Aioke.


Jackson says he decided to move his gallery from Downtown Los Angeles to Leimert Park Village because he feels the community's rich music history and diverse 'Black culture' provides a perfect environment for his clients.

Of the approximately 33,280 residents residing in Leimert Park (90008), 68.5 percent identify as Black. Additionally, the Los Angeles Times reports Leimert Park as having the third highest percentage of Black residents of Los Angeles County's 263 neighborhoods.

Click here for more data on Leimert Park Population

The photographer say he was first attracted to Leimert Park because of its deeply rooted African American ethnic and cultural history and its unique art and musical diversity. He says that Leimert Park celebrates a range of music genres such as: Classic Jazz, Blues or Soul to African, Reggae and Funk.

"My plan is to try to emulate all that culture and bring it to the modern day," says Jackson.

Since arriving in Leimert Park, Jackson says he has noticed the community's heightened anxiety towards gentrification, higher property values and new development.

"Many residents are worried about the effect these new developers, these 'outsiders', will have on the unique cultural makeup of the Leimert," says Jackson.

"It's not just going to be this great African American population in the next five years. It's [the racial demographic] definitely going to be more of a mix, but in terms of the root of what Leimert Park is, it's never going to change. It's very strong here."

Check this out on Chirbit Radio Story: Justin J. Jackson

To learn more about Justin J. Jackson's Photography:


On Degnan Blvd: Books, Music and Culture

As you walk down Degnan Boulevard towards the village's memorial fountain and park, you are overcome with an array of colors, sounds and smells. Members of the community of all ages come together to make music every Sunday afternoon at the African Drum Circle; children are dancing playfully and men and women are sharing stories and food prepared by their neighbors.

Leimert Park Village's Weekly African Drum Circle.

Just before entering the historical park, you are greeted by Willie Walton, who is selling an array of books, t-shirts and old records on the sidewalk. He stops you to discuss the current economic plight of the United States, retrieving one of the books on the pavement and handing it to you.

Every Sunday, Walton says he spends his afternoon displaying his favorite books, music records and other items on Degnan Boulevard as a way of giving back to the community.

"In my business of street vending, I sell books and records, because I believe in the power of music and education. We are at a point in America where dirt comes in all different colors. It's should be about like minds as opposed to like colors. You'll find more in common wih people of like minds, than you will of like colors."

Willie Walton's Sidewalk Bookstore on Degnan Blvd

“As you can see from my books, I am very eclectic," said Walton, a local street vendor and musician in Leimert Park Village, when asked to describe his experiences with music.

"I play mostly 'American Funk', but I like everything, because every genre, just like every people, has something to offer. It so easy to say, ‘I don’t like Jazz.’ Well, how do you know that? You haven’t listened to all jazz, there are many different types of Jazz.”

Finding Your Voice in Leimert Park

The World Stage, a performance space on Degnan Boulevard provides a stage on which musicians can express themselves.

“I’ve never been paid to play the guitar, but I have been paid to play saxophone. Music is my greatest passion in life,” said Michael, a 60 year old Leimert Park resident, as he carefully pulled out a guitar case from the back seat of his car.

His car, which was littered with loose pieces of sheet music, CDs and a saxophone case, was parked behind the Leimert Park’s World Stage Theatre, a community performance center and practice space.

“This right here, there are jazz masters here,” said Michael, pointing to the World Stage with the slender end of his guitar, “Musicians come to teach kids; they’re passing the baton right here.”

The World Stage

Michael, who would like to keep his last name anonymous, plays at the World Stage Open Mic Night every Thursday night and teaches guitar and saxophone lessons to Leimert Park’s younger generation.

Founded by jazz drummer, Billy Higgins and poet and community arts activist, Kamau Daaood, the World Stage is an educational and performance art space.

“The World Stage’s mission is to secure, preserve and advance the position of African American music, literature and oral traditions to a local, national, and international audiences,” according to its website. The World Stage offer open mic nights, affordable workshop classes and other community activities.

Vocal Jazz Workshop at The World Stage

“Everybody gets a gift, yours is journalism, mine is music. I see you in yours right now. You walked over here like who is playing that music? I’m doing my story on music, who is that? I hear music. And God came over here and gave it to you.”

Michael says music and the World Stage saved his life. Since revisiting the guitar, Michael says he has been able to overcome his addiction to heroin and crack cocaine and finds his greatest joy when playing his guitar in Leimert Park.

USC Professor Speaks on the Beauty of Jazz Music

“I’m just saying you have to stay in a frame of mind. When you wake up in the morning...Like I hear voices. Everybody hears voices. Whether it [the voice] be the God in you or whether it be the one that is trying to destroy the God in you. There be those two voices, and you have to learn how to shut one down, and feed the God in you and you are guaranteed success, I can promise you that,” said Michael.

“If you are only kind of walking around Leimert looking at the storefronts, it just looks like a humble community. You probably don’t see a lot of business, but the area and culture is very active and alive here, if you just let yourself scratch the surface.”

For more information on Events and Programs at The World Stage


A Special Thank You to the Leimert Park Village Community

As I look back over time I spent reporting in Leimert Park this semester, I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and am humbled by this community's inclusivity and heart. Throughout out the semester, I have had the opportunity to perform at The World Stage; I have been invited into people's homes and churches and given the gifts of prayer, music, wisdom, food, books and original art work. I dedicate this project to the Leimert Park Village community.

About the Writer

My name is Caleigh Rae Wells and I am a Broadcast and Digital Journalism major and Vocal Music minor and the University of Southern California. From my experience in journalism and in life, I believe that every person in life has a unique and beautiful story just waiting to be told. I look forward to continuing feeding my passion for journalism and telling people's story through all multimedia platforms at USC and into the future.

Twitter: @caleigh_wells

Medium: @caleighwells