Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities

Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities

Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities

Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities


Los Angeles is well-known as a temperate paradise with expansive beaches and mountain vistas, a booming luxury housing market, and the home of glamorous Hollywood. During the first half of the twentieth century, Los Angeles was also seen as a mecca for both African Americans and a steady stream of migrants from around the country and the world, transforming Los Angeles into one of the world's most diverse cities. The city has become a multicultural maze in which many now fear that the political clout of the region's large black population has been lost. Nonetheless, the dream of a better life lives on for black Angelenos today, despite the harsh social and economic conditions many confront.

Black Los Angeles is the culmination of a groundbreaking research project from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA that presents an in-depth analysis of the historical and contemporary contours of black life in Los Angeles. Based on innovative research, the original essays are multi-disciplinary in approach and comprehensive in scope, connecting the dots between the city's racial past, present, and future. Through historical and contemporary anecdotes, oral histories, maps, photographs, illustrations, and demographic data, we see that Black Los Angeles is and has always been a space of profound contradictions. Just as Los Angeles has come to symbolize the complexities of the early twenty-first-century city, so too has Black Los Angeles come to embody the complex realities of race in so-called "colorblind" times.

Contributors: Melina Abdullah, Alex Alonso, Dionne Bennett, Joshua Bloom, Edna Bonacich, Scot Brown, Reginald Chapple, Lola Smallwood Cuevas, Andrew Deener, Regina Freer, Jooyoung Lee, Mignon R. Moore, Lanita Morris, Neva Pemberton, Steven C. Pitts, Carrie Petrucci, Gwendelyn Rivera, Paul Robinson, M. Belinda Tucker, Paul Von Blum, Mary Weaver, Sonya Winton, and Nancy Wang Yuen.


Darnell Hunt

Over a fast-paced montage of images—Los Angeles’s downtown skyline, home-lined hillsides, street signs—and accompanied by a hip-hop-inspired musical theme, we hear the voices of several black teenagers:

Male #1: Welcome to Los Angeles …

Female #1:…. our Los Angeles

Male #1: Baldwin Hills.

Female #1: City in the Clouds.

Jonathan: Not all black people live in the ’hood.

Moriah: Some of us live in big houses with amazing vistas.

Ashley: We are the sons and daughters of doctors, actors, and athletes …

Seiko:… as well as policemen, nurses, and teachers.

Lor’Rena: This is where the Black Beverly Hills meets.

Stack The mean streets of Crenshaw and Inglewood below.

Aungel: Some of us are blessed with opportunities …

Justin:… and some of us will always struggle for a better tomorrow.

Gerren: But what unites us is greater than what separates us …

Sal:… because we share more than just a neighborhood.

Female #2: This is Baldwin Hills … and this is our reality.

So begins a typical episode of Black Entertainment Television’s Baldwin Hills, a scripted “reality” program that debuted on the black-oriented cable network in 2007. Developed by a white production company, Baldwin Hills was among BET’s most popular shows in 2007. It was seen in nearly 1 million black homes coast to coast when it debuted and was reviewed . . .

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