Academic journal article American Studies

SPACES OF CONFLICT, SOUNDS OF SOLIDARITY: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles

Academic journal article American Studies

SPACES OF CONFLICT, SOUNDS OF SOLIDARITY: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles

Article excerpt

SPACES OF CONFLICT, SOUNDS OF SOLIDARITY: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles. By Gaye Theresa Johnson. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2013.

In this magnificently written and researched book, Gaye Theresa Johnson offers readers a much-needed alternative to dominant narratives of conflict and division between Black and Brown communities in Southern California. Johnson advances the concept of "spatial entitlement," in order to render visible the often overlooked, everyday acts of resistance and survival through which African Americans and Mexican Americans have carved out meaningful spaces of congregation, creativity, and community in post-World War II Los Angeles. By spatial entitlement, Johnson refers to the ways in which "marginalized communities have created new collectives based not just upon eviction and exclusion from physical places, but also on new and imaginative uses of technology, creativity, and spaces" (x). With this concept in hand, the author offers a critical historiography covering roughly seventy years of Black-Brown relations in Los Angeles.

The five chapters that make up the book focus on spatial struggles and cultural expressions in postwar Los Angeles as a window into how marginalized communities construct meaningful spaces of belonging. Importantly, the author does not get lost in the minutia of individual struggles, however significant and captivating they may be. Instead, Johnson tacks back and forth between specific cases and larger patterns and histories to reveal a shared cultural politics between Black and Brown communities. For example, in the first chapter Johnson examines 1930s and 1940s interracial alliances through the histories of two activists-Luisa Moreno and Charlotte Bass. This chapter offers much to our understanding of mid-century working-class and anti-racist activism by focusing on two significant, yet understudied activists. Johnson develops a gender and race analysis that is sorely missing in the existing literature as she convincingly argues that the leadership and politics enacted by Bass and Moreno laid the foundation for future Black and Brown coalitions-as well as the repression of interracial spaces in the 1940s and 1950s. …

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