Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles

By Gaye Theresa Johnson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Spatial Entitlement
Race, Displacement, and Sonic Reclamation
in Postwar Los Angeles

If you are not prepared to be part of this greatness, if you
want Los Angeles to revert to pueblo status … then my best
advice to you is to prepare to resettle elsewhere.
—L.A. Mayor Norris Poulson, 19591

[African Americans] discovered … that congregation in a
Jim Crow environment produced more space than power.
They used this space to gather their cultural bearings, to
mold the urban setting.

—Earl Lewis2

Struggles for spatial entitlement flow from the recognition that a community requires more than physical space to survive. Spaces have social meanings. They function to maintain memories and to preserve practices that reinforce community knowledge and cohesiveness. In postwar Los Angeles, the boundaries of segregated Black and Brown neighborhoods were expanding incrementally, yet the social agencies and institutions that served these areas were under persistent attack by city and federal policies in the postwar era. As postwar urban renewal policies enacted devastating losses of residential and social spaces, youth from aggrieved communities expressed their claims to meaningful space in the ways that were available to them, particularly through the production and consumption of popular music. Because they were limited in their ability to interact in physical places, they turned to sonic spaces as sites of mutual recognition. As their access to vibrant and democratic

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