Urban Rambles – Exploring Bronzeville with Maya and Michael

2017 is my tenth year of exploring and writing about Los Angeles communities. In 2007 I explored Granada Hills, Montebello, and Alhambra, and titled my series California Fool's Gold in homage to Huell Howser's California's Gold (1991-2012). In 2014 I spun off a related series, Urban Rambles, in which I undertake short, small, loosely structured walks of various corners of Southern California. … Continue reading Urban Rambles – Exploring Bronzeville with Maya and Michael

No Enclave — Exploring Eritrean-Los Angeles

Since the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Africans have immigrated to the US, accounting for just 3.3% of total immigration. Although Black History Month observances typically focus on native Black Americans whose ancestors came to the US by means of the Atlantic slave trade — and … Continue reading No Enclave — Exploring Eritrean-Los Angeles

No Enclave — Exploring Nigerian Los Angeles

As you're probably aware, February is Black History Month. Most of the month's observances will naturally focus on the long history of black African-Americans, most of whose ancestors were brought to the US during the centuries long slave trade. While I certainly don't want to take anything away from that, I thought that given the … Continue reading No Enclave — Exploring Nigerian Los Angeles

Mapping the Geography and History of South Los Angeles

Attempting map of South Los Angeles is bound to be contentious, but I've gone ahead and had a go at it anyway. No matter what anyone tells you there are no official borders of South Los Angeles and it would be hard to find two Angelenos in absolute agreement. The Los Angeles Times regards it as a 51.08 … Continue reading Mapping the Geography and History of South Los Angeles

Dirty Roots: Southern Hip-Hop Part I — The 12″ Era (1979-1983)

As far as my ears can tell, pretty near every rapper from Inglewood to Plumstead nowadays owes more than a little something to the rise of the Dirty South sound that pretty much took over hip-hop in the late 1990s. As anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the genre knows, however, southern hip-hop was … Continue reading Dirty Roots: Southern Hip-Hop Part I — The 12″ Era (1979-1983)

Black Hillbilly – or – What you really know about the Upper South?

The first non-Native American settlers of Appalachia and later, the Ozarks, were of primarily of three ethnicities: Scots-Irish, English, and German. These hard-working farmers and craftsmen created a distinct culture which in the 19th Century came to be named “hillbilly.” Although the Northern European roots of hillbilly are routinely acknowledged, even scholars on the culture … Continue reading Black Hillbilly – or – What you really know about the Upper South?

Pan-American Blues — Black Country Music

If one listens to a “hillbilly” record like, say, Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel” back-to-back with a “race” record like Lead Belly’s “Cow Cow Yiki” it should become immediately clear to the listener that often the distinction between these two genres has for many years been (and continues to be) more of an industry marketing rather than … Continue reading Pan-American Blues — Black Country Music

Paul Williams — Architect to the people

Although it takes an incredible combination of cognitive dissonance, myopia (and usually some chauvinism) to deny that Los Angeles can be characterized by its amazing architecture, it does happen. Ironically, most of the blame for this fact can be placed on the shoulders of the self-appointed boosters in Hollywood, whose idea of Utopia seems to … Continue reading Paul Williams — Architect to the people

Fear of a black galaxy — Black people in science-fiction

Photo by JD Hancock The other day I was listening to the podcast The Auteur Cast. In discussing The Empire strikes back, one of the hosts used the character of Lando Calrissian to question why there are so few black people in science-fiction. It’s not a new question. In 1976, on the album Bicentennial Nigger, Richard … Continue reading Fear of a black galaxy — Black people in science-fiction

Proto-rap — a look at black soul and jazz poetry for Black History Month

INTRODUCTION In my freshman year of college I remember being hipped to the Last Poets by LaRon Johnson, another temporary housing refugee. He basically told me that they were rap music before rap music. This was back in 1992, a year after CERN released the World-Wide Web and when most music was shared via cassette … Continue reading Proto-rap — a look at black soul and jazz poetry for Black History Month