One of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, Los Angeles, has a great deal of African American history to its name. Celebrating the milestones and contributions of Black Americans, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Board has launched a three-day, self-guided tour of the historical highlights of the city. The tour ranges from well-known treasures such as Leimert Park Village and the California African American Museum, to less prominent finds like the Battleship IOWA and Biddy Mason Park. The excursion encompasses the impact of Black Angelinos on Los Angeles. The tour begins in South LA and moves on to downtown and the beach communities before winding up on the Westside.
Day One: Museums And Mouthwatering Creole Cuisine
Day one begins at Watts Coffee House, which has become a community hub, raised from the ashes of the famous Watts riots in 1965. A short walk from the coffee house, you’ll find the Watts Towers, which were built by hand over a period of 33 years and are a point of pride for the community. Then it’s off to the African American Firefighter Museum, which hosts a collection of vintage fire equipment, along with stories, pictures and memorabilia of African American firefighters. Next, at the California African American Museum, you’ll see the traditional African art and artifacts. Nearby Biddy Mason Park commemorates a former slave who went on to found the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Grammy Museum is interactive and celebrates the history of music and the achievements of legends such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke. You can then finish your first day of sights at Harold & Belles, a restaurant that serves distinctive Creole cuisine based on family recipes that have been handed down three generations.
Day Two: Ships And Shopping
Kick off the day at LAX. The airport’s Theme Building was designed by Paul R Williams, the first certified African American architect west of the Mississippi. The observation deck at the Theme Building is open for visitors. Then it’s on to see the Battleship IOWA, a floating museum displaying the ship’s history from World War II through to the Cold War. It was also where Samuel Lee Gravely Jr began his career, eventually becoming the first African American to serve aboard a fighting ship as an officer. Then it’s time for some shopping at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles is a large-scale marketplace for artists, designers and artisanal food creators that’s located in a World War II warehouse. Follow this by browsing around the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, which is home to the Museum of Latin American Art, which displays works of artists of African descent from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and then end your day at the Ports O’ Call Restaurant, where the big draws are the gorgeous views and the fabulous seafood dishes.
Day Three: Hardbacks And ‘Hand-Stretched Pies’
Start the day at Leimert Park, a cultural hub that features Afro-centric shops, galleries, restaurants and theatres. This is where you’ll find the Kaos Center, a training arts center that gave birth to numerous well-known rappers and rap groups. Then pop into Eso Won Books in the heart of Leimert Park Village. This store hosts impressive ‘author events’ with the likes of Bill Cosby, Maya Angelou and Barack Obama, among others. Check out the Museum of African American Art, which showcases emerging artists in addition to established artists. This seven-building complex of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art requires much more than a day to view, but a half day will allow you to see the featured exhibition on loan from the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Also on Museum Row, the Petersen Automotive Museum has an excellent presentation of the history of the automobile and its impact upon American life. Head to the Fowler Museum to see display of the Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora, which is one of the top 20 African collections in the world. You can then end the last day of your tour at Post & Beam and have a delicious ‘hand stretched pie’.