Leimert Park, LA

Yesterday Ruth drove me to Leimert Park which she described as a “black business hub”. Basically it had a small park, a car park and about 10 shops/businesses all run by black people (Ruth’s parents are from East Africa in case you were wondering). Some of the shops weren’t open because it was a Sunday but we walked round a few of them.

One of them said “Healing Center” on the outside so we walked in thinking it would have some interesting potions for sale but actually it was pretty empty and there were 3 rastas playing drums at the back who didn’t even look up when we walked in. We were later told that it’s kind of a weird rasta church.

A lot of the shops sold African clothing and paintings, and surprisingly for me, one of the most interesting stores we walked round was the book shop. In England I never go to book shops but if my mum happened to give me a book from a charity shop or whatever I would happily read it. In this book shop everything looked so interesting and I wanted to read so many of the books! They were all about “black” themes but so many of them are ones that me and my friends discuss regularly like one was called something like “Why are there so many black people in prison?”. There were also novels by black authors, similar to the trashy love-stories you see for sale in England, but by black authors and with black characters on the front cover etc. I bought one for the aeroplane home, although I felt a bit silly buying one of those when there were so many educational books in the shop!

In the park on Sundays they have a market so we looked at that too. Most of the stalls were also run by black people. Some were selling food (as in hot food to take away) and some had clothes, hats and jewelery. One of the marquees was playing music so there was quite a nice atmosphere. Behind these cars is the market:


In the middle of the market there was a drum circle which happens every Sunday and anyone can join in:


One of the businesses is called Kaos Network and Ruth knows the guy who runs it so we went in to have a chat. It’s basically a creative center for the community. He’s an art teacher in a college but he runs the center in his free time and puts on different activities and has made different projects such as turning some park benches into mini recording studios where you can make beats and submit them to a website all by just sitting at the park bench. This is his space:


The art on the walls was done by people who come to his center to do the activities, and it’s mostly themed around Africa and the Caribbean, like this:


The owner (I can’t remember his name) asked what we were doing later and we said we had no plans until the evening so he said we should stay for the art class at 3pm for $5. Me and Ruth both like doing random spontaneous things, but neither of us are into art so we weren’t sure, but the man convinced us and said it was for all levels etc. It turned out it was actually a life-drawing session!

There were 3 naked people on the stage and we had to sit on “horses” (this wooden drawing equipment where you sit on a piece of wood with the paper held upright in front of you). I thought it would be quite awkward with the naked people (one was an old white man, another a chubby white man who was about 30 and a black woman in her 20s), but actually they were making conversation with us. There were only about 5 other people drawing but the whole room was talking about random stuff together.

As I suspected, Ruth could draw a bit better than me and after the first 20 minute session (they hold one pose for 20 minutes then have a break then do a new pose), I was ready to give up because my drawing was so bad. In the first break there was some food and me and Ruth asked the models some questions like how they got into it etc. The old man got into it because he used to be a hippy/naturist and someone who was looking for life-drawing models scouted for them at a place where loads of hippies hang out, and now he does it full time. The other two are new to it and started because they went to a life-drawing class and got talking to the models. They said it’s hard because you have to keep still for 20 minutes but it’s good because it pays $25/hour and normally bookings are 3 hours including all the breaks.

They said me and/or Ruth should try it but we didn’t have to take our clothes off, just try and sit on the stage without moving for 20 minutes while someone draws us. We agreed that I’d sit on the stage and see if I could last 20 minutes and Ruth would draw me, so I sat on a stool on the stage in between 2 naked people and apparently didn’t move an inch so then of course they all said I should look into doing it in England. I said I’d keep it in mind if I was ever really broke. They said they’ve met another model who paid his way round Europe doing it!

We left soon after that because neither of us wanted to do much more drawing and we had somewhere else to go, but it was an interesting experience.


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