Amoeblog

A brief (and by no means complete) history of Black Los Angeles. Happy Black History Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 30, 2012 07:19pm | Post a Comment
Los Angeles' black population is relatively small compared to the city's other major racial and ethnic minorities. The LA metro area is only 8.7% black as compared to 47% Latino (of any race), 28.7% non-Latino white, and 14% Asian/Pacific Islander. However, since its inception, black Angelenos have always played a major role in LA's history and culture. Los Angeles is one of the only major US cities founded largely by people of black African ancestry. When it was still a Spanish colony, Los Angeles began life as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles on 4 September, 1781 (well, sort of). Of the 44 pobladores who ventured over from nearby San Gabriel, a majority of 26 were identified as having African ancestry.

BLACKS IN MEXICAN AND EARLY AMERICAN LOS ANGELES


Pio Pico ca. 1890

During the period that Los Angeles was part of Mexico (1821-1840), blacks were fairly integrated into society at all levels. Mexico abolished slavery much earlier than the US, in 1820. In 1831, Emanuel Victoria served as California's first black governor. Alta California's last governor, Pío de Jesus Pico, was also of mixed black ancestry. The US won the Mexican-American War and in 1850, California was admitted to the United States. Although one of America's so-called "free states," discriminatory legislation was quickly enacted to restrict and remove the civil rights of blacks, Chinese, and Native Americans. For example, blacks (and other minorities) couldn't testify in court against white people. 

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Ethiopia

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 3, 2010 01:30pm | Post a Comment

LIVING WOULD BE EASY IF YOUR COLOURS WERE LIKE MY DREAMS -- LITTLE ETHIOPIA - ??? ?????

This blog entry is about the Midtown neighborhood of Little Ethiopia. To vote for more LA neighborhoods, click here. To vote for LA County communities, click here. To vote for OC communities, click here. I was accompanied on my adventure to the hood by Aussie filmmaker, Diana Ward.



LOCATION OF LITTLE ETHIOPIA

Little Ethiopia is a small, one block stretch in Midtown's Carthay district. It's situated along Fairfax between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive. It's the smallest of the Southland's' many ethnic enclaves. It exists within the borders of Carthay Square with Picfair Village to the southeast, Carthay Circle to the north, Miracle Mile to the northeast and Wilshire Vista to the east.

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Who's black and whose black?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment

As Black History Month rolls on, I asked myself a question that may seem stupid to most people: Who exactly is black and who is not? And how is it decided? Does the individual or society determine what we are or is it a combination of both? Are there other factors? Is this the Family Feud or actual objective science?
 

In 2009, all rational and educated people now accept that race is a human construct, which isn't to say that it's meaningless. As long as people are treated differently (preferentially, discriminatorily or just differently based on presupposed differences) on the basis of race, how society constructs and applies that race is worth thinking about. And, ideally, there shouldn't be any shame in recognizing broad cultural differences either. Why should "white pride" be offensive? Pride in er-one, I say. Minor caveat: to even assume that American society has reached a consensus on race defies reality – that's why Dave Chappelle instituted the racial draft. So step with me into a blog of shadows and substance, things and ideas into, to coin a phrase, The Twilight Zone.

 

TECHNO IS BLACK!

Posted by Mike Battaglia, February 2, 2009 11:00am | Post a Comment

              

Even five short years ago, many clubbers, ravers and dance music fans would be hard pressed to recognize the names Ron Hardy or Larry Levan (above, R-L), let alone acknowledge African American influence on the music they get freaky to on the weekends. Even in the black community, whole generations seem completely oblivious to this part of their musical heritage. Thankfully, that's changing. With a renewed interest in disco, 80's uptempo R&B aka boogie, techno and early house music over the past few years, knowledge of dance music's history and the role blacks (and gays and latinos) played in its inception is growing. Nightclubs where the music was allowed to evolve, like Levan's Paradise Garage (right) in New York, Hardy's Music Box and Frankie Knuckles' Warehouse in Chicago (the latter being where the name House Music was coined) and Detroit's Music Institute remain legendary not because of the venues themselves or the people who owned them, but due to the DJ's who made those places immortal by performing an aural alchemy that transformed the American soundscape.

In honor of Black History Month 2009, I plan on taking a look at these legends so that they might gain a foothold with a new audience. People like The Belleville Three, legendary innovators of techno music from Detroit, or DJ's and producers like Tony Humphries at New Jersey's Zanzibar, that bridged the gap between disco's firey, racist and homophobic "death" and the birth of house and techno. I'd like to visit the lives and careers of people who changed the face of music forever, as well as ask a few questions. Questions like: Why is it that DJ's like Tiesto, Sasha & Digweed, Paul Oakenfold or Paul Van Dyk remain the most recognizable faces in mainstream dance music while Theo Parrish (left) remains an "undiscovered talent," or that popular knowledge of its history seems to go no further than the 90's, when white folks finally caught on en masse to what black folks in Chicago, Detroit and New York had already known for years? Or that the most popular strains of dance and electronic music seem to have erased all trace of African American influence? In a press release for a 2006 conference on techno's black origins at Indiana University, author and professor of folklore and ethnomusicology Portia Maultsby said:

"It is interesting how the music migrated from Detroit to Europe, and...became associated with rave parties, and then migrated back to the U.S., and Americans became involved...and the African American identity became invisible. Music can be appropriated and re-appropriated, and history can be distorted as a result of that ...Very few people associate techno with its African American origins."

                     

(The Belleville Three, L-R - Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson)

I may not even have answers to these questions (but would love to hear people's ideas in the comments), but I think raising them is almost enough. Questioning the status quo has never been a popular idea in dance music, but it's something that skeptical ol' me is hardwired for.

Now, obviously things are changing. These men have been regarded as gods in the underground for nearly 20 years and as new generations discover this music for the first time, it seems that it's the essence they immediately attach themselves to; the music's late 70's and early 80's beginnings are attracting the kids and new artists alike, such as Hercules and Love Affair or New York's DFA label, headed by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. These artists either consciously or unconsciously are realizing a concept-- that house/dance/electronic music (whatever you want to call it) has lost its way and needs to step back a bit to reflect, to capture what made it great in the first place. To remember the groove.
 

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