By: Torrence Brannon Reese
Here is a truly classic moment in Leimert Park History! As you look at the photo, on your extreme stands the beautiful Dr. Shani McCoy Byard, a few years before she achieved her Ph.D., Shani and I co-founded & directed the "original" Save Leimert Park campaign. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, let it be known that, with all due respect in regards to whatever and whoever is representing any efforts to save, protect, defend, or build Leimert Park, it was our agency, Artists for Justice & Liberation, AKA, A.J.L., under the umbrella of my nonprofit, FAMLI, Inc., that initiated the energy and actions that have now become commonly known as Save Leimert, or a fight against gentrification, etc. We were first!
This photo is truly historic as people such as (left-to-right) the legendary guitar master-Phil Upchurch, the late-great founder of the LA Black Expo & Trade Show-Harold Hambrick, world's greatest jazz vocalist & current Executive Director of the World Stage-Dwight Trible, Writer/P.R. genius-Isidra Person-Lynn, Reggae/Funk Music Master-Wadada Khufu, former 5th Demension vocalist-Phyliss Battle, Leimert Poet Lauriet & World Stage Co-founder-Kamau Daa'wood, Finance Guru-Clarence Harris, Afro-Beat Music Master & Founder of the Leimert Park Drum Circle-Najite Agindotan, Hip Hop Legend-Medusa, Filmmaking/Cultural Advocate Legend-Ben Caldwell, Writer/Social Critic-Dr. Anthony Samad, and up front, two beautiful ladies, who have since passed on, Founder of Los Angeles legendary Blues Club, Babe's & Rickys-Mama Laura and founder of the youth Education space the Gwen Bolden Foundation-Ms. Gwen Bolden!
Wow, I remember all the names & titles! On this night, we honored these folk for their life's work, and we had just produced what is still to this day, the largest event in the history of Leimert Park, the 11th annual Malcolm X Festival, which starred the late/great soul stylist-Teena Marie, the late/great Jazz Composer-Gerald Wilson, singer's Eloise & Debra Laws, Dwight Trible and many others!
None of this would have been possible without the excellent, prolific work and tireless dedication of Dr. Shani, who in addition to being the Founder & Owner of Message Media-Ed, (hope I am spelling it correctly) is now a new mother to a beautiful lil Princess!
We must record our own history, as we author our own lives & stories.
And so it is!