[Exposition Park] On October 25th, the California African-American Museum (CAAM) kicked off its symposium series about Central Avenue. In what appeared to surprise CAAM, nearly 500 came out to hear the presentation from historian Robert Johnson and staff from the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center. The room was filled with enthusiasm and anticipation, and eventually swelled to a standing-room only crowd.
Central Avenue evokes positive feelings for African-Americans. The community became the pride and joy for many, particularly those known as “Easterners.” The event kicked off with a short video provided by the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center titled, “Los Angeles: Displacement of Utopia” It served as an excellent precursor to set the stage of how African-Americans were relegated to the Central Avenue district of Los Angeles. It showcased how despite tremendous racial hostility, they were able to carve out a community which became a model for those migrating from the south, who were also seeking a fresh start. (the video is expected to be made available to the public in the first quarter of 2019)
Johnson, through his brilliance spoke about the development of Central Avenue and how it became a cornerstone to showcase positive attributes of African-American culture. Staff from the Bradley center served as an excellent complement by sharing their research. They also encouraged those in attendance to contact them and help build more oral histories and other memorabilia to insure the story is historically correct. There were many in attendance who had a first-hand experience about Central Avenue. Among them was the son of John Dolphin who created and built the iconic Dolphins of Hollywood Record Shop.
As good as the event was, a downside was CAAM not being prepared for the large crowd. So many in attendance brought specific anecdotal experiences about Central Avenue. Unfortunately, the question and answer period lost its stealth due to a shortage of microphones needed for those to communicate their question as well as some who wanted to speak but could not refrain from turning a question into a diatribe. One other point which hopefully the organizers will address at the next series is keeping the questions on point.
The passion about Central Avenue was obvious from the vibe in the room. The African-American experience in Los Angeles is vast and no doubt Central Avenue has tremendous pride. The event was set for two hours and due to the overwhelming interest the discussion could have gone on for two weeks! However, some inadvertently commented about their general experience and other communities versus sticking to the topic everyone came to hear about: Central Avenue
One other criticism was noted regarding attendance demographics. A lady commented about bringing her mother as well as her kids and pointed out that many more might be in attendance (particularly millennials) to gain this important knowledge if the time was better suited for those who work during the day.
Admission is free. The series continues November 15th and December 13th. To RSVP CLICK HERE.
Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation housed at California State University Northridge. Click here bradley csun