History and Key Places

Key Places & Establishments

Fifth Street Dicks

Fifth Street Dick’s Coffee Company, a storefront coffee and jazz house was key in the post-92 renaissance of Leimert Park.  It was run by Richard Fulton, a formerly homeless man, who for four and a half years had lived on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.  His logo showed a man pushing an overflowing shopping cart.  Tables and chairs outside were the location of intense chess games sometimes going on until 1 or 2 A.M.  Inside people lined up for coffee, read, and, upstairs in the jazz club, musicians jammed sometimes until five or six in the morning.  He said about Leimert Park, “It’s like it’s reborn again, and the birth is from the inside.  It’s black ideas is how it’s done.  It’s black folks who’re going to enjoy it.  It’s black, and it’s not stolen from anybody.”
Sadly, Richard passed away from throat cancer in 1999.  Fifth Street Dicks remained closed until 2005 when his long-time companion, Irma, reopened the coffeehouse at a new location in Leimert Park.


The World Stage

The World Stage, cofounded in 1989 by world famous drummer, Billy Higgins, and poet/activist Kamau Daaood, provides a grass roots headquarters for Leimert Park. In 1989, Daaood gathered $3,000 from a small group of people, including Higgins and opened World Stage when a similar venture, Artworks Four folded.  Using the stage and the chairs from Artworks Four, The World Stage was born.  The artist, Ramsess, provided the grand piano, rolling it over on his son’s skateboard from his studio next door. The workshop–performance space seats only fifty, but has provided a rehearsal space and a nurturing environment that has given birth to at least two young jazz groups, Black/Note and B Sharp Quartet. During the week, there are instrumental and vocal workshops, Wednesday night poetry workshops and Thursday night jam sessions. Over the years, the World Stage’s various workshops, jam sessions and performance series have provided support, training and creative outlets for a myriad of artists and musicians in the area.


Kaos Network & Project Blowed

The Kaos Network is run by Ben Caldwell. Started in 1991 as a meeting place for creative adults and young people, his goal today is for kids and adults to learn and use the new media technology.  Working at the Brockman Gallery in the 70’s while he was a UCLA film student, he and fellow student Charles Burnett, director of To Sleep with Anger, would “come <to Leimert Park> and say, ‘Why don’t we do what we’re doing in the black community, not run from it?  Figure out what the black community wants, and do it.’”  He says, “It’s important for me to stay here in the community…it helps to establish consistency in a community that has a lack of consistency.”  Kaos Network is probably most well-known for Thursday night’s “Project Blowed.”  Projected Blowed is a hip hop and rap open mike night that gave birth to rappers and rap groups such as Aceyalone, Medusa, Busdriver, Freestyle Fellowship, and Jurassic Five, and continues to provide an atmosphere where up-and-coming rappers can hone their skills.

Museum in Black

The Museum in Black, run by Brian Breye, displays and sells African artifacts as well as artifacts from this country’s era of slavery and memorabilia that defines our country’s segregation period.  “It’s a sad chapter of our history, but it’s important to remember,” says Breye.  He moved the museum from Beverly Hills several years ago, bringing it back to the community.  “Black people need to know who they are.”
Sadly, Museum in Black closed in July 2005, forced out by increasing rents.


Vision Theatre

In 1990, Marla Gibbs purchased the Leimert theater complex.  What became known as the Vision Theatre Complex, the 1050–seat theatre built by Howard Hughes has hosted events with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Louis Farrakhan, Maya Angelou and singer, Nancy Wilson. The Crossroads Art Academy at 4310 Degnan provides programs in the arts to aspiring inner city youths.  They offer acting/performing classes and opportunities for young performers to meet casting directors and working actors on the caliber of Denzel Washington and casting executive Reuben Cannon.  They have also held premiers of A Rage in Harlem and Livin’ Large, a concert by Stevie Wonder to raise money for a cancer patient, the California convention of The Rainbow Coalition, and a rally for Winnie Mandela.  Unfortunately, in June of 1997, Gibbs lost the Vision Theater Complex after she was unable to raise the $250,000 necessary to pay off a bank debt.  Before then, Marla Gibbs owned about three-quarters of the property in the neighborhood.  The City of Los Angeles eventually purchased the Vision Complex and has been slowly renovating the Vision Theatre.  The Crossroads Art Academy was ultimately torn down as it was too expensive to bring it “up to code.” It has been replaced by a city parking lot.


Babe’s and Ricky’s

For 32 years, Babe’s and Ricky’s offered up the blues on Central Avenue. Evicted in 1996 from the club on Central, Laura Mae Gross, a 77-year old Mississippi-born woman, known as “Mom” to her musicians recreated Babe’s and Ricky’s in Leimert Park in 1997. They brought the sign over from the old club but not the pool table, where Laura Mae Gross, afraid to drive home from the seedy area, slept after closing.  Part of the musicians’ job, after the last set, was to hoist the mattress onto the pool table and make her bed.  In Leimert Park now, she no longer has to camp out.