By Ray Richardson
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Plans are underway for a festive public opening for Sankofa Park, a major feature of the Destination Crenshaw project that is designed to uplift South Los Angeles with world-class art, career opportunities and lasting support for small businesses.
Jason Foster, president and chief operating officer of Destination Crenshaw, announced that the $100 million initiative will unveil Sankofa Park this coming fall.
“We are doing all this in celebration of the history, heritage and creativity of Black L.A.,” Foster said. “I’m thrilled that the jewel crown of this project will soon be done. We look forward to welcoming the world to Destination Crenshaw and to its beautiful new gathering place at Sankofa Park.”
Construction began in February 2020 for Sankofa Park, which is near the Leimert Park community at the northern end of Destination Crenshaw. The concept was developed in 2017 with the intention of showcasing Black art and helping build economic stability for local Black businesses.
Actress Issa Raye and NBA guard DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls, both Southern California natives, helped raise $2.4 million during funding campaigns for art projects scheduled for display in Sankofa Park. Opportunities for local artists and sculptors is a major component of Destination Crenshaw.
“This project, which is for us and by us, illustrates how Black Angelenos are investing in our own neighborhoods, supporting Black businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Rae, who grew up in Inglewood. “We’re simultaneously honoring the cradle of Black arts and entertainment, which has historically been in the heart of South L.A.”
DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, sees Destination Crenshaw as a solution to bridging multiple cultures in Los Angeles.
“This is about doing everything we can, doing everything I can, to unite our arts, sports, business and political visions into one,” said DeRozan, a 14-year NBA veteran. “We want to make a difference in the community that is responsible for our successes.”
Destination Crenshaw will have a 1.3-mile stretch of art displays, businesses and event areas for social and community gatherings. Many of the construction jobs have been filled by local residents, a major objective during development plans.
Planners made it a priority to hire a significant percentage of community residents for opportunities that could turn into career positions.
“Responding to our community, we have been supporting Black-owned businesses and hiring local workers,” Foster said. “We resisted the erasure of Black culture and designed a vibrant, green urban corridor that, when completed, will be bursting with storytelling and magnificent public artworks.”
Sculptors whose work will be on display in Sankofa Park include Charles Dickson, Maren Hassinger, Artis Lane, Melvin Edwards, Alison Saar, Brenna Youngblood and Kehinde Wiley. Many of the planned sculptures will have traditional African designs.
Sankofa Park will also feature mural projects. Mural designers include Patrick Henry Johnson, Anthony “Toons One” Martin and Kissai Ramsess.
Last July, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass toured Destination Crenshaw construction sites when she was a member of Congress. Bass was joined by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on the tour.
Planners invited Bass and Buttigieg to give a visual of how Los Angeles and private funders are re-investing in communities that have been plagued by historical neglect. Bass and Buttigieg helped secure federal funding for Destination Crenshaw.
“As Mayor of L.A., I am even prouder to see Sankofa Park preparing to open,” Bass said in a statement. “This exceptional initiative, I believe, will be a model for other communities throughout the United States. It’s going to bring much-needed cultural tourism and economic development to Crenshaw Boulevard.”
The list of public and private donors for Destination Crenshaw include the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Federal Community Project Funding, the Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams Family Foundation, Ballmer Group, Weingart Foundation, Getty Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at email@example.com.