By Slauson Girl
LEIMERT PARK — As the world continues to shift and adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, events like the Leimert Park Jazz Festival provide much needed spaces of comfort and connection.
Community members were welcomed to the upper level parking lot of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall Aug. 29, where jazz musicians such as Dwight Trible and Jose Rizo’s Grammy-nominated Mongorama band performed live.
The event has grown from the block parties that Diane Robertson would throw once a year on Sutro Avenue. Robertson, an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, curated the Sutro Avenue Summer Soiree in collaboration with World Stage Executive Director Trible.
The event is now known as the Leimert Park Jazz festival.
“It was an annual block party,” Robertson said. “I had a DJ play all day, activated the street with different zones like we had here, but on a smaller scale.
“We would have a community resource zone, health and wellness zone, we also had a kid zone, which we had to cancel this year due to the increase in COVID cases amongst kids.”
During the planning process, Robertson was never sure she would be able to have the event, but she dreaded the idea of streaming the festival again online this year. She initially approached the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with the idea to do a drive-in festival.
Robertson was more assured when Los Angeles County officials announced in June that the city would be re-opening, and her main focus at that point was making sure she planned the event safely.
“Everyone needs live entertainment,” Robertson said. “Music is healing and I think this is a great environment to come and exhale a bit.
“It’s just a bit harrowing with the COVID cases increasing.”
People shopped with artists including Aziz Gallerie of Leimert Park, local merchants, as well as food vendors, as older Black couples danced to jive jazz music.
Health services including free HIV testing were also provided.
During the end of the evening, Roberston was honored by City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Robertson says Ridley-Thomas supported the success of the Leimert Park Jazz Festival tremendously.
“I really see this event as playing a crucial role in keeping the community vibrant and relevant for years to come,” said Robertson.