Sika, Godfather of Leimert Park, dies at 83

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LEIMERT PARK — Three days after being recognized for his years of dedication to the Leimert Park community, Sika Dwimfo, a business owner, master jeweler, artist and local sage, died at the age of 83.

Dwimfo, known by the lone moniker, Sika, died June 22, days after City Councilwoman Heather Hutt recognized him on June 19 (Juneteenth) in a ceremony that named the east-west alley between 4329 Degnan Blvd. and 4335 Degnan Blvd., the Sika Dwimfo Corridor.

Funeral services were still pending at press time.

Hutt issued a statement, saying “Sika Dwimfo was a pillar of our South L.A. community, who spent over 40 years as a business owner and a tireless champion for the well-being and growth of Leimert Park.

“He truly lived up to his title as the ‘Godfather of Leimert Park,’ always standing at the forefront of every crucial moment, advocating for what mattered most. His dedication and passion will be deeply missed, but his legacy will continue to inspire us forever. My prayers go out to his family, and all who loved him. May he rest in power.”

Sika’s daughter, Milan Dwimfo, posted on Instagram, “My heart is broken to share that Sika Dwimfo is our newest ancestor. Thank you everyone for [June 19]. That was the most beautiful sendoff imaginable. He received his flowers while he was here and we should be proud as a community. He loved you, Leimert.” 

Sika, whose namesake store is located on Degnan Boulevard, remains a legend in the village he called home for more than 30 years.

Several Leimert Park business owners and community leaders who were also friends recalled the positive impact Sika had on the area.

Karen Mack, founder and executive director of LA Commons said, “It’s a huge loss. He was such a powerful force. His legacy will live on.”

Mack said Sika “Will continue to live in the hearts of so many.”

“I had a piece of jewelry that needed repair,” Mack said. “I took it to Sika. It was incredible to watch him as a creator. I hadn’t seen that side of him when he was in his process. He was a creative spirit and everything that means in terms of bringing forth.”

Mack, who attended the dedication ceremony, remembers Sika being emotional during the Juneteenth celebration.

“He was so moved that day,” Mack said. “The whole community gathered because he was such a beloved person. They came out to celebrate him. He was the flow of the village. 

“He served in that elder role. He was a true village elder in the fullest sense of the phrase. His passing is going to be impactful. It’s so hard to let people go of that stature.”

On June 30, Mack will hold her annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks celebration. Although Sika was not originally scheduled to be recognized, Mack said due to his death, he will be incorporated as an ancestor.

Umaar Askia and his wife, Sharon Williams own Nappily Naturals Apothecary, a few doors from Sika’s store.

“His passing is a loss of history,” said Askia, who last saw Sika days before his death. “He knew everybody. He was on one generation and then the next. He was relevant at his age. The youngsters thought he was cool.

 “He just embodied the soul of culture in Leimert from the way he talked, dressed, and did business. He was the cornerstone.”

Sharon Williams called Sika, “The bridge between the older and younger generations.”

Albert Edmund Lord III, vice president of government relations and arts programs for Community Build, said the loss of Sika is immeasurable.

“It’s catastrophic,” Lord said. “Sika was such an advocate for community well-being. He was always kind and gentle with his assessment. Sika wasn’t the type of person to use a sledgehammer to get through. He was gentle in his perspective to go forward.”

Lord said being in the presence of Sika was “always a joy.”

“I would visit him just to see how things were,” Lord said. “I went by one day and he had just finished making some salmon. He asked, ‘Do you want some?’ That’s the kind of person he was. We would sit and just chat.”

What made Sika special, Lord said, was his commitment and devotion to Leimert Park.

“He would often say, ‘We aren’t doing enough. We have to become revolutionized,’” remembered Lord. “He always looked for a way for us as a people to get together. His age and wisdom set a template that I thought I would emulate. Watching him made me a better person.”

Lord described Sika as kind, gentle, smart, unbothered, concerned and happy.

“He was always accessible,” Lord said. “He brought love to the equation. I don’t know anybody who was mad when Sika showed up. Because of Sika, the city is a better place and we are better people.”

A longtime Leimert Park resident born Norbert Wilkinson on Dec. 26, 1940, Sika was a native of New Orleans and was raised in Chicago. He taught himself to make jewelry at a master’s level. 

He was known for his iconic store, which included art from around the world, clothing, Ghanaian fans, handcrafted jewelry, mud cloth, waist beads, dashikis, burning incense, masks and other African trinkets. He also sold art and jewelry from El Salvador and India.

He was equally known for his appreciation of fashion, evidenced by the way he dressed. He was quick to say it was his mother, a seamstress and tailor, who ignited his style.

He began making earrings after witnessing a friend do so. He said he went and got some phone wire and some plastic and made his first pair of earrings. He soon became the “father of jewelry” in Chicago.

Sika made his move to Los Angeles in 1971 but it wasn’t until 1992 that he opened his shop in Leimert Park, which quickly became the neighborhood’s cultural gathering place. Once there, his compassion towards his community was evident as he quickly became the hallmark of the neighborhood’s cultural history.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

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