Tour reveals untold stories of South Los Angeles

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — An area that has endured both myth and mystery has always had a story to tell.

A new company called A Great Day in South L.A. recently launched intending to share information and spill the tea about all things South Los Angeles in an immersive three-hour Black history tour through iconic landmarks, including Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, Hyde Park, View Park, West Adams and historic Central Avenue.

The goal is to not only explore untold stories, but to take participants on a quest to enlighten, inspire and provide a deeper understanding of the cultural tapestry that makes South L.A. so unique.

Participants will journey through the heart of African-American history and culture in South L.A. as they take a rare glimpse into the stories and sites often overlooked by the typical tourist circuit.

The tour, which encourages engaging discussions among passengers and highlights the contributions of the Black community, veers off the beaten path through the vibrant neighborhoods of Black Los Angeles including Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills, where history and art collide; Central Avenue, a hub for jazz, culture and the fight for civil rights; West Adams, home to a wealth of architectural gems; Leimert Park, where art, music and community spirit converge; and Jefferson Park Los Angeles, home to over a dozen historic-cultural monuments with diverse architecture.

The tour, which launched in March, is the brainchild of Janae Green, 35, a Chicago native who moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago.

She got the idea after attending a similar tour in Knoxville, Tennessee, that she calls “fascinating.”

“It was a Black cultural heritage walking tour conducted by a Black company,” said Green, who is currently working on two independent feature films and short films, currently in development. “It was so informative. It was so interesting. We had a blast walking through Knoxville. 

“As I was taking the tour, I thought to myself, ‘There is some cool stuff going on where I live.’ I decided to put together a tour of South L.A. It took me and my business partner about a year to do all the research.”

A historian, Green said, “The goal of the tour is to promote and continue the legacy of Black L.A.’s heritage from the late 1800s to the late 1960s.”

“We talk about early pioneers like Biddy Mason, trailblazers like Paul R Williams, the legacy of Central Avenue and the story of Sugar Hill, and more (to name a few),” said Green, who operates the tours out of a 15-passenger van.

The tours, which include 30 locations and cost $65 for adults and $55 for kids, begin at the A Great Day in South LA headquarters in Crenshaw Square, and takes place on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Group sizes are five minimum and 12 maximum per tour.

Green, who received a master’s of entertainment industry management from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, has always been a creative and is currently working on publishing her first fictional novel, “Pages from the Green Book,” and working on her second book titled “Our Heritage Outside,” which researches Black history in the 63 national parks.

I recently caught up with her to talk about A Great Day in South L.A.

DD: What is the point of A Great Day in South L.A.?

JG: I want the tour to highlight businesses past and present. The point is to bring people to South L.A. The area needs those tourist dollars. When we bring the money to small businesses, they put it back into the community. You have to lift them up. The point is to promote the beauty of South L.A.

DD: You researched for about a year?

JG: Yeah. I’m a historian. There really is cool stuff going on where I live. South L.A. is my home. While researching, I had no idea how instrumental Central Avenue was.

DD: Where does the tour go and how did you decide what to include on the tour?

JG: Good question. This tour was a labor of love. I had a lot of books I read. I grouped things. For instance, I had to include places like the Dunbar Hotel. Once I managed to collate the interesting places, I had a list of 80 places that the tour could highlight. That wasn’t going to work. I had to call in reinforcements. You need a village. We broke it up by neighborhoods. Some places don’t exist anymore. Some places are now apartment buildings. We went through each neighborhood that makes up South L.A.

DD: You mentioned that some places don’t exist any more.

JG: We combed through the list to find things still standing. We had to prioritize. We got the tour down to two hours. Watts was on the tour. It’s important to me. There is a ton of history there that we have to amplify. Watts isn’t included right now. The next iteration of the tour will include Watts.

DD: How many different sites did you include?

JG: We now have 30 stops, down from the 80 stops we had initially.

DD: Why did you settle on a three-hour tour?

JG: When I was running around looking at locations and had initially included Watts, it was three hours. That was with no stops. Now, we have bathroom breaks. I really wanted it to be two hours. That’s a good amount. 

“I realized at the two-hour mark we would be cutting out West Adams. I wanted people to have a full experience, so we had to put it back in. I want to give the highlight reel. We also have included a snack stop at the 27th Street Bakery, which is also historic.

DD: What is it about South L.A?

JG: It’s my home now. There is so much beauty here. I want people who live here to be proud. There is so much history here. You are connected to the world stage, be proud of that. You are part of something beautiful.  Don’t let people [dump] on your neighborhood.

DD: You’ve launched another activity in a city where there is a ton of things to do and see.

JG: When you think about it, I’m competing with Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. People have plenty of other options. I have to be creative.

DD: Where did you get the name?

JG: The name is a play on Ice Cube’s classic song, “It Was a Good Day.”

DD: How have you been getting the word out about the tour?

JG: Word of mouth, social media and flyers. This has been a grassroots campaign. I have occupied many different spaces. If you told me I was going to have a tour company, I would have told you, you’re crazy.

DD: Why is it important to be a Black-owned and woman-owned business?

JG: Black women are amazing. Period, end of sentence!

For information about A Great Day in South L.A., visit heyfriend@agreatdayinsouthla.com or call 818-252-9169.

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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