40 Acres and a Mall, by David Cole

An old mall in a black area of LA has become a touch point for black’s declining economic and political influence in that city. From David Cole at takimag.com:

Sometimes you chase the story, and sometimes the story chases you.

Two weeks ago I’m walkin’ through Century City, the business, residential, and dining district adjoining Beverly Hills. This is familiar territory to me; it’s home. So I know when something’s not right. Like the bus full of black folks that came barreling past me down Avenue of the Stars. And not just any bus; one of those supersize air-conditioned bathroom-in-the-back buses.

I’m not a man who speaks in absolutes, but here’s one I’ll stand by: If a bus full of black people enters an upscale area and nobody on board is wearing a jersey, it’s bad news.

And bad news it was. The bus shat out BLM like a BM. Dozens of angry blacks with placards and bullhorns bellowing, “Whose streets? Our streets!”

As the crowd gathered in front of a high-rise office building, I approached one of the protesters.

“What’s up?”

“Man, we tryin’ to get face-to-face with a racis’ Jew gentrifier.”

It was only out of self-preservation that I didn’t answer, “Mission accomplished; what can I do for you?”

I’ll go a long way for a laugh, but not that far.

So here’s the gist of the protest. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, L.A.’s black population has dwindled to just a few remaining areas that could realistically be called “black communities.” It’s a “black belt” that starts south and east of the prosperous Westside and stretches farther south beyond LAX. But those communities are placeholders, destined to be either Hispanic or gentrified within the next decade. And blacks know this.

Now, in that “black belt” there’s a shopping mall that’s often described as L.A.’s last “black” mall—the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It’s seen better days, as has the area around it, a skid row of liquor stores, smoke shops, check cashing places, hair extension parlors, and fast-food joints. As for the mall itself, it lost its anchor stores years ago, and there are as many empty retail spaces as occupied.However, a new light rail line is opening soon that will connect the mall to other parts of the city. And structurally the mall is quite sound; it just needs a face-lift. Which is exactly what a New York investment firm was planning to give it. In April, CIM Group (led by cofounder and principal Avi Shemesh) bid $130 million for the mall, and the bid was accepted by the investment fund that owns the property (a fund with a black CEO, for the record).

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