Community Album Celebrates Central Avenue's Legacy
The mission: preserve snapshots of Central Avenue's glory days, and ensure the community's past grandeur isn't obscured in the history books by the hardships of recent decades.
“Oh, Central Avenue was on the board when I first came here!" said 105-year-old Simon Redditt, the oldest man living on Central Avenue. "They had clubs and bowling alleys, booking joints all up and down Central Avenue, people coming from everywhere to see Central Avenue, and everybody was getting along real nice.”
Linda Wilson, one of the project's organizers, said the photo collection was a neighborhood effort. “The Central Avenue photography project is a grassroots project by the concerned members of community," Wilson said, "bringing historic central community together past, present and future."
Along with displaying the photos, Wilson plans to change the community’s perception of Central Avenue through other means. One idea: renaming the street to "Historic Central Avenue."
“How a community is perceived is based upon the words used to describe the community," Wilson said. "It’s the people who determine what the community is… it’s about changing the language."
"My goal is to show life as it was and life as it is,” said another coordinator, Sam Comen.
Comen, a native Angeleno, will unveil a set of never-before-seen photographs from family albums and community organizations. He intends to show the community of Central Avenue from the perspective of people who lived there.
“The motivation is to daylight photographs that otherwise would be lost or kept tucked away," Comen said, "and to bring awareness about history about this community to a larger audience of art viewers in Los Angeles."
The exhibition opens April 14 at 7 p.m., 2515 S. Central Ave. The photos will remain on display until April 25.
Redditt, known to others as "Papa Si," recalled Vernon and Central Ave as the busiest part of South Central. “That was the talk of the town, they had two, three clubs," he said. "Just about every night it looked like a convention was going on with so many people walking the streets and hanging around.”
When asked if he would like to see a resurgence of the old Central Avenue, a spark flickered in Redditt’s eye. “Say would I like it to come back? I sure would, but I think it’s a no no. It’ll never get back to its old stage.”
Reach Staff Reporter Cliff Liu here.