A couple years ago while organizing the IAAL•MAF’s second “Watts Happening” bike ride to the Watts Towers and back, I decided to history things up a bit with stops along the way at places of significance and interest, such as the childhood home of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Ralph Bunche, the Central Avenue Jazz District, and the former site of Wrigley Stadium. Another place we visited was 4115 S. Central Avenue, the location of what once was the headquarters of the L.A. chapter of the Black Panthers and the site where an infamous five-hour shootout took place between the LAPD and members of the party on December 9, 1969:
The LAPD deployed its new SWAT team, a warrant, a battering ram, helicopters, a tank, trucks, dynamite, and 400 police officers to raid three L.A. Black Panther Party facilities including the Central Avenue headquarters. The raid bore much similarity to the raid against the Chicago BPP led four days prior by the FBI and Chicago police. For instance, the government’s plan called for the police to focus gunfire at chapter leader Geronimo Pratt’s bed; however, Pratt was sleeping on the floor at the time. But whereas the Chicago raid ended with Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark murdered, the L.A. Panthers, under Geronimo Pratt’s leadership, stood their ground. Only after exchanging fire with the police for five hours did the Panthers surrender, alive.
— Excerpted from the Hartford Web Publishing Archives
It’s a violent episode of our city’s history of which you don’t find much mention but surprise surprise, while biking to work this morning through Culver City past the Culver Plaza Movie Theaters on Washington Boulevard, I happened to look over my shoulder and a title on the marquee caught my eye: “41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers.”
As fate and timing would have it the new documentary by Gregory Everett opens there tonight, and I just wanted to pass along that it runs through April 1, presented by the Pan African Film & Arts Festival. If I can’t find the time to check it out on the big screen I’m certainly going to be looking for the film on DVD!
“To Protect And Serve,” mural depicting the Black Panther Party
by Nona Olabisi at Jefferson & 11th Avenue
One of a whole bunch of murals we’ll see on my walk tomorrow.