Leimert Park: The Story of a Village in South-Central
“The three things I love to do most in the world is sit on my ass, drink coffee and listen to jazz,” says the late Richard Fulton in Jeannette Lindsay’s celebratory documentary about the titular South (Central) L.A. neighborhood. Fulton, a Vietnam vet who spent six years living downtown on Skid Row, opened 5th Street Dick’s Coffee Company just two days before the 1992 Rodney King riots — some of his first customers were National Guard troops called in to quell the violence. Yet Fulton, who had no prior experience running a business, placed long communal tables on the street in front of his establishment — a bold move that helped bring back the tradition of street-arts culture, all-night chess slams and verbal badinage that had all but vanished during the 1980s, when gang warfare drove people indoors behind locked metal gates. Fulton’s coffeehouse literally took back the streets and was the seed by which the now internationally known Leimert Park arts scene took form and transformed gangbangers into poets, rappers and writers. The documentary also features familiar local faces including poet Kamau Daáood, writer Michael Datcher, artist John Outterbridge, dancer Lady Walquer Vereen; but it’s Fulton, a dreadlocked raconteur with a beatific grin and jazzy rasp, who becomes the fulcrum for the film’s recurrent themes of death, rebirth and constant defiant improvisation in the face of insurmountable odds. An unmissable feast. The 88-minute film is being screened as part of a fund-raiser to keep the new 5th Street Dick’s, opened in the former location of the Lucy Florence Coffeehouse, alive and kicking. (5th Street Dick’s Coffee Company, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Leimert Park; Sat., June 10, 8 p.m.; 323-296-0040)
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