The Black community is working to own its beloved Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza because they are worried it will be gentrified.
Baldwin Hills is a well-known Black neighborhood in Los Angeles, flourishing with Black-owned businesses. Businessowner Malik Muhammad has had his Malik Books in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza since 1994, and he – like others alike – want to keep it that way. “We deserve to have literature, books and cultural and diverse materials that speak to our voice and our people,” Muhammad said, according to Aziza Shuler of Spectrum News 1.
Over the years, the plaza has been owned by several people. However, it’s up for sale again, and residents in South L.A. are worried that the area will be gentrified and Black folks and Black businesses will be kicked out.
Malik says the plaza transcends just being a mall; it’s home to Black people and Black culture. “This is more than just a mall. It’s a cultural hub,” he said. “In this location here, we have a voice,” said Malik.
But, community members Niki Okuk and Damien Goodmon have led a movement and mission called Downtown Crenshaw Rising (DCR), in which South L.A. residents are gathering together to keep the Crenshaw neighborhood in the care and ownership of Black people. “It’s really about facing gentrification,” Goodmon said. “We’re coming together to assert that Crenshaw will be a Black space.”
Currently, the DWS Group owns the mall, but DCR says they’ve gained more than $75 million in donations and investments, and they are reportedly sure they have the highest offer for the mall on the table. However, DCR says DWS declined its offer and allegedly went with a lower offer from a Century City-based Harridge Development Group – which is white-owned. They believe the move was racially motivated, and they believe the other group plans to build luxury housing moving Black residents out.
“It feels incredibly dismissive that we would come with a professional and well-capitalized team, not to mention thousands of community members and organizations coming out to support,” Okuk said. “And yet DWS wouldn’t accept our call or bid.”
According to Spectrum News 1, DWS responded to the claims saying, “DWS has conducted a thorough and fair bidding process and has engaged diligently and constructively with community leaders about the purchase of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.”