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Leslie N. Shaw Park: Rooted in Black History

Meet Leslie N. Shaw Park | Home to the Jefferson Park community
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By Megan Dickey

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Welcome to Leslie N. Shaw Park, a park that has strong historical ties to the African-American community. The park is home to the recently renovated Black Seeds mural, which artistically depicts prominent African-American leaders, and is named after the first African-American postmaster, Leslie N. Shaw.

The park has served the community of Jefferson Park since 1976 and is a well-known community gathering place on Jefferson Blvd.

“It’s for kids, this park is for kids really,” said Richard, a Jefferson Park resident who preferred to only be known by his first name. “It’s a cool park, it’s been here for a long long time.”

Richard's grandmother has lived around the corner of Leslie N. Shaw Park for about 24 years, which has led Richard to become a regular park-goer.

"It's relaxing, I be up in here a lot," Richard said.

It is one of the few parks in the neighborhood where people do not have to worry about people getting shot, Jenai Clark said, who is a Jefferson Park resident. She also said that Leslie Shaw Park does not incur gang activity and ultimately has fewer drug addicts and homeless people, unlike other parks in the area.

Clark says this is one of the parks where she feels safe bringing her kids to, but frequent park-goer Deric Love said that the park is not as safe as Clark says it is.

Love said he has seen drug dealing occur at the park and that he witnessed a shooting in the library, which is directly located next to the park.

“Some of these kids have on like school uniforms,” Love said. “You know they parents love them, but some of these parents don’t even know that in between coming home from school they kids run into gang members and they selling them drugs.”

And it’s not just the kids who get targeted. Lachelle, who preferred not to give her last name, said it is hard to anticipate when violent activity might happen in the park.

“Stuff might happen, somebody might get into it,” Lachelle said. “It might be a show over here one day, you might see a fight. It’s just whatever.”

But on other days, people come to the park to meditate, pray, socialize and let their kids play.

Love comes to the park regularly to practice his sermons, which he began doing after quitting the gang life.

“I used to be involved with gangs and it’s a lot of positive energy around here,” Love said. “Conscious people who helped me reform my life. I got this oneness with this community, I love this community. I can concentrate right here, I can think.”

And Love says that the city has recently done a better job maintaining the condition of the park. He said the city comes out to the park regularly to cut down loose branches, mow and trim the grass.

In addition to keeping up the recreational aspect of the park, the Los Angeles Community Beautification Grant funded the renovation of the Black Seeds mural in 2009, which is painted on the side of the park, Community Beautification Grant manager Michael Espinosa said.

The Black Seeds mural was originally created by Gus Harris in 1991, but Moses Ball recently repainted it this year. The tree's branches consists of prominent African-American figures, with historical ties to issues such as slavery and racism.

But there are mixed feelings throughout the community regarding the mural. While Clark is pleased with the renovation and likes the mural, Love says he feels otherwise.

“That’s one thing I don’t agree with,” Love said. “I’m really anti black and white. (The distinction between) black and white is something that came from racism.”