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Vanessa Taylor, Interview notes


Iíd like to see the fairness. The same opportunities as the other shopping centers, the Galleries and the other malls. Because I know that on itís own and without exposure, who can hold their own? About two years ago with a dream, some buckets of flowers, money lent from another local merchant and no formal training, Vanessa Taylor began Flower Nuts on the Degnan Boulevard. Today Taylor holds several business roles. She is the store manager of the building that serves as a home to several businesses. Within this two story, Mediterrean infuenced structure is a clothing line, a hair salon, an art gallery and Vanessaís flower stand. "My thing here at the business is that I make sure everything gets sold. We are all kind of creative artists here and we all make the things up and its kind of my responsibility to match the personalities up when they come in that door wit the things that are in here," explains Talyor. xxii

Unknown to most, Taylorís existence in Los Angeles is apart of a migration Creoles, people of distinct African-American, Spanish, French and Native American descent, who have a LA to L.A. connection, Louisiana to Los Angeles that is. The Creole western migration has existed since the early formation of California, however it was not until WWII which brought a noticeably large number, approximately 15,000 out to Los Angeles, for better jobs and life away from overt and baneful acts of racism. After New Orleans, "LA was believed to have the largest number of second-largest community of Creole descent in the country." xii iA very strong, familial tie, a recognized characteristic of Creole communities is evident in Taylorís answer to where she considers home. "My family is from New Orleans and Iím kinda just like back and forth. Some of my childhood was spent here, some of my childhood was spent in New Orleans. So I just kinda consider myself in both places." xxiv Vanessa states that there has been requests for her to come out to New Orleans and assist in beginning a community atmosphere that mirrors Leimert Park Village out there.

As for now, Vanessa is content right where she is in Leimert Park and its various opportunities. "So I think that this brings the voice back to that [African-American entreprenuership] I think that things could only get so bad if there is word like "bad" that goes a certain way, and then it has to turn back around, and I think that weíve lost some of our children, our families, our family structure, I mean the worst has happened."xxv Betraying her age against her youthful appearance, Taylor speaks from decades of experience about Leimert Park and the changes it has gone through.

Twenty years ago she attended Leimert Park Beauty College, owned by Lucille Wells. Wells is considered a "phenomenal woman" and a "mentor" to Taylor. She describes Wells and the community oriented energy she displayed symbolic of the possibilities Leimert Park possesses.

And in less than one year, she opened nine beauty salons, and she took everyone that was in her school and made them managers and gave them jobs. Even people that were Ďunder ground,í coming out of correctional centers, coming out of never having an education. I mean this woman was like a saint, she would take them in, they didnít have to leave. She had one guy that went to the state board nine times and she never kicked him out of the school and on the tenth time he finally passed the exam and she was able to place him in one of her shops and made him a manager of her shopÖ.So itís kinda timeless, the energy that I talk about is bigger than all of us has been here. Itís just a matter of the different people who have had the opportunity to tap into it you know. xxvi
Taylor is using her own vision to tap into the "energy" of the Village and regenerate it. She has recently completed her Bachelorís Degree in psychology from Cal State Long Beach. Aside from her florist business, Vanessa also is licensed to conduct meditation, stress therapy and aroma therapy sessions and workshops. Her reason for seeking a in psychology was to learn more about the African perspective. In her education process she spent time in Ghana and Tanzania learning traditional healing methods. She uses her training and skills to address issues that have plagued the African-American community from less non-traditional means.
I do believe that populations are different, cultures are different, and thereís different techniques. For me, I believe very strongly that one of the reasons that our African-American culture has had some psychological inflictions like drugs, and different things is simply because itís been disconnected from itís spiritual baseÖSo, if that base is disconnected, so my premise was built on that and thatís what I wanted to do-come back and reconnect the community with that spirit-with that power-with that intuitiveness. xxvi
Taylor is using her own vision to tap into the "energy" of the Village and regenerate it. She has recently completed her Bachelor\rquote s Degree in psychology from Cal State Long Beach. Aside from her florist business, Vanessa also is licensed to conduct meditation, stress therapy and aroma therapy sessions and workshops. Her reason for seeking a in psychology was to learn more about the African perspective. In her education process she spent time in Ghana and Tanzania learning traditional healing methods. She uses her training and skills to address issues that have plagued the African-American community from less non-traditional means.
 
I do believe that populations are different, cultures are different, and there's
different techniques. For me, I believe very strongly that one of the reasons
that our African-American culture has had \par \tab \tab some psychological
inflictions like drugs, and different things is simply because its been disconnected
from its spiritual base. So, if that base is disconnected, so my premise was built
on that and that' s what I wanted to do-come back and reconnect the
community with that spirit-with that power-with that intuitiveness. xxvii
Vivian Verdell Gordon, an African-American feminist schol ar, suggests that African-Americans are victims of American racism that plagues both materially and symbolically. This evidence of this victimization is apparent in the current African-American community she implies. The tendency of "simply blaming racism , while at the same time participating in the destruction of self and community represents the dis-ease of being Black in America. Difficult to diagnose and cure, the dis-ease manifests as the placid acceptance of inequality and exploitation on one hand, self-destructive rage on the other." xxviiii Supporting Taylor's premise that the African-American is communally and spiritually disconnected, Gordon purports that "Not only will overwhelming numbers of people be incarcerated, moral fiber, based upon ancient African spirituality, will be lost."xxix

The community of Leimert Park, Vanessa\rquote s believes, needs to undergo an external process of cleansing and renewal to flourish further. One aspect of this is addressing how Leimert Park is represented. "I'd like to see it be sup ported like some of the some of the other places like Westwood, or the Beverly Center. You know all the different places that are advertised. I'd like us to have that fairness of advertisement. I'd like to speak to the media and tell the real story about w hat Leimert Park is about and not have shootings that are not even in Leimert Park [credited that they are]."xxx Taylor recites a recent experience that would have made a great story for the press. She tells of a group of German tourists who were "just so bl own away at this community, but we had been portrayed in the media that some violent thing was going to erupt. And they came here and they just loved this place." xxxi

Taylor' s invocation has been answered. Recently, The Los Angeles Times began a weekly section dedicated to this portion of the City. The LA Watts Times, a African-American community oriented newspaper, has consisted ran stories about Leimert Park. The latest piece was a commentary surrounding efforts to install one hour parking meters in the Village area. Leimert Park has also been positively reviewed in several on-line articles and has information listed as part of Los Angeles Council District 8's web site. One site, Los Angeles.com.tour, highlights Leimert Park Village and other ethnic communities in the article "L.A. Beyond the Pale." It suggests to "Locate the Santa Monica Freeway on a map of Los Angeles, and you'll see that much of the city falls below this major east-west artery. But for most tourists-indeed, for many locals-L.A. south of t he 10 might as well not exist. Yet exists it does, harboring some cultural treasures that should not be missed." Leimert Park is described as an area that "in the last few years has birthed a vibrant African-American cultural revival whose impact has been felt throughout the city." xxxiv

When one is ready to experience Leimert Park's rare energy, Vanessa Taylor will be waiting to greet with a bouquet of flowers and smile to brighten the day.


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