Sites of Black Heritage in Los Angeles Auto Tour Creates New Cultural Connections for Participants

At the end of February 2017, Toyota Motor Corporation invited me to create an afternoon guided driving tour of sites to showcase facets of Los Angeles’ Afro-Spanish/-Mexican and African American heritage from the nineteenth to the later decades of the twentieth century. Social media influencers of different age groups were the guests invited on the “Steeped in History” tour to drive Toyota vehicles in a caravan, to experience the streets, sites and history of the city.

The tour began at El Pueblo Historical Monument plaza area, at the site of memorial plaque that honors the 1781 founding of the City of Los Angeles’ multiracial heritage, inclusive of people of African ancestry. The guests also learned about the other plaque installed at the site, dedicated to Mariam Matthews (1905-2003), for her role as the facilitator for the 1981 recognition of city’s multiracial heritage during Los Angeles’ bi-centennial celebration activities. Matthews was the first African American professionally trained librarian in the city library system when she started working in 1926, and she became a major figure in the documentation and preservation of Afro California, and particularly Afro Los Angeles history.

Historian Alison Rose Jefferson sharing knowledge with social media influencers, other guests and Toyota’s Marketing Team at El Pueblo Monument during the “Steeped in History” Toyota Auto Tour to discover Los Angeles’ black history, February 28, 2017. Video courtesy of Betsy Helgager Hughes, BLH Consulting, Inc./Toyota Marketing Team.

Guests were asked to do a social media post at each stop on the tour using hashtags #Toyota #LetsGoPlaces #SteepedInHistory. Other tour stops of the day to highlight nineteenth and twentith century black Angeleno heritage included: Biddy Mason Park, the Central Avenue Historic District (Lincoln Theater, Second Baptist Church, the 28th Street YMCA, the Dunbar Hotel, Historic Jazz Corridor site, etc.), and the Watts Towers. We finished up the world wind tour with a dinner hosted by Toyota at Post and Beam, the African American-owned restaurant in Baldwin Hills/Leimert Park area, the cultural hub of Los Angeles’ African American community in 2017. We dined on an array of soul-food dishes infused with California creativity, as guests talked about what they learned and experienced with historian Alison Rose Jefferson, and mingled with Toyota executives and others.

I was pleased to learn at dinner, that all who participated in this short tour found something that moved them in their experiences of the historic sites we visited, and in the knowledge I shared.

Historian Alison Rose Jefferson, social media influencers (Eric Berry/Hip Hollywood, Derrial Christon/Black Hollywood Live, Sean Walker/Black Vocies News, Lizza Morales/XOXO Lizza, Victoria “Vic” Sanders/VicStyles, Maleena Lawrence, Cynthia Griffin/OUr Weekly Los Angeles) other guests (Andreas Branch/photographer, Yazmin Monet Watkins/Spoken Word Poet, Adam Griffin) and Toyota Marketing Team members (Betsy Helgager Hughes and Kendra Schmitt) at El Pueblo Monument during the “Steeped in History” Toyota Auto Tour to discover Los Angeles’ black history, February 28, 2017.

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