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© 2019 Designing in Color

 

An Afternoon in the Los Angeles Public Library.

How can we learn from traditions of the African diaspora and use that research to imagine a future condition in Los Angeles in which sacred spaces of worship are more accessible for marginalized communities? The study starts by observing sacred spaces in two communities of color in Los Angeles, then through an afro-futuristic lens looking back on spaces of worship in the African diaspora, specifically the Yoruba religion in West Africa, then projecting ideas into a futuristic multi-cultural, and multi-generational, sacred space inside the central branch of the public library of Los Angeles.

 

The story begins on a typical Los Angeles morning. The air is crisp & dry, and the sun is casting its long, golden shadows onto the streets below the grid of skyscrapers in Downtown LA. I arrive at the Central Branch of the Public Library at its 10am opening. I wander through the rotation desk, skirting past the group of homeless individuals digesting the morning news on the communal desktops. I continue through the atrium to the Black History section. My research on Yoruba religion, culture, and urban planning stirs the imagination. I now assume the position of an afrofuturist, to the capacity that I am willing & able, and look inwardly at my own city in an attempt to understand the state of sacred space in historically under-invested and marginalized communities. I find the sacred space of wealth-building through local street vendors. I witness a march for peace for the late artist/activist Nipsey Hussle. I stumble upon a Pentecostal mass unfolding in the park. I notice a series of previously secular storefronts transformed into churches and spaces of worship. I hear a pastor passionately chanting “El hermano que no tiene amor, no conocia Dios. Porque Dios esto todo lo bueno!” from the sidewalk. I, personally, do not share the same faith. But I feel included. I find hope in the acts of creativity that have produced sacred spaces in communities that lack the resources of its neighboring white communities. Finally, the atrium in the Tom Bradley Wing of the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library becomes activated as a true space of cultivation. Yoruba rituals are performed alongside a young Angeleno’s Bar Mitzvah while a march against ICE serves as a backdrop to this imagined space fueled by justice for all who call Los Angeles home.

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