Exploring Exposition Park: The California African American Museum

The city of Los Angeles provides many opportunities for our students to experience impactful cultural experiences, and it is a priority for us to highlight this in our admission presentations around the world. Exposition Park, just south of USC, houses a few venues that USC students, faculty, and staff can enjoy. In addition to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – where our Trojans, and as of this past year, the Los Angeles Rams, face off against visiting teams – the area is currently home to three museums that offer fun and thought-provoking exhibits.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center, and the California African American Museum are open for USC students, faculty and staff to visit every day of the year for FREE! Recently, a group of us from the undergraduate admission office ventured over to the California African American Museum to see their exhibits on African American Women in Silent Race Films, Intersections: Caribbean and Brazilian Art, No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992, and more!  Learning more about the experiences of African Americans (and those of African descent) in LA, around the world, and throughout time, further illuminated the important racial context of this city’s history.

Race in America is complex –especially in the way we personally identify with our race and ethnicity. As a native Detroiter, I was raised learning about the impact of the riots there on African American people at that time. My grandmother always spoke about the tensions between law enforcement and realtors with the Black community in Detroit, resulting in a rise in violence, homelessness, and businesses being shut down. This struggle was also depicted nationally in recent years on the stage play/teleplay, Dreamgirls, as well as in the recent Kathryn Bigelow film, Detroit. Viewing the LA 1992 exhibit was interesting. The same experiences I heard Black folks going through in Detroit – the housing struggles, discrimination, and eventual turmoil – resulted before, during, and after the LA Riots. This exhibit showcases not only the history of how the LA Riots shaped the African American experience here, but the extent to which this impacted the greater Los Angeles community. This history is part of what motivates USC to be active in the community through programs like the USC Joint Educational Project (JEP), a program that 2,000+ USC students enroll in each year to participate in various service-learning and volunteer programs in nearby schools, community-based organizations, health-care facilities, and legal clinics, and the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a program that supports students in college access programs, as well as pre-school and early literacy programs, through pre-college enrichment programs designed to prepare South and East Los Angeles students for admission to a college or university.

I asked a couple of my colleagues about what they took away from our visit to the California African American Museum and this is what they had to say:

“Being a transplant to LA, I thought it was really informative to read about and see photos and newspaper clippings from the riots throughout the 1900s. Although some happened during my early childhood, I didn’t know all that much about how or why they started. The exhibit was especially powerful for me as I live in downtown LA and work at USC, so I’m familiar with a lot of the neighborhoods now and you can see how many of these events have shaped the areas.” – Kelsey Bradshaw, Senior Assistant Director

“As a native of South Central Los Angeles and having been just a toddler at the time of the 1992 LA uprising, the exhibit provided context to the stories I often heard from my family. It was interesting to see pictures of my community during the uprising and see how much has changed. I highly encourage prospective students to walk on over if you are ever on campus for a tour or even for current students to attend any of the programs they offer.” – Angelica Gutiérrez, Assistant Director

Exposition Park continues to embody USC’s connection to the community by giving our students, faculty, and staff a place to co-mingle and learn together with members of the surrounding community. Soon, there will be even more opportunities for this. In the next few years, the Banc of California Stadium, which will be home of the LA Galaxy, and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, an art museum dedicated to the paintings, photographs, illustrations, cinematic art, and digital art from USC alumnus George Lucas ’67, will join the rest of the cultural venues across from USC.

BY: Marcel Hite, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission

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