The 52-square-block area in Los Angeles known as Skid Row is home to the densest population of homeless in the United States. In addition to those living on the streets, there are an additional 7,000 people residing in subsidized apartments or welfare hotels in the area. Many of these residents suffer from mental illness or substance abuse. But last Saturday, this distressed community was recognized for something other than its plights.
Skid Row residents congregated at Gladys Park, where they began the celebration of the second annual Walk The Talk parade, put on by Los Angeles Poverty Department, a local theater company. Neighborhood leaders and community members danced as the Mudbug Brass Band played to the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The event, billed as a project that combines performance, visual art, and community conversations, celebrates the downtrodden area’s sense of community among the more than 3,400 people living in homeless shelters and on the sidewalks of Skid Row.
“It’s a demonstration of Skid Row culture,” said Manuel “OG” Compito, a local who spearheads a three-on-three streetball league at Gladys Park. “And it does have a culture.”
Stanford University students on an urban art walking tour and Christian students from Sunnyvale, California, handing out hygiene kits, joined in the fun while onlookers enjoyed a mobile gallery featuring a Skid Row history display.
Skid Row preacher Pastor Cue Jn’marie adds the parade also aims to give those suffering from mental illness, depression, or addiction a celebration of hope.
“You never know who’s struggling,” Jn’marie said. “And this is the trigger they need to improve their lives.”
The parade wound along Gladys Park northwest to 5th and Main streets, stopping along the way for the Poverty Department’s sketches, which honored local activists and leaders like General Jeff Page.
Page, a member of the downtown neighborhood council, is a “proud resident of Skid Row.” The local activist and one-time hip-hop entrepreneur has spoken up for the community to bring clean drinking water, chess tables, shaded refuge, and a basketball court to Gladys Park.
Former Skid Row resident Stephanie Bell, 51, attended the parade and was even featured in some of the skits.
“I have seen a vision of all the people here dressed in suits and dresses, high heels, just like in uptown, going to their jobs,” Bell said. “It can happen.”
For many of Skid Row’s residents, including Compito, the parade acknowledges that the area is indeed a community, and that it’s only getting larger and prouder.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Compito said.