Welcome to Los Angeles, California

August 5 – 7, 2022, Los Angeles, California will host the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). The City of Angels, as L.A. is affectionately called, is happy to welcome attendees to SSSP’s first in-person meeting in two years. Los Angeles is a city that has experienced constant, and sometimes rapid, cultural and demographic changes.

Recognition of the Ancestral Tribal Lands
Today, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States in size and population (over 12 million people in the metro area). Los Angeles was once home to thousands of people before the Spanish settlers arrived. The Gabrieliño-Tongva people were the first inhabitants of the land we now call Los Angeles. The movements of these peoples set the stage for what would eventually become Los Angeles. News writer Ann Lloyd writes in “A Brief History of LA's Indigenous Tongva People.”

Photo: Gabrieliño-Tongva Indian Tribe

Their influence on the eventual metropolis of Los Angeles extends far beyond their choice of location, though; the forced labor and enslavement of Tongva peoples is what allowed Spanish settlers and missionaries to develop their reach in the first place. When the Spanish arrived in Southern California, they sought fertile land to produce the crops they were hoping to cultivate. This led them to the bountiful San Gabriel Valley (the San Gabriel Mission is credited as the first location of Spanish settlers in the area that became Los Angeles).

SSSP 2022 meetings will take place in the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza in Downtown Los Angeles. Downtown L.A. was originally the location of Yaanga, a large Tongva village. This part of the Tongva land was far enough from the San Gabriel Valley that it allowed the settlers to exploit the Tongva people for manual labor. The center of this village is now the location of the historic Union Station.

The discovery of gold on the California lands led to greater migration of Anglo-Americans to the West Coast. Many of the Tongva peoples were enslaved and used as a source of labor before the immigration of Chinese people as another source of labor. California’s eventual ascension to statehood led to the disregard of many of the peaceful treaties previously in place. This led to the displacement of many of the indigenous people, leaving most of them homeless. Today, the Gabrieliño-Tongva Tribe is one of two state recognized tribes. Approximately 2,500 people in the region today identify as members of the Tongva Tribe.

Downtown Los Angeles Popular Attractions
Downtown Los Angeles has seen a huge growth since 1999 with the opening of the Staples Center (now the Crypto.com Arena). The Crypto.com Arena is home of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Soon after its opening came the neighboring L.A. Live Entertainment Complex in 2007. L.A. Live houses many restaurants, bars, concert venues, and a movie theater. With the adjoining Los Angeles Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena, L.A. Live will be part of the "Downtown Sports Park" cluster for the upcoming 2028 Olympic Games being held in Los Angeles. Of note in L.A. Live is the Grammy Museum.

The Music Center houses four performing arts theaters (the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (designed by architect Frank Gehry). Nearby, you can find The Broad and MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art).

There are literally dozens of museums located in Downtown Los Angeles alone. Some of note include the African American Firefighter Museum, the Chinese American Museum, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles (considered the birthplace of Los Angeles), the Japanese American National Museum, the Museum of Social Justice, the Skid Row History Museum & Archive, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Other Museums of Note (outside of Downtown Los Angeles)
A few miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, you will find the California African American Museum. Further to the west, J. Paul Getty has two museums where the landscape is just as breathtaking as the art: the Getty Center (located in Brentwood) and the Getty Villa (located in the Pacific Palisades). Museum Row (mid-city area) houses several museums within walking distance of each other: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Located in Koreatown (see more on Koreatown below), you can find the Korean American National Museum.

Popular Attractions Around the City

Photo: Santa Monica Pier

Lights! Camera! Action!
Los Angeles is known as the movie capital of the world. There are numerous tours throughout the city that will take to the “homes of the stars” and other locations made famous in film and television. For a closer look, several movie studios allow tours of their studio lots.

City Racial/Ethnic Diversity

SSSP could not have picked a “better” location than Los Angeles. Los Angeles has been examined by many scholars of today and the past and is one of the world’s most diverse cities. 12 million people live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area with the following racial/ethnic demographic breakdown:

  • Latino/Hispanic (all combined)
  • White
  • Asian American
  • Black/African American
  • Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian
  • American Indian
  • Multiracial

Los Angeles boasts close to 275 distinct neighborhoods. Los Angeles is also the home of many “largest outside of” communities. Example: with population estimates of 700,000, Southern California boasts the largest concentration of Iranians in the world, outside of Iran. Additionally, Los Angeles has the largest Thai population (over 31,000) outside of Thailand, the largest Korean American population (226,000) outside of South Korea, the largest Mexican population outside of Mexico, and the largest Samoans outside of Samoa. Los Angeles also has enclaves of Ethiopians, Armenians, Brits coexisting throughout the city.

Photo: Chinatown

Chinatown is one of L.A.'s most popular tourist destinations, located in the northern region of Downtown L.A. near the city's civic and cultural center. A mural commemorating the "New Chinatown" might confuse first time visitors to the area. “Old Chinatown” was settled in the late 1800s after the transcontinental railroad era. Like many ethnic enclaves of today and yesterday, immigrants sought refuge in communities outside of the main thoroughfares. While Jim Crow laws targeting Black Americans were growing in the South, most of the West Coast Jim Crow laws in the late 1800s focused Chinese (and Mexican) immigrants and Americans of Chinese (and/or Mexican) descent. Chinatown offered some security, although that was short lived. The former location of Chinatown was eventually destroyed via eminent domain to make way for what would become Union Station (a bit of irony in that it was Chinese immigrants who were the main source of labor in building the transcontinental railroads). What is now called “Chinatown” is actually “New Chinatown” (opening in 1938). New Chinatown became a significant part of both local and national history – it's the first such neighborhood in the U.S. that was actually owned by Chinese residents. New Chinatown is now home to mainly working class Chinese American residents. Many of the more affluent Chinese American citizens settled into Monterey Park, located a few miles east of Downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles’ Eastside
Generally encompassing the land east of the Los Angeles River Los Angeles’ Eastside is made up of several smaller neighborhoods Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, and an unincorporated region named East Los Angeles. Home to the Gabrielino Indians for more than two thousand years, the area fell into the hands of the Spanish in the late eighteenth century, with Mexican and American ranchers taking control of the land for much of the nineteenth century. Farmers eventually used portions to grow vegetables and fruit and raise dairy cattle, but agriculture took up only temporary residence, ultimately pushed aside as urban society rapidly expanded. At the beginning of the twentieth century, East Los Angeles became a popular immigrant destination. In the early 1900s, Russians, Jews, Japanese, and Mexicans all had a significant presence in the area. Living east of the river and working in nearby factories, or traveling by electric rail into downtown Los Angeles, immigrants and their children helped fuel the prosperity of the growing metropolis. By the onset of World War II, East Los Angeles was a nearly exclusively Latino community, soon reinforced by Mexican workers who arrived to operate the machines in the area’s growing war industries. Although the face of the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities has changed considerably, East Los Angeles has maintained this basic character throughout the last sixty years. As a result of its history as a long-standing Mexican American community, the area of East Los Angeles continues to be studied and documented by scholars from around the world.

Filipinotown, officially called Historic Filipinotown but affectionately called HiFi, is a district making up the southwest portion of Echo Park. The district is bounded by Hoover Street on the west to Glendale Blvd. on the east, Temple St. on the north and Beverly Blvd. on the south. Historic Filipinotown is arguably one of the more underrated ethnic enclaves in L.A. It was originally referred to as Little Manila, as it has long been a place where the Filipino-American community thrived. Its history dates back to the early 1900s, during the first significant wave of Filipino migration to the United States. In the early 20th century, Filipinos settled in the downtown areas now known as Little Tokyo and Bunker Hill. Post-WWII redevelopment displacement shifted the Filipino-American community to this area along the Temple-Beverly Corridor northwest of Downtown. Historic Filipinotown was designated by the city of Los Angeles as a historic-cultural neighborhood in 2002 after a 30-year campaign. Civic and business groups continue to work closely with the city to preserve the neighborhood’s ethnic heritage assets and to utilize its unique character to promote cultural heritage tourism, economic development, and community revitalization.

Photo: Koreatown

The Koreatown neighborhood dates back to 1904, when the first Korean immigrant arrived in the city. The first Koreans who settled in Los Angeles were farm laborers and railroad workers. The early Korean population concentrated in the poor, working class neighborhood of Bunker Hill. As the number of immigrants increased throughout the 1930s, the community shifted westward along Jefferson Boulevard, which became the center for Koreans in the United States.

The Immigration act of 1965 enabled a new cluster of Korean immigrants to establish businesses, churches, and homes further west into the area of present-day Koreatown. Korean grocery stores, banks, restaurants, doctors' offices, cafes, and nightclubs continued to develop in the area. Today, Koreatown encompasses more than two square miles just west of Downtown Los Angeles and continues to have (as mentioned earlier) the highest concentration of Koreans in the United States and outside the Korean Peninsula.

Little Armenia
Located in the eastern portion of Hollywood (and intermixed with Thai Town), you will find Little Armenia, named as such in 2000 to honor the continued presence of Armenian Americans in the Los Angeles area. The Glendale area also has a large number of Armenian Americans. Many of the early Armenian immigrants fled to the United States (and Los Angeles in particular) in the 1970s during political strife in Europe and parts of the Middle East (in Romania, Lebanon, Soviet Armenia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, to name a few). Los Angeles has the second largest number of people of Armenian ancestry in the world (Russia has the largest).

Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo Historic District is a historic Japanese commercial district in Downtown Los Angeles. Probably more than most other areas of Los Angeles, Little Tokyo’s story has been a 360-degree journey. Little Tokyo traces its origins to the first business started by a Japanese seaman named Kame who opened a restaurant on Los Angeles Street, near First Street in 1886. Japanese immigrants settled the district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Until the 1880s, most immigrants from Asia to the U.S. were Chinese. This changed with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. Because of this, Japanese laborers became increasingly sought after by American businesses and the number of Japanese immigrating to the U.S, particularly to the West Coast, increased rapidly. After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, many of that city's Japanese residents moved south to Los Angeles causing the Japanese population to grow from 3,000 to almost 10,000. With the adoption of the Gentleman's Agreement, Japanese women began to immigrate to the U.S. in greater numbers, either as new brides or to join their families, and Little Tokyo began to develop larger communities with an established commercial district. Many of the local Japanese were involved in agriculture and that led to the establishment of wholesale produce markets near Little Tokyo.

Despite discrimination, the Japanese built their own churches, temples and hospitals and established many business and community organizations. Everything was placed in jeopardy when World War II began, and the U.S. government forced all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and parts of Hawaii into prison-like domestic concentration camps. Little Tokyo was abandoned by Japanese Americans and in a quirk of fate were replaced by African Americans, many looking for jobs and a place to live (see “The Crenshaw District” section below).

Little Tokyo became known as Bronzeville. For three years, from 1942 through 1945, Bronzeville was a thriving, overcrowded community with close to 80,000 residents. As the war came to an end, however, industries began to shut down their wartime operations and jobs became scarce. Japanese business owners and residents began returning to Little Tokyo to reestablish their community, and many of the residents of Bronzeville left to find jobs in other parts of the city. The transition from Bronzeville back to Little Tokyo was, for the most part, smooth as many of the returning Japanese bought out the Bronzeville business leases. The Common Ground Committee was formed to foster better interracial relations, and many Japanese business owners hired Black Americans while remaining Bronzeville businesses hired Japanese Americans.

Before World War II, Little Tokyo was the largest Japanese community in the United States. Today, the Little Tokyo Historic District represents the original commercial heart of the community.

Photo: Thai Town

Thai Town
Los Angeles’ Thai Town is the first area with that name in the United States. Named in 1999 (one year before the neighboring Little Armenia), Thai Town is nestled in the eastern part of Hollywood. There, you can find thriving restaurants and stores offering Thai food and Thai imports.

After the Los Angeles Civil Unrest of 1992, the soon to be formed Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) saw that a critical need emerged to address the issues of social and economic inequalities in low-income, neglected and resource starved communities such as East Hollywood which has served as the historic port of entry for newly arrived Thai immigrants spanning 50 years. Designating the East Hollywood area officially as Thai Town would be one way to spur much needed economic development and entrepreneurship through community and culturally based tourism.

The severe social and structural damage caused by the 1992 Riots and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake prompted the Thai community to revitalize and take ownership of their neighborhood through empowerment, education and entrepreneurship. In 1994 a campaign to designate East Hollywood as Thai Town was initiated. The 1992 assessment indicated that an overwhelming majority of Thais in Los Angeles supported an officially designated Thai commercial and community center in East Hollywood. The campaign, however, suffered a major setback after the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 and had to be placed on hold while the needs of Thai earthquake victims were addressed. Eventually, in 1998, Thai CDC and community stakeholders resurrected the campaign for Thai Town and organized the Thai Town Formation Committee to spearhead this effort.

Today, Thai Town is home to more than 60 Thai businesses including silk shops, bookstores, and restaurants. Thai Town is also the site of several historic Los Angeles structures and landmarks such as the Don Carlos Apartments, Trianon Apartments and the Mayer Building on Hollywood and Western. Thai CDC’s leadership and commitment to Thai Town’s cultural heritage preservation endeavors has also included its commitment to protecting historic properties through adaptive reuse.

Like Little Armenia, the goal in establishing Thai Town was to promote neighborhood pride, economic development, cultural exchanges and tourism.

The Crenshaw District
Today, the Crenshaw District encompasses many smaller predominantly Black neighborhoods including Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Village, View Park, and Winsor Hills. The birth of “Black Los Angeles” is intertwined with the birth of Los Angeles. Dating back to 1781, the city was founded by a group of 44 Mexican settlers, and 26 of them were of African descent. Pío de Jesús Pico, who was of both African and American descent, was one of the first governors of the area that is now known as the city of Los Angeles.

Many of the early residents of the Crenshaw District moved there after World War II. During World War II, Los Angeles faced a labor shortage and thousands of Black Americans, mainly from the Southeast and Midwest, came to the city to fill wartime jobs (this period is often referred to as the Second Wave of the Great Migration). They settled around Central Avenue next to Little Tokyo, in what was then the city's Black community. This area soon became overcrowded and Little Tokyo, now a ghost town, provided room for growth. Because Japanese immigrants were barred by law from owning property, most of the buildings in Little Tokyo had been leased from their non-Japanese owners. The owners, needing tenants for their vacant buildings, leased them to the newly arriving Black Americans. Little Tokyo soon became known as Bronzeville, with hotels, restaurants, stores, residences, a chamber of commerce, and an active nightlife including jazz clubs and breakfast clubs. After the war ended, many Japanese Americans moved back to Little Tokyo. Black Americans began migrating to other parts of the city including the Crenshaw District. Interestingly, Japanese Americans were amongst the first group of non-Whites that moved into the area (after World War II and also after redlining became illegal). As many of these Japanese Americans moved back to Little Tokyo, Black Americans began moving into the Crenshaw District. Many of the early White inhabitants fled to what is now called the suburbs during White Flight.

The Baldwin Hills, View Park, and Winsor Hills parts of the Crenshaw District have been called the Black Beverly Hills. Celebrities including Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, Nancy Wilson, Esther Rolle, and former Los Angeles Mayor, Tom Bradley have called the area home. Today, many local Black celebrities call the western part of the Valley home.

Happening Around Town August 4 – 7
Summers in Los Angeles are a time rich in activities. While not exhaustive, a list of activities during the time of the annual meeting can be found at August 2022 Events Calendar for Los Angeles. Some events at some of L.A. more popular (and historic) arenas/theaters include:

Photo: The Hollywood Bowl

S. Carlos Royal
Marymount California University
Chair, Local Arrangements Committee, 2021-22