The 8 Percent

Since June, we've published nearly two dozen essays, from crowdsourced community contributors and LAist staffers, as part of Race In LA. We've been humbled by the range of lived experiences and backgrounds that make Los Angeles so vibrant. Yet, within all that diversity there are shared stories of anger, pain, hurt and sadness resulting from overt and more subtle racism.

Nevertheless, there have also been stories centered around strength, beauty and pride: learning to love oneself and one's culture, even when the world doesn't; celebrating one's heritage and homeland; finding a place to belong and thrive in the face of discrimination and adversity.


If you've spent any time at all in L.A., you know that it's very much a majority minority city. As one of our essayists put it:

"The Westside is white; South Central is Black and Brown; East L.A. is Mexican; and the Valley is kind of a mix..."

As he goes on to explain, our existence as Angelenos is incredibly siloed at times. And, in living apart, we don't know or understand each other as we could - or should. We don't appreciate or understand others' lived experiences, what it's really like to be from their 'hood, what contributions their family and kinfolk have made to this place we all call home.


So we're going deeper, and we're starting with the Black community, the 8%. Los Angeles city's population is about 8% Black (8.4%, if you wanna be exact, according to the most recent census estimates). When we say L.A. is Black and Brown, we sometimes focus on the overwhelming majority that is Brown. We relegate the idea of a "Black L.A." to geography, like the so-called Black Beverly Hills or Leimert Park or melanated South L.A. strongholds like Inglewood or Compton (I mean, just sing the lyrics of Tupac's "California Love" in your head).

So, we introduce The 8 Percent, a new project from KPCC + LAist that's an extension of the Race In LA series. The 8 Percent explores the inextricable ties between L.A. and its Black residents - how Black migration, community and culture have shaped and changed L.A.

This project has been in the works for nearly a year, but its release is even more relevant and poignant as society grapples with this moment of racial reckoning. In the coming months, we'll be releasing new installments - videos, oral histories and more. Their content will vary but they will all be guided by one overarching idea: You can't tell the story of Los Angeles without telling the story of Black people.

This project, heavily multimedia and immersive, is intended to be unlike many others in which a particular community's story is told by journalists. Our intent is to tell the story of Black people, in their words, in their voice - unfiltered. We are messengers, amplifying voices that deserve to be heard, not interpreters who get to frame the narrative. We're committed to letting the people who are willing to invite us into their lives and homes do so on their terms. We will not rewrite their history, their family stories or their lived experiences through our journalistic pen or public media's highly criticized white lens.

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In the first installment, LA to L.A., we start with the deep ties between L.A.’s Black community and Louisiana.

Fifteen years ago, on Aug. 29, 2005, the storm that became Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. However, Katrina’s destruction rippled beyond NOLA and the borders of Louisiana. Brandi Carter, a native Angeleno with ancestral roots in Lake Charles, La., reflects on what it was like to experience Katrina - the physical, cultural and emotional devastation - through and with her family.

This video is close-captioned. Start the video and then click in the lower right corner to turn on the captions.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

“There are no precise numbers for how many people driven out by Katrina still live in California. A year after the hurricane, just over 1% of the people displaced were living in the Golden State, according to research conducted by University of Michigan professor Narayan Sastry and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Jesse Gregory. Though small, that figure represents the largest landing point of any state not in the South.” The Los Angeles Times, Aug. 28, 2015

Katrina's Diaspora

Hurricane Katrina victims filed for assistance from FEMA from every state. This map created by The New York Times shows the distribution and number of the 1.36 million individual assistance applications as of Sept. 23, 2005. According to the Times, Los Angeles received 4,435 applications, twice as many as San Francisco and 3.5 times as many as San Diego.

Katrina's Diaspora map

(New York Times)

Ruth's Story

Brandi Carter's aunt, Ruth, lived in News Orleans when Katrina hit. She evacuated the city and stayed with family in several states before being able to return home to Louisiana months later. Listen to her account of what it was like evacuating, reconnecting with family in Denver, and ultimately, retuning to her home.

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