The 8 Percent

Since June 2020, we've been publishing essays on LAist 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.

We began planning this project in 2019, and published Part 1, LA to L.A., last year on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans. But this project 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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Real talk: 2020 was rough. We all went through a lot, and 2021 is giving off some 2020 vibes so far. But much of the sweeping change we've seen, especially society's shift in how we talk about and understand race, has centered around the Black community.

With that in mind, we want our coverage to reflect more than the focus on trauma and marginalization of recent months. While some pieces will most certainly reflect these sentiments as they're so deeply rooted in the Black community's past and present, ultimately, our overall intention is to uplift.

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Over the next month, we'll feature the voices of notable (but not necessarily famous in the Hollywood sense) Black Angelenos who have made meaningful contributions to the Black community and the city overall. This month's Race In LA essayists are strong Black voices with stories to tell that reflect diverse lived experiences as Black people. But, we're also gathering your voices.

The theme of this year’s Black History Month coverage is, “What does it mean to be Black in L.A?” Depending on where you live or how long you’ve lived here or how old you are, the answers may vary significantly. We're collecting your refelctions, stories and responses to this question all month long, and we'll begin publishing them Feb. 1. Add your voice to this ongoing conversation below.

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As part of our Black History Month special coverage for The 8 Percent, we’re gathering stories and voices about what it means to be Black in L.A. Whether you’ve lived here a short time or you were born in L.A., we want to hear from you. We'll read every response, but nothing is shared without your permission.

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