Crenshaw and neighboring Leimert Park is one of the largest middle-class black neighborhoods in the United States, despite heavy damage from the 1992 riots and the 1994 earthquake. However, the growth of the gang-dominated crack cocaine trade in the 1980s made Crenshaw district one of the most violent neighborhoods in Los Angeles, with the stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard between Slauson Avenue and Adams Boulevard remaining a virtual free-fire zone for years. For the most of its length Crenshaw is just another unremarkable South Central thoroughfare. It runs from Long Beach in the south up to Wilshire Boulevard where it ends. The fact that Crenshaw stops dead at the northen edge of South Central - at the point where the racial mix starts to change rapidly - gives the street its own significance. Since the fifties, Crenshaw has been a street which African Americans can think of as pretty much their own. Other than that, the only other notable peculiarity of Crenshaw's geography comes around the junction with Slauson; at this point it becomes the widest street in Los Angeles, divided by a central reservation, laid out long ago with grand ambition that somehow it hasn't yet lived up to, except once a week, on Sundays, when the street really comes alive with the Sunday-night cruise. From Adams, past the Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills Mall, through Leimart Park and down Imperial, Black and Mexican youths come out flossin their chromes, and motors. It's the time when African American and Latino youth gets to rule three miles of tarmac. The Crenshaw Cruise is a carnival that anyone can join, and it's free. There are so few places where young men and women can hang out together in South Central, without trouble. There is little public space and local parks routinely become territories of individual gangs. The bigger streets, like Crenshaw, often form the borderlands between gang turfs, are neutral ground, as long as you stick to the street itself. This lack of safe space for people to meet feeds back into gang animosities. If there were more situations like the Crenshaw cruise availble, in which members of different gangs could socialise together there would be less mutual fear and hatred on the streets.
"Remember K day,
automatics rang free cause
niggas' lost their way"
- Tupac "To live and die in LA"