Los Angeles, CA– The African Firefighters in Benevolent Assn (AFIBA) have been providing community services and programming at a city owned property on Crenshaw since 2000. For 21 years their base has been a building that once housed fire-station 54.
Various businesses and cultural spaces that have made up the majority Black Crenshaw District continue to disappear or be eliminated. Issues that have been intensified due to gentrification and the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the AFIBA organization has found themselves within that disappearing group. Earlier this week, members of AFIBA were locked out of the city-owned property after padlocks were placed over the gates.
Since 2018, Jabari Jumaane, Executive Director of AFIBA, has found himself in a growing feud over the property with Marqueece Harris Dawson, who is Councilman of the District 8 community. Dawson’s main allegation and grounds he is using to seize the property, is that AFIBA have not allowed the city access when they requested it.
Jumaane deny these claims and instead points to Dawson’s Destination Crenshaw project as the main source of the issue.
“The Councilman’s office was looking at the AFIBA center for a 12-story tower they wanted to put in the parking lot that says Crenshaw. They wanted to put a pocket park in there as well. Altering the parking lot would make less spaces for us and limit the amount of people who wanted to patronize the programming.”
Jumaane says he became a sore spot for Dawson after Jumaane and others started questioning the economic piece to Destination Crenshaw.
“We see that a lot more could be done so folks started raising these questions and concerns about whether the economic piece to Destination Crenshaw would benefit the residents,” said Jumaane. “Throw a party for Destination Crenshaw, you know Black folks love parties. But once that party is over, your community has been chipped away at–and your children and your grandchildren will have next to nothing. This is how a community loses.”
In 2018, Jumaane invited other community leaders to a meeting with Dawson’s office to hear the proposed project. Although he thought the idea to be ridiculous, Jumaane says he asked if the project was still open for discussion. He was told there would be other opportunities for community input. However, two years later these discussions over the project have not happened.
Jumaane says he feels as though Dawson is hiding behind and using different departments in the City of Los Angeles to illegally seize the AFIBA Center.
“We need more than just a graveyard mural. Dawson has the power of the city council to make sure our communities are not gentrified. If we want to stop gentrification we have to have our roots in commercial and residential buildings. This project actually invites gentrification,” said Jumaane.
Since 2018, Jumaane has been engaged in a misinformation campaign with Dawson issuing public statements Jumaane continues to deny. Dawson attempted to obtain a lock out order by a judge which Jumaane says was not granted. Despite this, locks were still placed on the AFIBA center Feb 3.
Jumaane hopes that through public appeal and public support, the AFIBA center will continue to operate on Crenshaw Boulevard. He says he is prepared to provide any and all documents down to current insurance status to continue providing resources to the community.
“We cannot afford to lose any institutions. We are continuing to fight this battle to get this back in court where we can get everybody under oath and they can get up there and say what the real deal is.”
Today Marqueece Harris Dawson’s office released the following statement regarding the AFIBA center:
“On July 29, 2019, the African Firefighters in Benevolent Association was given a notice of Revocation of License at both addresses below. Additionally, they were required to provide keys to the building to the City of Los Angeles General Services Department. They refused to deliver keys. The change of locks comes after two years of meetings in an attempt to work with the African Firefighters in Benevolent Association to negotiate the use of the City owned property.
“In 2019, the Los Angeles Superior Court confirmed that AFIBA does not have a right to possession of the public City-owned Fire Station and property in question, located at Crenshaw and Slauson. The Court also authorized the City to take possession of its property through legal process. For many years, the City allowed AFIBA to use the public property free of charge to operate its programming as long as it met its obligations under a license agreement with the City. The City decided to terminate AFIBA’s license agreement in 2019 in order to make the facility more widely available to the community.
The City was fully entitled to do so under the terms of the license agreement. AFIBA is still welcome to resume its programming once again when it is safe to do so. AFIBA is not the owner of the property, nor has it ever been the owner of the property. AFIBA cannot dictate who can or cannot use the property and cannot prevent other community organizations from safely and productively accessing the facilities.”
“Community leaders in the Crenshaw District have litterally been locked out. Marqueece Harris-Dawson ignores this ruling and conducts an unethical lockout of the organization on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 during the height of a Federal, State and L.A. Countwide moratorium against evictions. This puts those he is trying to evict in jeopardy of unnecessary exposure to the international pandemic which is threatening us all.
This shows a true lack of character and integrity on behalf of Marqueece Harris-Dawson who is supposed to be working with stakeholders like the AFIBA organization, which has provided services and enhancements to the South L.A. community at this location for over 20 years. We never expected that we would receive such disrespect and disregard from an elected official who we’ve entrusted to elevate not denigrate constituents in this community! “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Institutions” do too! Maybe one day Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson will understand that.”
Get involved to save the AFIBA Center. Below is a compiled list of local representatives. Contact them and let them know you are concerned about the future of the AFIBA Center on Crenshaw.
Karen Bass (Congresswoman for California’s 37th District)
Twitter: @RepKarenBass (twitter.com/RepKarenBass)
Phone: (323) 965-1422 Fax: (323) 965-1113 (L.A. office)
Phone: (202) 225-7084 Fax: (202) 225-2422. (DC office)
Holly Mitchell (L.A. County Board of Supervisors- 2nd District)
Phone: (213) 974-2222 (office) (310) 680-8601 (Lennox office)
Eric Garcetti (L.A. Mayor)
Twitter: @MayorOfLA Phone: 311
Email: LAMayor.org/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: FB.com/MayorOfLA
Capri Maddox (L.A. Department of Civil &Human Rights)
Marqueece Harris-Dawson (Councilman 8th District)
Twitter: @mhdcd8 Phone: (213) 978-7008 and (213) 473-7008.