Sika doesn’t need a t-shirt. Sika is Leimert Park. He’s been Leimert Park and he’ll always be Leimert Park.
Trust me, there’s no measurable force in this world that’s going to take Sika away from Leimert Park, a neighborhood in South Los Angeles topographically marked by quaint Spanish Colonial homes, streets lined with the tallest palm trees you’ll ever see, and walls covered with murals nodding to its storied history as the cultural center of Black Los Angeles.
I was having a conversation with Milan Wilkinson, daughter of the shop’s hallowed namesake, and at one point she proclaimed, “America ain’t never been great okay.” After a brief pause she added, “Leimert Park was great.”
Indeed, there’s something inherently rooted in the fabric of Leimert Park, the unchangeable momentum of the neighborhood’s course motivated by an overabundance of inherent pride and a collective narrative that’s rooted in local mythology. This is where, in 1992 and just ahead of the Los Angeles Riots, Sika Dwimfo, whose own narrative from New Orleans, to Hyde Park, and ultimately to LA is itself ripe with rich storytelling, found his home.
The Leimert Park that Sika moved into was where Black people lived, where Black people created, and where Black people flourished. It was an artist community whose soundtrack was the jazz from the legendary musicians that had also found a home in the neighborhood. However, after the riots, Leimert Park’s identity as a black neighborhood became ever more powerful. And this is fundamentally it’s power, and it’s a power you see in only a handful of communities, most often Black and Brown, that makes Leimert Park so special.“I want a child to see that community,” said Milan. “I want people to see Leimert Park the way a child would see it.”
Of course, with every golden era comes the wrong people, the wrong time, and the wrong energy and suddenly it’s all gone. Rooted at the core of that narrative, however, is the wonder of a child that experienced it at its best. And that becomes an oral history that’s passed on from parent, to child, and on, and on, and on.
Sika didn’t plan on making the impact he did, he was just another creative in a neighborhood full of the best and brightest Black minds. Having found his craft during a boom in Egyptian and North African archaeology in the 1970s, he taught himself how to make African jewelry at a master level from scratch. But his inherent care for others meant that his way of living wasn’t relegated to personal edification and pretentious righteousness. He was a teacher first, jeweler second.
Sika’s own story along with his benevolence towards his community are what made him a legend and are what drive people to look to him for support when the community needs it most. And he’s been there when the community needed it most.
When Leimert Park fell into ownership that fundamentally evicted the cultural centers of the neighborhood, when it changed from jazz in the streets to becoming yet another example of a city neglecting a neighborhood of color, Sika had to fight to stay.
But Sika is Leimert Park. He’s been Leimert Park and he’ll always be Leimert Park. Indeed, he was always fighting for the neighborhood so, when the time came, Leimert Park fought for him.
So here we are, Sika is still in Leimert Park, specifically 4330 Degnan Boulevard. A sign from the riots indicating that it’s a black owned business still hangs on a window. Leimert Park is still a black neighborhood. And Milan, along with a number of her contemporaries, are continuing to tell the story.
“This is our neighborhood and we’re gonna keep it, and own things, and take care of it,” said Milan. “I’ll fight for anything that has to do with Leimert.”
As the neighborhood enters another cultural renaissance, Sika stands as a symbol of the neighborhood’s flow from highest highs to lowest lows and, most importantly, of its resilience. It’s community after all. Milan exclaimed as we neared the end of our conversation, “I’m never moving from my neighborhood. Are you crazy?”
Sika doesn’t need a t-shirt. It doesn’t need much of anything to keep it afloat because the community’s there and will always be there. The community’s been there during the riots, during a period of growth, a period of death, a pandemic, and social revolution.
“We’re the storytellers of Leimert, keeping that legacy alive of what it was, what it is, and what it will be.” If these shirts offer anything, it’s a view to a neighborhood of defiance and resilience. It’s a view to why “Leimert Park is great.”
The Sika 2020 collection was created exclusively to celebrate and support the master jeweler, entrepreneur, photographer, cyclist and longtime community icon Sika. 100% of all sales proceeds will go to directly to Sika to support our elder in a time of unexpected pandemic and social flux.
The Sika 2020 collection is an independent collaboration between run crews founded in and inspired by Los Angeles: Black Roses NYC/ROSESwest, UNDO, Good Vibes Track Club and Miles Don't Lie.
The Sika collection offers a black tee, and oversized black tank and a black performance singlet created with running and other active pursuits in mind.Both the tee and the tank are cut and sewn in LA from locally sourced vintage open-ended piece dyed 20/1 jersey cotton.The performance singlet is cut and sewn in LA with a 320g poly/lycra eyelet mesh with anti microbial and wicking properties.
Creative direction by Knox
Design direction by Nai Vasha
Collection design by Nai Vasha
Storytelling by Jeggi
Photography by Andrew in Leimert Park Village on 14 June 2020.
Thank you to our models Erica, Erin and Coza
1995 Volvo 850 courtesy of Fred
1987 Bianchi Sport SX courtesy of Milan
Site design by Toby
Original product created in collaboration with Sauri of Los Angeles. Thank you to Milan, Marvin, Bayano, Erika, Sharada.