Los Angeles, Calif.: Sunday morning. Crenshaw, South Los Angeles. A young, hip and well-dressed black couple enter a beautiful, new restaurant in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Yes, this is the very same Crenshaw from Boyz n the Hood. But the hateful turf wars the movie brought to light, while they still exist, have subsided significantly.

Crenshaw is one of many neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles that has made major strides in overcoming obstacles like stereotypes, impoverishment and violence over the last several years.

It has also become, like the surrounding City of Angels, incredibly diverse. Religiously diverse, that is.

“There’s a ton of religious diversity and freedom here,” Lewis says, as a Hindu couple walks inside behind them. “It’s really benefited the area we’ve called home for almost three decades.”

Every Sunday represents the climax of a typical week for residents like Crenshaw natives Lewis and Shondrell—weeks filled with religion, sanctity and diversity throughout one of the busiest and most congested cities in the world.

The signs of fast-food restaurants still line the streets; Michelle’s Country Diner lies adjacent to a towering Taco Bell. But the wooden and ceramic decorations inside and outside the diner, combined with its patrons on this day, prove the area is rejuvenating and its diversity is persisting.

Religious diversity has not held that resurgence back; rather, it encourages those born and raised here like Lewis and Shondrell to stay, even after they’ve found success as business professionals. The pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses has just arrived from their Sunday worship.


Sunday evening. Many of the 22,000 members of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ (COGIC), only about a mile away from Michelle’s, pack the gorgeous mega-church’s pews, holding hands and joining in song. To unknowing passersby, the unpleasant history of the neighborhood once decimated by gangs and poverty is in part veiled by the prosperity of religion.

John Patton, an elder at the church, has lived in Crenshaw since 1979. He believes the diversity of the neighborhood does a good job in reflecting biblical purpose.

“I don’t believe God’s plan was for us to be segregated, so I believe diversity was God’s intentions for us to be together,” he says. “The enemy of God is isolation. On the contrary, this religious diversity brings people together.”

Of course, diversity alone won’t necessarily bring people under the same roof. For example, Christian’s are unlikely to head to Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah, the Muslim mosque nearby. But the enablement and promotion of religious diversity has brought men, women and children together into the same community by making people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds feel welcome.

At West Angeles, there are parishioners who started from little to nothing, but built livelihoods through hard work. Yet again, many elected to stay put rather than moving away. Religion is a major reason why.

“I had nothing, I really didn’t,” says DeLeesa Carr, member of the church. “But I had Jesus, and He inspired me to stay even when I made something of myself.”

Throughout the week, L.A.’s religious diversity doesn’t shutter up; rather, it continues to show its true colors.


Wednesday night. It’s bible study at Crenshaw Church of Christ, an institution of another religious denomination on West Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Attendees discuss similar issues to the ones the Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of COGIC engaged in over the weekend, such as the bible, salvation and America’s current political climate. Once again, the diversity is openly encouraged and appreciated.

“Today we welcome with open arms a reporter from USC. Even though he is a part of a different religion, everyone is our brother and sister and we appreciate those from other cultures wanting to learn more about our ways,” preaches Minister Tyson Moore. “Amen!” responds the audience.


Friday night. Jews like that reporter attend Shabbat services, some at grandiose synagogues in the wealthy pockets of Beverly Hills, and others at more traditional temples in places like Crenshaw. This diversity is not a negative; it simply shows how people not too far away from each other yet from diverse, socioeconomic backgrounds can and do maintain the same beliefs.

Additionally, while some service-goers may be reform and just go for the home-cooked Jewish meals, others keep kosher and curl their sideburns, providing secular diversity within a religion as well.


Sunday again. Many religious folks sit in Mass. Others, however, aren’t fortunate enough to have that opportunity; they can’t afford to take a day off from their business, despite their strong religious ties.

While Crenshaw and parts of DTLA are among several areas that have rebounded, the same cannot be said for the entire city, like parts of Westlake. The infrastructure, cleanliness and overall aesthetic appeal among other components to city life are clearly lacking.

According to Carlos, son of the owner of Wisdom Products Botanica on West 6th St., religion and its diversity can serve other purposes: hope, assistance and perhaps even a bit of magic.

“They’re very important because they help people with problems,” he says. “They’re spiritual remedies instead of medicine.”

Carlos is discussing the spiritual readings, figurines and incenses that comprise his mother’s shop. However, the same words can also be used to describe religion in the more typical sense, like singing and praying at services, which thousands of people throughout the city partake in throughout the day.

The importance of diversity may take different forms, but nevertheless stretches through all facets of Angeleno religion.


And so goes a typical week in religiously diverse Los Angeles. Certain areas have prospered for decades while others are just now beginning to do so, as some still struggle to scrape by. Yet the religious diversity here knows no bounds, and plays an enormous role in the formation of Los Angeles as we know it.

***Note: The reporter translated one of the interviews for this story from Spanish. Additionally, all interviewees identified only by their first names preferred to have their last names left out of the article.