Talk at Presbybop’s “Jazz and the Church” Conference, New York. 11 pp.
Azusa Street today is a garbage-strewn lane tucked away in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, about 5 miles from my home in East L.A. The teeming tourists and transients are ignorant about its historical significance in the history of multiculturalism. There is no indication that this back alley was once the place where the first African American Methodist Episcopal Church was located, founded by Biddie Mason, who was the first black slave to win her freedom in California courts. Or that later on, Azusa Street was an immigrant neighborhood, first Jewish, then Japanese, and now home to the Japanese American Cultural Center. But the real story of Azusa Street is that it was the epicenter of one of the most radical moments in the history of the North American Christianity.