Behold: The Colberts of Compton replicate on L.A. Black historical past

Growing up in Compton, David Colbert Jr. at all times knew he was surrounded by greatness — even when the skin world couldn’t see it but.

He may level to the tennis courts the place Venus and Serena Williams honed their expertise. He’d watched Kendrick Lamar’s rise to rap superstardom. He went to Dominguez High School with future Oscar-winning director Travon Free, who gained a statuette for his movie “Two Distant Strangers.” He watched former NBA stars Tayshaun Prince and Tyson Chandler play in highschool basketball video games.

A man stands in front of a large window next to a painting hanging on the wall.

David Colbert Jr. in his Gallery 90220.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“What sets Compton apart is that we have a long lineage of success stories,” mentioned Colbert, a gallery proprietor and longtime artwork curator. “So I always took pride in that and wanted to leave my mark.”

That’s why when SoLa Impact — an inexpensive housing and actual property funding firm — supplied Colbert a possibility to open the primary enterprise inside its South L.A. advanced generally known as the Beehive in 2021, Colbert made positive to symbolize his hometown proper from the bounce.

“I could have named the gallery anything,” he mentioned about Gallery 90220, which is impressed by his Compton ZIP code. “But it was important for me to say like, ‘Hey, I’m 90220. I’m from Compton’ in any space.” He plans to open a large-scale gallery or museum in Compton within the close to future.

Colbert’s dedication to his hometown, whether or not it’s by means of Gallery 90220 or the Compton Art Walk — which he launched in 2018 — stems from his roots within the metropolis, which return three generations.

At 85, his solely dwelling grandparent, Maryland Morris, is among the many oldest dwelling residents in Compton. Colbert’s dad and mom, Yolondra and David Colbert Sr., who’ve been married for greater than 40 years, met at Compton High School and frequently volunteer at their alma mater and with different native nonprofit organizations. And Colbert’s youthful sister, Christian, has a clothes model known as Compton Flight Crew, which pays homage to their hometown.

A man stands pointing to a painting of a family

David Colbert Sr., factors to a portray of himself and his sisters as youngsters, painted by his oldest granddaughter, Leslie Colbert, from {a photograph} taken a few months earlier than the 1965 Watts Uprising.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“Our passion for the city is multigenerational,” Colbert mentioned.

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Born in Chicago, Morris — Colbert’s maternal grandmother — moved to L.A. together with her mom and sister when she was a preschooler. Her mom had simply gotten a divorce and needed to be nearer to her brother, who already lived within the metropolis, which had been providing extra job alternatives to Black folks.

Morris had fond recollections of her South L.A. neighborhood, which was numerous, however by 1962, she discovered herself in Compton, the place she was capable of fulfill certainly one of her lifetime targets: buying her own residence. With three youngsters, together with Colbert’s mom, Yolondra, Morris stayed house whereas her then-husband labored. She later went on to turn into an occupational therapist and earn her bachelor’s diploma on-line at age 72.

“I’m a go-getter,” Morris mentioned, including that the ladies in her household have handed down their drive to her. “I’ve carried that on with my children,” and now they’ve taught that to their youngsters.

“It’s just amazing to me and I’m just so proud of it. It actually brings tears to my eyes,” Morris added. “We’re just a proud family. Always have been.”

She’s stayed in Compton, dwelling in the identical home that she bought greater than 50 years in the past. Her group, which has gone from primarily Black within the Seventies to largely Latino, has modified considerably, however her purpose for staying within the metropolis is easy: “I just love Compton,” she mentioned. “It’s a beautiful city and I’ve been here for so long.”

The journey to Compton for Colbert’s paternal facet of the household was a lot completely different. His grandfather — a blues musician who glided by the title Stormy Herman — left his house in Louisiana after each of his dad and mom died. As an adolescent within the Thirties, he bounced across the nation, changing into engulfed within the rising Delta Blues scene, earlier than making his option to L.A. In the late Nineteen Fifties, he married Colbert’s grandmother, Vernice, who was additionally from Louisiana.

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The couple had 4 youngsters, together with Colbert’s father, David, and moved right into a small duplex in Watts, which was among the many few neighborhoods the place Black folks have been allowed to reside attributable to restrictive covenants, he mentioned. But their lives modified after the Watts Riots occurred in 1965.

“We literally lived a couple of blocks from the downtown area, so I remember the flames,” mentioned 61-year-old David, who was 4 years outdated on the time. “I can remember standing on the curb, looking at white national guards holding guns, literally riding down my street.”

When phrase started to unfold that Black folks may purchase houses in Compton — which was thought-about a suburb on the time, in accordance with David — his household jumped on the alternative.

He later met his spouse, Yolondra, by means of a mutual good friend throughout his senior 12 months at Compton High School. The couple acquired married shortly after commencement and determined to plant their very own roots within the metropolis, shopping for a home — the place they nonetheless reside right now — in 1985.

 A multimedia art piece depicts tennis coach Richard Williams and his tennis star daughters Venus and Serena

An artwork piece that includes Compton-based tennis coach Richard Williams and his tennis-star daughters Venus and Serena hangs in David Colbert Jr’s Gallery 90220 in Compton.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“We practice what we preach,” mentioned David, who was a meat supervisor for 35 years. “Instead of talking about being from Compton” after which shifting to the suburbs, “I preach to my kids, ‘You’re from Compton, then you need to be in Compton.’ You have to bring positive change.”

The couple, who’re longtime actual property buyers, can usually be seen promoting soul meals by means of their vendor enterprise, Colbert’s Southern Gourmet, at native occasions, together with Colbert’s Compton Art Walk.

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In some ways, every technology of the Colberts has turn into synonymous with group service and Compton, which is one thing that they’ve prided themselves on. And that constructive status, alongside together with his personal motivation and creative style, is what’s helped Colbert turn into a widely known connector not solely within the artwork world, but additionally in leisure.

Stepping within Gallery 90220 — Colbert’s first gallery — his ardour for amplifying Black historical past and tradition is palpable. There’s a dedication wall full of covers of the historic Jet journal — the historic Black-owned publication — that he created with USC lecturer and Gensler designer Kevin Sherrod. A current exhibit by New Orleans-born photographer Delaney George depicts all Black girls.

Another exhibition by L.A.-based artist Will Raojenina options work of assorted notable Black athletes together with Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan and the Williams sisters. Both artists have been capable of showcase their work at Frieze Los Angeles — the huge artwork honest — due to Colbert.

As a Montreal native, Raojenina struggled to interrupt into the artwork scene when he moved to L.A. almost two years in the past. For some galleries, “if you’re not poppin’ or you’re not someone who’s considered well known, then they don’t really mess with you. But [Colbert] gave me a chance,” mentioned Raojenina, who held his first solo exhibition at Gallery 90220.

A man stands with his parents outside a modest house.

David Colbert Sr., at proper outdoors his Compton house with spouse Yolondra and son, David Colbert Jr., says: “I preach to my kids, ‘You’re from Compton, then you need to be in Compton.’ You have to bring positive change.”

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Raojenina added that Colbert is “literally opening doors, but he’s also connecting us with other people in art and other creatives,” which is invaluable.

Colbert frequently sprinkles within the names of different creatives in numerous fields throughout dialog. It’s pure for him and is the principle purpose that he opens his gallery as much as others, particularly these from his hometown. Since opening, Gallery 90220 has hosted the whole lot from e-book signings to networking occasions and panels, and Colbert has even let musicians shoot music movies there.

Reflecting on his private journey and that of his household’s, Colbert’s mindset is smart.

“I know what it’s like not to have access to things,” Colbert mentioned. “So if I can help other creatives have it easier,” then that’s what I’m going to do. “I’m always sensitive to somebody’s comeup and their start, and I think people who are talented deserve space. So I always like to share space and elevate others.”