In the final moments of a celebration to mark his 80th birthday, Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton) looked out over an emptying hotel ballroom and offered a thought about the future of black politics in Los Angeles.
"There are no safe black districts anymore," he said. "We have to look at politics differently now."
Much has changed in the 44 years since Dymally won his first Assembly seat in a stretch of south Los Angeles County that is home to one of the largest concentrations of black voters west of the Mississippi. A steady migration of African Americans to outlying areas and a massive influx of Latinos have eroded the traditional breadbasket of black political strength from Crenshaw to Compton, and these demographic changes have taken their toll.