The Gospel
According to Los Angeles


By Anne Burke, Photos by Ann Johansson

Published Apr 1, 2006 12:00 PM

Gospel hip-hop singer Teddy Brooks,
with "Christ Life" tattooed on his chest.

Every Sunday morning, Anna DeLoach, a retired school bus driver from Carson, puts on an elegant three-piece suit of deep navy blue, slips into matching rhinestone-studded pumps, and perches a felt hat with iridescent feathers on her coiffed hair. She checks a full-length mirror.

“I’ve got to look good,” she says emphatically. Pleased with what she sees, the 62-year-old divorcée is ready for church — and some good,

L.A.-style gospel music. She slides into her Lincoln Mercury Town Car for the 12-mile drive up the 110 freeway to Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist, the church she has attended every Sunday for 38 years.

The voices that rise on Southern California Sunday mornings, from neighborhood houses of worship like Mount Moriah to megachurches like First A.M.E., are imbued with more than four decades of gospel history — a Los Angeles heritage that is “underappreciated and unrecognized,” says Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje M.A. ’72, Ph.D. ’78, chair of the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology and an expert on gospel.

But UCLA has embarked on a project to document and preserve L.A.’s role in the gospel story and detail the enormous influence this music, powered by the faith of millions, has had on a pantheon of other musical styles. Called Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles, or GALA, the project is a partnership between the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive and the Heritage Music Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit.

Find out how the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive is helping to preserve gospel music.

Visit the Ethnomusicology Archive and find out more about Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles.

GALA received funding support from UCLA in LA, an initiative operated by the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships in which faculty, students and staff work with community-based nonprofit organizations to find ways to address issues facing Los Angeles. Since its launch in 2002, UCLA in LA has partnered with 90 community organizations of all kinds in many different parts of the city.

DjeDje saw the need to preserve and celebrate L.A. gospel as a perfect task for the Ethnomusicology Archive, one of the top three such collections in the country. “Historically, the archive’s focus was on collecting material in faraway places, Asia and Africa and all parts of the world other than California,” she recalls. “So five or six years ago, when I became director of the archive, the department decided to establish a California collection. We have a world right here in Los Angeles, and we need to [preserve the] traditions here. Devoting attention to California is one way of making our holdings distinctive, making us different from other archives in other parts of the world.”

“This was really a model partnership, because it is an exemplar of engaged scholarship,” says Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., associate vice chancellor of the Center for Community Partnerships. “When you think about gospel, you don’t necessarily think about L.A., but when you think about the recording industry, you do connect it with L.A. So the notion of archiving that work and making it available to future generations also carried with it the prospect of Professor DjeDje doing some scholarship around the role of gospel music in L.A. Here was a very highly regarded senior scholar who has found a way to blend her scholarly interests with community interests in the Los Angeles area. And that’s what we want: projects that might otherwise not get done that allow us to make a contribution to Los Angeles with the input of the community.”