Thursday, April 26, 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn

April 29 brought power to the people, and we might see a sequel.
- Ice Cube, "Wicked"


It has been fifteen years. Fifteen years since the city of Los Angeles was burned, almost beyond recognition. Fifteen years city since the powder keg exploded, since the weeds came up and choked the life out of the community. Since the tears turned to anger, turned to rage, turned to violence, turned to exploitation, then turned to recovery.

We, the citizens of the City of Angels, witnessed it firsthand. It was MORE than anger. It was confusion, frustration, and anger. It was Daryl Gates and LAPD's finest in rare form. It was trying to figure out, at a very young age, "Where is the hell IS Simi Valley, anyway?"

It's not so much important to get into the minutia details of what happened on Florence and Normandie. All of us know them. And it only takes going down one of our many streets that NEVER recovered, where the buildings are dilapidated, or GONE, replaced with nothing but bitterness, violence, and memories of how and why it happened.

Just as everyone can remember where you were and what you were doing during 09/11, or the OJ verdict, we all remember how we felt and where we were when this story broke.

We weren't surprised at the video that emerged when we saw Rodney King. Our thought was "Oh, so now they have it on tape". We WERE, however, surprised that they changed venues, and relocated the trial to bum fuck Egypt, otherwise known as Simi Valley, a suburbian community that is at least 45 minutes outside of Greater Los Angeles. But hey, from a technical perspective what should that matter for us, because there WAS a tape, and there WAS the evidence. Mind you, we knew that Rodney King was a hot mess and probably had one too many Remy's or Sticky Icky's, but what we saw on those tapes was not restraint, it was brutal assault. Moreover, it just looked TOO EASY. . .The officers looked like they were playing caroms with their sticks.

Then, the verdict was announced.

For myself, I was at home that day from work and school. My mother had went to a funeral. I was stunned. The tears burned in the back of my irises. I didn't know what to think. Then I saw what was happening on Florence and Normandie. What they call South Central LA. What we call a couple of blocks West of the 110 Freeway. . .And it just grew, and grew, and grew. The Los Angels Riots ha

For most of us in Los Angeles, everything that was happening was surreal. We did everything, including stocking up on food and water, thinking that it would be a shortage. My School (California State University, Los Angeles), closed up for the rest of the week. There was NO Internet boon at the time, and you only had a cell phone if you were doctor or a drug dealer, so you were glued to the TV, transfixed by what you saw, you were running to your phone because someone paged you :P or you were going to page someone.

It felt like the LA Riots would never end. And, to some degree, it hasn't.

And the grassroots healing began. All kinds of Non Profit (read: Suspect) organizations came out of the woodwork. The "Rebuild LA" project came to the forefront, and now downtown LA has is turning into a major place to be. (anyone who lives down here knows that at this point, you best not be caught dead down there after 8pm unless you're going to see the Lakers). Somebody was somewhere. I know people that were getting their hair braided at the time, I know folks that were DOING TIME, that lived right in the thick of it, and who participated in in. For all of us Angelenos and those who understood across the nation, it was a turning point. Whether you were hurt by it, saw it as an opportunity to rob and steal, or figured it had to be tore down to get some attention, we are still here. We are still standing.

We are, the people of the City of Angeles. We are the Angelenos.

What do YOU remember about the Los Angeles Riots? Where were YOU?

13 comments:

Aly Cat 121 said...

I was on "The Town" aka Oakland, cuz that's where I'm from. I remember being all shocked since I was so young and believed in justice. My parents just shrugged and went on about their business cuz they said they didn't expect anything different.

I do remember being hella mad after it sunk in and wanting to be in LA real bad. And I remember when they said LA was on fire all I could remember thinkin was "burn Hollywood burn" cuz I wanted the plantation burned down to the ground and all it's evils with it. . . . *sigh* being young and 20, humph.

P said...

@ Aly Cat. . .

I feel you. You make a good point. I remember my mom not being nearly as shocked as I was. She is from Lous-Anna, and she was CERTAINLY not surprised.

I think that was affected us most (we are nearly the same age, I was 21 when it happened) was that this was at least for me, my first official experience with injustice, you know). A significant impace.

And as for you wanting to be in LA. People that I knew in different areas, it just felt so GOOD to know that everyone cared, and we want you to know that WE knew that everyone around the country cared, and symphathized with us, even if they didn't agree with us. Whether this was meant to happen or not, no one wanted to SEE it happen.

Jaimie said...

thanks for coming back to my blog, and yes, you can laugh at me falling down a flight of stairs. it was meant to be funny.

i was in high school.

i remember everything.

nice memoir. beautifully written.

The Mistress said...

I don't remember a lot about it because I was only 11 but the acquittal STILL shocks me to this day. How in the bejesus did that happen? Unfortunately injustices like that happen every day and there's no end in sight. Skin color has a major impact on the scales of lady justice.

Koolbreeze said...

i remember watching the LA riots on tv... but thats about it. i don't know what i thought of it. i was kind of young.
i was 15 and i wasn't into watching the news when the whole OJ thing went down. so i really don't remember much. i remember i was on the phone with my boy friend while OJ was driving down the highway... so i wasn't paying attention! but i remember seeing bits and pieces on the entertainment news. i pretty much gathered my opinions from others cause i really didn't understand much of it.

email me about the quilt.

Miz JJ said...

I remember watching it on TV and not understanding how it all came to be. The verdict, the riots...all of it. My parents were not shocked either. When they were deciding to where to move before leaving England they told me they considered the US because of all the family we have there, but the overt racism stopped them. My parents were not surprised either. If anything they think the US is much worse than it actually may be.

smoothie said...

i was sitting at home pissed that they broke through the rockets playoff game with this garbage..atleast I got satisfaction watching LA take back the streets...I swear to everything, I thought LA was going to have marshall law evoked..Of course some of us in Houston got bored and decided to run up on a couple of public events, but it was pretty quiet in htown for the most part....

The Phoenix aka ThatGirlTam said...

Yo...all I know is that they burned down the 1 hour photo where I took my pictures on my 20th birthday THE DAY I WAS GONNA GO PICK THEM MUTHA FUCKAS UP!! I was at home getting ready for work when the verdicts were announced. Then I went to work and they had every television tuned to the news...and we watched the city burn. It was a scary time...and with my mom being Chinese and all, my dad was afraid for my mother to go to work because he feared for her safety...cuz you know black folks can't tell us apart! HAHAHAHAHA!! But on the real...that was a weird time for me...

P said...

@ Tam:

You wrong for bringing up the one hour photo. . .LMAO!! What you know bout that. . .

Miss Ahmad said...

i was working in san francisco at the time, and we were all told to pack up and go home when the rioting started in LA because they figured it would be wide spread.

having no experience with riots in my lifetime i didn't know what to expect but having grown up in oakland i was all too familiar to with police brutality and no justice no peace~

Just Me ! said...

I dont remember where I was but I remember feeling so angry - so very angry ..

I felt like we had fooled ourselves to even think they would be punished for what they did ..

shit aint much changed since the 1800's really.. we are just enslaved in different ways now

bottom line a white man can still kill a black man and get off ..period

sad but true

P said...

@ Just me:

Re what you said: I felt like we had fooled ourselves to even think they would be punished for what they did ..

I couldn't have said it better. . .

The Sarccastik Variable Why said...

had to stop thru and see how you are doing?!?!?!? hope things are well...