I was born, raised and proud to be from that area Of course, the L.A. City Council in 2003 (the same year the Voices of South Central was released) passed a resolution to name this community South Los Angeles. In my opinion, a name change will do no good if the conditions that led to that decision continue to persist. That being said, there were problems long before the Unrest of 1992 resulting from the not guilty verdict from the Rodney King trial. I am not proud, never will be, of my fellow citizens looting burned stores. There, I said it. However, I am equally not as proud in a justice system that failed the family of a fifteen year old girl who was gunned down and the indisputable evidence of a police beating that should have resulted in some form of punishment.
In both cases, physically or mentally, there was looting from all sides. The theft of physical items and the robbery of hopes. You may not see it that way, but then again, I warned you I was biased with this subject.
As a result of the anger, the fury and the manifestation of that, what happened in that week or eruption showed me truly what this country was all about. In some of my earlier poems, I knew the tough talk and hypocritical slow action of politicians didn’t amount to much, but when South Central erupted in flames, their fiery rhetoric came to life in the deployment of the National Guard. They came, they patrolled, they ‘kept’ the peace, and all that remained…..was this……….
Flash forward almost twenty years later……
Was this our revolution? Did we defeat our oppressors? If so, how? I’m still shaking my head figuring out how we won. Yes, the Koreans who owned swap meets are gone, if that was the goal, but….in our misguided anger, we burned our own shops, our own stores. We forced our brothas and sistahs out of a job, even the owners of certain stores had to post ‘Black Owned’ so they wouldn’t be targeted. Again, if this was our revolution, did we win? What did we gain? The result and painful answer after all these years has been a resounding no.
We were so anxious to claim victory over the dominant society that we lose focus on building a firm community in the long run. A revolution can’t be won in one protest, it has to be a succession of sustained discontent that evidently wins listeners to your side. The Civil Rights Movement which was a quiet revolution, succeeded. When we started burning Chicago, Newark, and Watts, a brief moment of satisfaction may have filled our hearts….but the opposition always has a counter offensive and in all of these cases, all it took was to simply take the financial structure they had and left residents to ‘fend’ for themselves.
The weeds have taken over the lots where we should have built our own stores and shops, keeping the money in our neighborhoods, but here’s the catch: we don’t own the land as written in the last article. The Los Angeles Times has two articles dealing with the owner of two of these burned out lots….
Vermont Knolls – Can the Vermont/Manchester Project Be Saved?
For example, Vermont Knolls as it is now called, should be ripe with storefronts as it once had, but again, when you don’t own land in your own community, you do not call the shots. Someone from the 619, 714, 818, or 909 calls them for you. If you’re fortunate, you may be able to own a small space between blocks. However, there’s just not enough….at least not enough as our community leaders and activists called for back in May 1992.
Gil Scott-Heron was correct when he said ‘The Revolution will not be televised’. Truth is, this revolution [in name only] was televised and we had lost without knowing the tremendous price we had to pay and still do to this day. It’s one thing when you’re in the moment using emotion instead of focusing on the bigger picture to declare you’re making changes. Those outside the area know long term planning is what wins the day. It’s the American way.
Back with perhaps the final chapter next time when ‘everybody let go’.