Two things from the above video out of a lot of things. First, I agree with Tupac that America will either live or die by its stereotypes and how it handles its own ignorance, which it often ignores. The election of President Obama proves it’s hard for anyone to tell others to ‘get over it’ when they have a problem doing it themselves.
Second – and I will possibly be mercilessly slaughtered on this – I disagree with Pac in that there was NO unity during the Unrest among us. Let me explain.
As the Unrest grew and folks were venting out their frustrations due not only to the Rodney King trial verdict, but the pent up feelings from the Latasha Harlins case. It had been believed among everyone in the community that perhaps a guilty plea of the four officers involved of brutality in the King trial would be a ‘trade-off’ of sorts since Ms. Harlins’s killer only received probation. It was the hope, at least.
When everything exploded and ‘everybody let go’, nothing was spared: Korean swap meets, grocery stores owned by corporations which didn’t belong in the hood and caught in the middle of all this? Black owned businesses as mentioned in the last entry. Although the residents had no intent of setting these businesses ablaze or looting from stores that served the neighborhood, they were nothing more than sacrificial lambs in the war against residents and those who profited from the community yet gave nothing back.
Trust me, I know why folks were ticked off (a kinder way of stating how they really felt) and justifiably so. However, as a strategy of gaining attention to the larger society, what does it mean when we burn down our own stores (although not the property) claiming some sort of unity has been achieved? When we set out after the Unrest to ‘do for self’ we failed to do just that. While the Watts rebellion resulted in gaining services to the community which were long ignored, the subsequent burnings in other cities afterwards only served as an advantage towards the dominant society in planning laws to benefit their side, using propaganda to elect ‘law and order’ politicians and taking away programs that could have helped our communities. After all this time, we see the results don’t we? Even as Pac spills truth from his lips, has it really all changed twenty years later? Will it ever change? I don’t have the answer – but you do reading this. It’s always been up to you.
You know, as I was watching these videos and reading these past articles, a thought came to me. Say a man or woman who decided to ‘do for self’ and establish a business in the community and provided great service for years suddenly was faced with the prospect of discovering their business raided, materials taken, everything gone in a sudden rash of anger or charred debris. Perhaps that person lived to hear and watch both Malcolm and King or even follow the philosophies of DuBois and Washington and trusted in the community to support their business. Now that’s all gone. How can we build a community within ourselves when we’re so busy constantly destroying it? Not so much by the actions of pillaging our own shops and stores during the Unrest, but the constant refusal to support each other after the fires had died down? The Mom and Pop store on 92nd and Broadway was lauded as a great achievement. Another great achievement was the fact brothers decided to take over deserted storefronts and operated shop there. Yet, for all the talk, all the rhetoric of ‘doing for self’, we didn’t do it. So what was and still is the point of insisting ‘Blacks need to….” Or “Blacks should……” when there are businesses already in operation and no one takes a bother to show up? What does that say?
This hurts to say, but the South Los Angeles I grew up in for most of my life is dead. It has been dead for years. True, it was never a thriving community like Beverly Hills or the Westside and there is no problem for the private sector to build an LA Live rather to invest in Rebuild L.A. As a commercial and retail region, we lived off the dying Newberry and Thrifty retail and drug stores. Once they were first sold off by Korean merchants, then burned in the fires, it was never the same again. I remember when Sears was present in a local neighborhood, where although businesses continued to flee after Watts, a few stayed and remained. I also remembered the clothing stores, the religious bookstores, the liquor stores which I have to say had NO place in our community and if there was a ‘silver lining’ to the Unrest, was that the desire to have these places in our area was nil. Today, there are far less of them now than they were in 1992. Perhaps their mission some would say has been accomplished due to the numbers of men and women under the alcoholic influence. I wouldn’t deny that at all.
Perhaps it was the battle between blue and red that caused the death of the community in which I lived in, with drive-by shootings becoming more and more common and dominated the top of the evening newscasts as more families suffered tragedy and heartbreak. Personally, I’ve lost friends and former students to the senseless violence surrounding our streets. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, the pain is deep and so, so real. You have NO idea how it feels and while you may think it’s not a ‘big deal’, I beg to differ. These young men and women could have contributed in some way to improving their lives, their families and possibly the neighborhood circle in which they came from. However, that’s a chapter that will remain unopened for eternity….
As for the young men and women still caught up into believing their ‘set’ is the all and end all of their existence, my heart goes out to them. They really don’t learn until they lose someone close to them or they fortunately happen to live a long life to understand what life means to them. Everyone wants to blame hip hop music for the cultivating the mindset of violence, but for those of us who grew up in the Southside and places like it, the words “everybody gotta die sometime” wasn’t mentioned in a rap song by 2Pac, Ice Cube or NWA. They were uttered back in the 1970’s, long before the music genre became a force in the community. They were spoken from the lips by these same young men and women who didn’t believe they had a life to live and respect for other’s lives, especially our own…is important.
So I say all this to disagree with Pac only in that our unity was stripped years ago, long before ‘No Justice, No Peace’ back in 1992. For example:
Crack destroyed our bodies and our minds. Without sensible, intelligent minds, it’s difficult to solve the ills of our community such as owning property and really building our stores. It can be argued alcohol did it first as mentioned before, but crack was definitely the killing blow. Not only the usage, but the profiteering of the product continues the great chasm in our communities. Death, corruption, all of those things you’ve seen on television or the movies is very, very real with no end in sight. The White Plague killing us off one at a time.
The availability of high-powered weapons on the streets. I challenge anyone to do a study of the number of drive-by shootings in the last thirty years or so and tell all of us what type of guns were used. I would wager that in that study, you will see rifles used for wars in other countries. South Los Angeles is not at war with anyone, but you can’t tell by the number of lives taken. I’ll let experienced voices than myself debate where these weapons appeared from and why. I’m sure there will be a plethora of truth in these debates.
All the other reasons have been touched on all these series of posts, but read through each entry in this series and if you find there’s something that should have been touched on, you write it and I’ll post it. Deal?
As far as ‘everybody let go’ from Pac’s “I Wonder if Heaven Got A Ghetto”, let me say that the title of the song is no different than our ancestors believing the only true freedom they’ll have – is death. Maybe I’m wrong, I’ll gladly accept that. However, growing up in South Los Angeles and listing all the examples mentioned…. Places like Vermont Knolls, Marlton Square in the Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills area and several other places deeply affected will be back. The question is, how soon? As long as outside interests sit on empty pockets of land and continue to profit from it, rebuilding South Los Angeles continues to be an indefinite task resulting in broken promises, stalled efforts and total indifference. At least L.A. Live will continue to flourish.
This is not the end of the story. Within the next month, local and national media will offer ‘their side’ of the narrative, just as the video clips on this site showed all of us from the Unrest itself. There will be an attempt to rewrite history, to favor the specifics on the Unrest on the side of those who don’t know, don’t want to show, don’t care about what happens in the hood. Expect it. It’s going to happen. When it does, perhaps we’ll delve deeper into what Pac prophesied to understand the main reason why ‘everybody let go.” Because in our sad history, chances are there will be The Fire Next Time and this time….it may blaze out of control.
Here’s Pac’s ‘I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto’ for your listening (dis) pleasure. Enjoy.