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Reactions: A Message to Black Women in 1997

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Just so we know

Hello,

This is Charles L. Chatmon, author of The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central. Years ago, under my AOL screen name of CChat66, I participated in a tribute to black women with three other gentlemen. We used my poem “A Message to Black Women” at the time in the chat room we frequented. The poem proved to be so successful, one of the men worked a deal with Net Noir when it was on AOL to reserve chat rooms called “Celebrity Spotlight” for the typing of the poem. Below are the reactions and powerful responses of  A Message to Black Women, now found in The Depths of My Soul. At the conclusion of the comments below, I’ll have some news for you regarding the poem and where you can get a copy of the book. Who knew that one little poem could set off such a firestorm of goodwill and love? (smile)

Take care.

Charles L. Chatmon

Net Noir 1997

August 9, 1997

Netnoir Online presents….

A Celebration of Black Women

You are cordially invited to receive the greatest gift a Black man can give a Black woman.

Email reactions from those who read the poem in its entirety – not to mention the three straight hours of IM’s I received) The screen names of those individuals who sent emails to me WILL NOT be posted for the sake of privacy. This is just to show you what one poem can do to help each one of us realize we need each other. Nuff said.

Let me thank you for your lovely poem and the sincerity that it holds. It’s so nice to know that there are some sensitive, loving, open and giving black men out there with such an attitude toward black women.

I think your poem is a wonderful tribute to women of color everywhere!!! Wish every Black woman had a Black man with your sensitivity and understanding.

Thank you for sharing with me. I love it.

It is not very often that I am speechless. I just don’t know what to say. Your poem had such lovely sentiment.

That is what is needed in today’s society, support. We CAN make it….TOGETHER.

It was truly wonderful, and it makes a sister’s heart joyful to know that there are still some brothers out there that really and truly love BLACK WOMEN!

It’s been a while since I read a poem which I LIKED immediately. Your poem A Message to Black Women was amazing. I don’t do poetry well…..but yours hit home and made me want to shout AMEN! How clear, touching, and yes, loving it was. I hope I find my Black king and when I do we will stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand. Thank you for a most wonderful gift.

Dear CChat66,
Thank you for making it easy to get to your poetry. I am enjoying reading and can see it is truly from your soul. Keep up the good work and continue to allow words of love to flow from your heart.

CC,
I so regret that I was not able to make it to the room for the real presentation of the poem. I had it forwarded to me. Not good to read at work and get all teary eyed. The poem reflected my reasoning why I will never give up on my black men.

Hello CChat66,
That was a dynamic, truly beautiful poem! Would love to read more of your poems. Truly excellent!

Thank you so much for sharing. I love it. Your are a very good poet. It shows that you write from your soul.

That is truly a very beautiful poem…..your delivery was great and your timing too.

The poem, “A Message to Black Women” was powerful and very informative. It gave me a sense of sweet understanding as a woman. It was like finally someone is saying the truth. I loved it. So thanks for your positive vibes.

Your poem was very inspiring as well as beautiful.

I found it to be very inspirational and passed it on to others, both male and female…….those who did not attend or attended late missed a treat.

This is just a quick message to let you know I enjoyed your gift of self expression. It inspired me to place pen to paper again. Thank you.

Thanks for such a nice poem. Nice to know we do have some true black men out there.

I was at the reading of your poem on Saturday evening and I must say I was extremely impressed. Very few Black men today have genuine respect and love for their Black women. It is refreshing to see that there are at least a few true black men still out there who feel the Black woman deserves some type of a tribute. Thank you again for your message of strength, pride, devotion, love, and respect for the Black woman.

Hello, I just wanted to let you know that I received a copy of your poem and it was very deep. I really enjoyed reading it.

Thank you for a positive message. I, and many of my friends, really needed that. What a welcome change from what we hear most from the ‘men’ we meet.

I am sure everyone was glad to see what you had to say. There was a great deal of interest, even after you signed off. It is a sad commentary that we are still going after each other’s throats. There are some very unhappy people and it seems to perpetuate itself. Thank you for the love you expressed in your poetry and for your words of encouragement and gratitude. It warms my spirit.

From one of the moderators on Net Noir:

NetNoir would like to thank you! Your tribute was beautiful.

I notice that there were 2 other rooms (one with 48 and one with 10) of people trying to get in to ‘hear’ your words. (big smile)

One man responded:
 I want to do something special for that special Black lady in my life. I was not able to attend to get the poem live because we were enjoying the sun setting behind the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Would you please send me the poem so that I may present it to her? (to the moderator of NetNoir – forwarded to me)

So now that you’ve read the many positive and encouraging messages to me, you must be wondering where can I find this “A Message to Black Women”?

The Depths of My Soul – found only on www.charleslchatmon.com or Amazon.com (Depths) (Voices) and other online bookstores. (2017: as of this reposting, only a few copies of the Depths left, but I can make copies of the poem for you by request)

Thanks for the ongoing support. I hope to hear from you soon. Take care.

Charles L. Chatmon
Author
The Depths of My Soul
The Voices of South Central

www.charleslchatmon.com

Trust me, I was THAT CChat66@aol.com…..

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Storm Over South Central Update, July 2017

Charles Book Cover 3-1 YES

For all of you good people who have waited and watched the progress of my soon to be released anthology, Storm Over South Central should know that things are progressing nicely. There are a few more matters that need to be taken care of before the finished product, but after so many years of dreaming of producing another book, Storm is on the way to becoming a reality.

It’s been fun coming back to the poems and short stories that I wrote years ago which I’m finally happy to see deserves their place on the printed (and digital) page. As you can tell, there are plans to produce an e-Book version of Storm so readers will always have a copy for whatever device they prefer.

Although it might be close to meeting the deadline date of November 2017 to publish Storm due to my commitments to my job and other valid reasons, rest assured that I’ll do everything I can to release this within the 2017-2018 school year. I promise to let you folks know the minute it’s ready for production. Please connect with me here on the blog if you have any questions related to Storm or anything else I’ve written in the past. I’m very excited in the direction the anthology is taking and I look forward to seeing it in print. We all know it’s been a long time in coming. Take care.

Charles L. Chatmon

charleslchatmon.com

#StormOverSC

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Art of Writing Should Be An Even Playing Field

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The art of writing should be an even playing field.

As it stands right now in early 2017, there is a logical debate going on between critics of the Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) and those who support it, believing it has a place for anyone pursuing a writing career. There are many articles for or against the MFA but as an objective viewer watching the debate from afar, does it really matter?

For example, I enrolled in an English creative writing class in college over thirty years ago which allowed you to write whatever you wish, only to face stern criticism as you read your piece in front of an unsatisfied professor and other students with writing experience not afraid to state their opinion. The first two short stories I submitted were met with less than a positive response. The first story was of my own creation, not written for the class. The somewhat ambiguous ending in their eyes prompted a lot of probing questions that did not live up to their standards. The second short story I wrote exclusively for the class was a bit more polished and grounded in reality but again, it was deeply scrutinized by the professor and classmates who did not found it appealing to their taste. While I submitted the first two short stories, one I wrote strictly for myself but wanted to share, I wrote another story I had finished a year prior as a personal creative venture. It was a literary project I wrote for myself. It was not meant for the class so when I read the first four pages of what I wrote in print as an eleven page tale, the reaction based on the tension I interjected between two of the main characters caught the ear of my professor who wanted to hear more. My classmates with a critical eye could not find anything to gripe about. I was pleased for once I wrote a satisfactory piece that I felt like writing and not because I wanted to give a good impression to my professor. With that third short story that is a short story I created for myself, it allowed me to move forward and write the short stories I felt like writing without the influence of my professor or critics. Could you imagine what would have happened if this same professor told me I needed a MFA to be a ‘serious writer’? If I were told that back in the 1980’s, I would have considered it but I feel a degree could not simply replace the hard work, time and dedication I put into creating the best work possible.

Besides, shouldn’t be the effort one puts into their writing that ultimately counts instead of obtaining a degree that a select few, including agents feel is a ticket to success? While this author is not against any aspiring writer working hard to obtain a MFA, those of us who stopped with only a Bachelor’s Degree or even writers without either one shouldn’t be judged on their lack of dedication, drive and motivation. It should be the individual writer’s decision on how far they wish to take their career and creative projects.

What I learned from that creative writing class is that there will always be critics, those who have reservations about your creative projects and those who will simply wish you nothing but failure because in their eyes you will never be good enough or talented enough to meet their standards. As long as you as a writer continue to believe in your stories, do your homework by retaining the literary knowledge to succeed and study other famous writers who have found their measure of success, you will also find the same whether you’ve earned a MFA or not.

Charles L. Chatmon
President, Chatmon’s Books

References:

How the Literary Class System has Impoverished Literature
Six Myths About the Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts
Why Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Rebuilding South (Central) L.A.: Everybody Let Go

Unrest Fist

Courtesy: Smithsonian Channel

 Long live Tupac Shakur:

 

 

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.

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Rebuilding South (Central) L.A.: Was It All Worth It?

Unrest Totals 2

Totals of the Unrest. Courtesy: Smithsonian Channel

Unrest Totals

To begin, I write this from a biased perspective but I don’t apologize for the words I’m about to write. It’s also the first of two parts. So big, I need room to explain it all.It’s a month away from the 20th anniversary of what I believe was the beginning of the end of South Central Los Angeles as we knew it.

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?

Vermont/Manchester in pictures

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’.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Rebuilding South (Central) L.A.: The Reality of Rebuild

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I begin this entry by making a small confession: in my poem, ‘The Fire Still Burns’, I wrote the following ‘have you heard from Rebuild L.A.?’. Now the poem expresses frustration at the entire Unrest, including the hypocrisy from certain prominent individuals vowing to help rebuild the community and never did, but that line was aimed at the organization that began shortly after the fires had subsided and the National Guard left South Central. In a past entry, The Rebuilding of L.A. – Just Not What We Thought!, I share my feelings of the real Rebuild L.A. as it relates to the downtown sector and L.A. Live, built in a different area than the Southside.

To put the blame squarely at Rebuild L.A. would be erroneous. I have to admit upon doing research, the organization though short in their own goals, achieved a bit of success as Peter Uberroth, the chairman of Rebuild L.A. at the time hired businessman Bernard Kinsley who was a well respected Xerox executive and major fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund as a day to day operations chief. Along with other key hires, Rebuild L.A. secured almost 500 million in corporate commitments. It seemed as if the organization would hold to its commitment of rebuilding. If you lived in the Southside, you saw the signs; a new Albertson’s grocery store in the Baldwin Hills – Crenshaw Plaza, a reconstructed Shell gas station that also served as a training center for younger residents in the community, little by little, it seemed the organizers and politicians did good on their promise.

However, a year later as described in the article written by Robert Reinhold for the New York Times in 1993, that promise was stalled. Rebuilding was being done, but the areas in which it occurred, will surprise you. [italics, the author]

In all, 1,118 buildings were checked, and 513 of them were found to have been repaired. Most of the restoration was to shops looted and burned in the riots, which caused $1 billion in damage. But while nearly half the destruction has been repaired in Koreatown and nearly two-thirds in Hollywood, less than a third has in the largely black and Hispanic South-Central area.

The hardest hit neighborhoods in need of rebuilding – in South Central – were not addressed. From my personal experience, I saw empty lots that used to have buildings sitting on top just sitting there, not used, deserted in contrast to the grocery stores, training centers that were rapidly being created. There are two major factors listed in the article which should catch everyone’s attention but I will post them here. [italics, the author]

Those who have rebuilt have tended to have deep personal or commercial roots in the neighborhoods, while the large numbers of absentee landlords appear to be waiting for signals of better economic times. In the South-Central area, less property is locally owned, there are both fewer people and fewer resources and banks generally have been less willing to lend there than in Koreatown or Hollywood.

A check of county property records suggests why. Like much of the South-Central section, many of the owners on the blocks are Iranians, Koreans and Chinese who have migrated here in large numbers in the last two decades and live in affluent suburban enclaves. For example, the owner of record of numerous burned-out buildings on Vermont Avenue and other main thoroughfares is Eli Sasson of 626 South Spring Street, an office building in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Sasson did not return repeated telephone calls for comment on why his properties remain vacant lots.

The survey was conducted by visually checking all the addresses in the city that suffered more than 10 percent damage according to a compilation by the Department of Building and Safety after the riots.

Although I assume this is the case in any major inner-city, the owners of the properties that were burned down or damaged in South Central, did not belong to the residents themselves. Sad but true, South Central was a neighborhood that I and others like me could live in, but could not take advantage of owning most of its land or storefronts. This happened over years and years before the present day, and don’t be surprised if it continues a year for now. The system of fleecing off the pocketbooks of the poor is profitable and won’t end anytime soon. As a side note, Mr. Sasson’s story is very interesting as this L.A. Times article reveals. The pictures on this page were taken on or next to his property from this article.

The history of Rebuild L.A. and its unraveling can be found on this link, and I want to add that President Clinton had a hand in the rebuilding through the ‘Empowerment Zones’ that I heard quite a bit in that time. I have posted a link here and here  to help us all understand how they work. All I know from living there is the fact South Los Angeles is no different from when it used to be called South Central Los Angeles. The only thing that’s changed is the name, but not much else.

You see, from the author’s standpoint, unless the private sector which means businesses, banks, etc, is interested or enticed to rebuild an area, they’re not going to come in and revitalize the neighborhood. Local politicians can keep rolling out a bus through the neighborhood over and over again with the Urban League or any other organization that caters to the community, it won’t matter if a lack of money and commitment thereof doesn’t result in having the nice restaurants or movie theatres like L.A. Live or The Grove at Farmer’s Market. It just won’t happen and residents who have moved on from the Southside have long realized that. It is pretty ‘messed up’, but that is what it is.

The only true enclave for Black people to congregate in the city proper (and not in the Inland Empire) and hang out is the Leimert Park neighborhood bordered by View Park and Baldwin Hills, mostly upper middle class to mid middle class (from my estimation) and the Baldwin Hills – Crenshaw Plaza has been a mainstay for years. One can only assume now that Marlton Square is finally on the way to restoration, perhaps more shops and stores benefiting the African American community will be included. In the meantime, for the rest of the South Central Los Angeles I grew up in, Rebuild L.A. has been partly vindicated since the effort was made. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it was doomed from the start. It sounded good in principle, born of fire and fury, but like any other flame, it had lost its intensity. It had lost its spark. Rebuild L.A. in its original incarnation lasted five years, quietly fading into the back pages of the news.

But wait, you may ask, what happened to the stores that were ‘Black Owned’? You know, the ones with the signs with the afrocentric black, red, green and white text? Glad you asked, because while Rebuild L.A did their part to stay true to their name, the fire and rage of the residents who lived in the community also played a pivotal part – one that resonates as a sad chapter on not only the city’s history, but the Southside’s history as well.

More on that next time.
P.S. The irony to all this? Rebuild L.A. has a Twitter account. (Though I don’t think it’s actually them…..)

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Rebuilding South (Central) L.A.: Swept Away by the Media

On the days between April 30 – May 4, my parents’ house didn’t have any power. The refrigerator had spoiled food inside and our icebox had that smell which you knew, items had to be thrown out. There was no television watching, who constantly posted the same images after another of burned buildings, National Guard presence, and outrage from politicians. (1992 was an election year, didn’t you know?) So I was spared from all that. Although radio stations both AM and FM played music as if nothing had happened (I suspect to help calm the fears of the populace, not out of insensitivity), there was one station that continued to broadcast the real story in the community as it happened, not from the view of news anchors expressing indignation of fellow citizens by calling them, ‘savages’.

It was radio station KJLH, 102.3 with guests and community leaders urging calm, analyzing the next moves of police and public officials, explaining to us how we as residents can be more engaged in local affairs, and more. They played no music during the entire Unrest and while I sat under a blanket and flashlight one evening under a completely pitch black sky which shrouded over the entire house (I did mention we had no electricity right?), listening to the station helped me understand what people were feeling. However, to everyone else who had working power, they watched prominent people such as Edward James Olmos, who at the time was known for ‘Miami Vice’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’, appear on news stations as a guest. This is the first time I’ve watched these videos in their entirety and I can hear the sincere words in his voice as trying to ‘do something’ to help. In one of the clips, he makes an offer to help clean up the area which almost instantaneously turned into a sort of a movement in the city.

I’ll get to the ‘Clean Up South Central’ part later, but it wasn’t just Mr. Olmos who spoke out during the Unrest. Many celebrities (if news crews could find them) had a lot to say and took no time in expressing how they felt. In fact, the local and national news media, who are part of the reason I wrote The Voices of South Central (with poems written before the Unrest), chimed in with their ‘narratives’ and sensationalist titles. But you see how the influence of the media can frame the debate? Especially when it comes to the Unrest? Just digressing a little bit……

(Update 4/27/2017. Although we would love to show you the examples of the media coverage described, we have to inform you present videos covering the Unrest were too long for us to post. However, we suggest you search them online to draw your own conclusions.)

I decided not to air footage of the Reginald Denny beating because even after nineteen years, it’s hard to watch and the point of this piece would be taken away if I did that. Don’t worry because again, YouTube (and other sites) will be happy to accommodate your outrage or bloodlust depending on your view. But these were the sad beginnings of an unfortunate event that forever destroyed a community I was born and raised in after gang drive-bys, murders, and other sponsored plans caused a downward spiral that sent South Central to its deathbed.

News media is useful, it plays an important role in our society. We can love it when influential or prominent people are exposed, civil wrongs are righted through public opinion, and a monumental event takes hold. We sneer at it when it turns its cameras or pens at the killings in one area, displaying the same black faces as if it were the major crime whereas Savings and Loans crisis involving politicians and businessmen are treated in a light manner. In my view, both are criminals, only one section is dressed better than the other. Yet, it is news and it goes to whoever controls it. They can even promote the cleaning up of a certain neighborhood to make it feel the problems will fade away, like sweeping it under a rug. I’m sure the populace affected the most in the London Unrest will soon find out unfortunately as we did in South Central.

I respect Mr. Olmos and his passion for the community. At the time as I wrote in Tales From A Firestorm, an essay that will be shown in my upcoming book, Storm Over South Central, I was pumped full of anger and rage at the verdict and the destruction caused by the people in the area. It seemed whenever I took a step out my front lawn, there was a building on fire every five minutes. That being said, watching students from a nearby university clean up debris from burned down buildings may have felt to them as if they were ‘doing something’, anything to contribute, to help. While I understand nineteen years later what they attempted to do, there should be an admittance that after the last truckload with trash left, the problems in South Central still remain. Let me back up. Mr. Olmos on television said what he planned to do in one of the clips which attracted young people, civil leaders and concerned citizens to do the same. I have included these clips from the recent London Unrest to illustrate what I mean. If I have any footage from 1992, I will post them on the blog.

You see that? It’s a feel good moment, isn’t it? Nothing wrong with that except the same conditions that remained in London and again, in South Central are still there. The participants in the clean ups will return back to their neighborhoods believing they have done a good deed. For everyone else, they had to face burned down buildings, shops they could no longer go into, businesses that were Black Owned, gutted by fires or looting. These were the challenges the residents had to deal with, challenges that couldn’t be swept up or even ‘occupied’ these days. This is where Rebuild L.A comes in, and we’ll all find out they’re not the ones to blame for the lack of commitment to restore South Central and other affected places. In fact, they should be applauded, and this comes from someone like me who criticized them in one of my books. The next entry will deal with the basic fact that for urban communities, the private sector is not your boyfriend or girlfriend. Sorry to tell you. As you leave this page, here’s a message from Ice Cube. Have a nice day (or evening). Viewer discretion is advised………

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 
 
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