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Rebuilding South (Central) L.A.: It’s A Riot

Note: We understand there will be a variety of documentaries and special reports trying to recapture the voices, the anger, the rage that resulted in the Unrest of Los Angeles back on April 29, 1992. Our founder grew up in South Central Los Angeles at that time, so we hope you’ll allow him to have his say in a series of blog posts he shared six years ago.

This is Part Two of Rebuilding (South) L.A.

In case you forgot or didn’t care, July 12, 2011 marked the twentieth anniversary of this landmark film:

 

Boyz N The Hood. You remember that movie, right? Of course you did. Right in the middle of the Rodney King case and impending trial against the four police officers who beat him up, captured on video for all to see.

Yes, Copz N The Hood was just as dramatic, if not as unfortunate. All the while the community mourned over another death, that of Latasha Harlins. Thoughts and feelings about her murder and lawful devalue of this young lady’s life is posted from this past blog. The rage directed at Empire Liquors where this sad saga occured came in the form of a burned building after Judge Joyce Karlin‘s verdict. Clearly, the community was incensed not only of the shooting death of a young girl. That’s one thing. It was the fact the judge clearly did not have the wisdom of Solomon and based the area, climate and….her race….determined how much the life of a young girl like Latasha was valued.

Funny, Bessie in Native Son was treated as an afterthought more than Mary Dalton. Perhaps if Ms. Harlins wore a different skin…..oh never mind, that never makes a difference, does it?

So for the better part of a year, while the jury was assembled and witnesses began to mysteriously ‘vanish’ or ‘die off’, South Central, Los Angeles, and the world held their collective breaths for the trial which would determine the lives of four cops….in a city held where most cops lived. Simi Valley. Yes, there was a venue change from Los Angeles.

Before April 29, 1992, the former MetroMedia local station now sly as a Fox under a different name, had a reporter approach citizens at their front doors asking the simple question:

“Will you riot?”

To this day, I believe the seeds were already planted by the media. Even if it didn’t occur, the thought was out there. Somebody, someone, somewhere, was going to……..

April 29, 1992.
Verdict: Not Guilty.

The four officers celebrated, a community (among others) was incensed.

I worked as a teacher’s aide that day and I worked the late shift. However, when I saw trouble brewing at Florence and Normandie I politely asked my co-worker, the teacher that closed up with me if I could leave. She didn’t have to say a word. The nod was good enough.

April 29, 1992 was supposed to be a normal day. The Lakers were at the Forum in Inglewood to play the Portland Trailblazers in game three of the first round of the playoffs. My mother went to bible study, people were getting off work at approximately 5:00pm or close to it. It was supposed to be another normal day in the city of Los Angeles.

Not so.

LAPD confronted a few people, then went ghost afterwards. To this day, not a reasonable explanation can be found.

Angry citizens threw bottles, rocks, bricks, etc at passing vehicles. This is something not condoned by the author of this blog BUT….Not Guilty on live television will provoke the living demon in you.

Reginald Denny was taken out of his truck and beaten almost senseless. He was saved by four people not gripped in anger and madness.

Denny

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel

Later that evening after the Lakers game, traffic was diverted away from Manchester and even Florence. If you didn’t live in the community and you attended the game, would you want to go back there? The I-105 wasn’t built yet. The NBA’s reaction was to place the Lakers in Las Vegas for their final game of the season, while the Clippers also in the playoffs, played the Utah Jazz in the Anaheim Convention Center.

Days after the Unrest (not a revolution as Watts had been, according to community activists of the effects of the 1965 revolt), the National Guard was called in. The Fire Still Burns in my book, The Depths of My Soul hinted of the irony of these men in uniform who fought against a repressive regime a few months before in Kuwait in the Persian Gulf, now defending properties on American soil. On the days I happened to walk down the block, I saw Guardsmen with rifles in hand standing on street corners in the midst of burned down buildings surrounding them. One building left intact was the nearby post office, with our elected congresswoman asking for ‘100 Black Men’. I suppose the symbolism was fair, but when she told me directly to stand there at the post office until she returned, I waited…..and waited…..and waited…..until I had to tend to other matters at my parents house. That’s the thing about us as a race. We need symbols, not realizing that whosoever will, is good enough. Even if it were five black men, that would have been good enough because it would have drawn the ninety-five left our congresswoman suggested. The older I get and the further this experience with the Unrest moves away from me, I sometimes have to shake my head and wonder why things are so messed up in our communities. Maybe it’s because I know the answer.

Judging from the television shows it seems the locals wanted to make peace with the National Guard by singing church hymns on the parking lot of one of the ABC supermarkets (which isn’t there anymore) while having a barbecue with them. The organizations and college students who decided they would take their brooms in the streets and sweep up Los Angeles came and cleaned up debris from the burned buildings. In my anger, my rage, my resistance to anything from ‘the outside’ and these were people from outside the neighborhood, I didn’t want to participate with them. Tales From a Firestorm puts that into detail but I am inspired to write about this soon. It’s much easier to sweep trash from a sidewalk but it’s a lot harder to sweep away the conditions that led to the 1992 Unrest.

Don’t tell that to the National Guard who rolled their trucks into Nickerson Gardens in Watts along with LAPD sending a message to gangbangers who’s really in charge. According to all the conspiracy theories floating around like leaves from a tree in these days of the early 21st Century, they could have something there. After that brave act, the Guardsmen left.

While other communities like Hollywood had their share of ‘rioting’, South (Central) Los Angeles will always be identified as the ‘flashpoint’ of the Unrest due to the fact of Florence and Normandie and all that happened there. Let me bring up this one important point and hopefully make it stick: a field reporter from a local television station went to the neighborhood asking people “will you riot?” But Mayor Tom Bradley will always be blamed for initiating it with his speech here:

If he is to be held accountable for telling people to express their ‘feelings’, then shouldn’t the local reporter and staff who asked if people riot also be held accountable? Sidenote: I tried for years and I can’t find a clip of that segment ANYWHERE! Oh well, if you can’t see it, you can’t prove it, those doubters say………maybe one of my old VCR tapes has it, hmm……..but I digress.

Part three will come soon, ‘This is the age of aftermath’

But first, the following message is brought to you by Furious Styles…….

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Rebuilding (South) L.A.: Innocence Lost, Swap Meets and Colors

Note: We understand there will be a variety of documentaries and special reports trying to recapture the voices, the anger, the rage that resulted in the Unrest of Los Angeles back on April 29, 1992. Our founder grew up in South Central Los Angeles at that time, so we hope you’ll allow him to have his say in a series of blog posts he shared six years ago.

How to survive South Central.

Let me begin by saying 2011 is the twentieth year since “Boyz N The Hood” was released. These articles as it relates to the area shown in the movie is by no means a cause to celebrate that landmark. Maybe it’s to test the statement Furious Styles prophesied about. We’ll get to that at a later date. I know the purpose of this is to explain from my heart why Rebuild L.A. wasn’t effective on the Southside, but the spirit of that effort moved to the downtown area. First, I would like to (re) introduce you to what South (Central) Los Angeles used to be growing up.

For those of us who lived through the drive-by years, the Civil Unrest and the Brown on Black crime, maybe we didn’t follow through with the playbook layed out by Ice Cube’s song for the soundtrack of “Boyz in the Hood”, but we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The innocent neighborhood we all grew up in full of Hamburger Henri’s, roller skating rinks with arcades, and safe parks was a time we as kids could play Igit Digit Number Nine (if you remember, say it with me)

Igit Digit Number Nine
Going down Chicago Line
Hit the Train
Jump the Track
Do you want your money back?
(if I’m a Wall Street banker, I already know the answer to that!)

You said N O
And you are not ‘it’

However, communities like South Central Los Angeles, Harlem, Chicago and Detroit were in fact ‘it’. We didn’t know how much we had hit the train and jumped the track. But I digress for the moment.

In the 1980’s, something began to happen to our storefronts which surprised many residents overnight. Swap meets began appearing in buildings where Thifty drug stores, Woolworths and retail stores that we used to frequent. Suddenly, the appeal of these swap meets were the ‘it’ thing. You could buy the latest Air Jordans, that Lakers or Georgetown jacket, or jewelry for a good price. The older retail stores such as the National, small businesses like a gospel store and television repair shop had fewer and fewer patrons. In time, rental rates kept escalating and it was impossible for these shops to remain open….so they left. Slowly, our innocent neighborhood wasn’t being so memorable anymore.

To add to this, the Bloods and Crips, who had always been at odds in the community began to randomly shoot people in drive-bys. An Eye for an Eye had turned into a life for a life. This was nothing new for anyone living in the Southside at the time. It was disturbing to see both sets had turned from fist fighting, knife wielding to gun toting gangstas. It became customary to ‘smoke a fool’ for messing around with your set, your woman, or even for a reason you can’t recall. Of course, LAPD could have squashed this a long time ago before it got out of hand and like a cancer, rapidly spread throughout the country. For reasons they will never reveal, LAPD didn’t start to shut things down until an innocent bystander in Westwood was shot and killed. The code must be, as long as you’re killing yourselves on the Southside, that’s okay. Once you start venturing out on the Westside…..

Gang sweeps, crackdowns and although there was a song about it, the batter ram was in full effect. All of a sudden, South Central Los Angeles was on the map, for all the wrong reasons. At least they made a movie out of it……

Your favorite actors and comedians……in color on Colors!

With a movie like this, you could expect emotions running high especially among our youth. Sure enough, when this movie was released back in 1988, altercations at movie theaters erupted from those who could not control their passions to youngsters who wanted to cause trouble. Unfortunately, they did. While the movie generated $46,616,067 in domestic box office returns and $21,196,856 for rentals, (reference: wikipedia) the theme was merely the same as any other cop movie where the cops are the ones who know what’s right without identifying the root of why these gangs exists and their place in the community. It didn’t take long for the major networks like NBC and ABC to provide experts to explain all that for us. They told us what was wrong with our community in one hour that we could have explained to them in detail for twice that time. Alas, just breathe the words South Central and it was bound to be a ratings gold mine. All you needed to do if you’re a producer was invite a community leader, a gang member or two, a law enforcement officer, another community leader, a sociologist, a media representative and the list goes on and on without the input of anyone in the community who actually lived there.

Speaking of the community, there were parents who had a tough decision; should we leave the neighborhood so our child could have a future whether it’s happy or not…at least he/she will be alive or do we stay while our son or daughter becomes a statistic? No one knows the effect a drive-by has on a mother, father, family or friends until it actually happens.

Say you hear the news of a young man caught in the middle of gunfire after dropping off his girlfriend. Let’s say the date in question is Valentine’s Day (it was evening when it happened). Imagine being with a group of your friends gathered together shaking their heads, crying, not sure what to do next. Imagine the void that is filled when the same young man who used to play ball at your house or you coached as part of your team or just someone you knew who lived around the corner from you….isn’t part of this earth anymore. This incident is mentioned in my book The Depths of My Soul. The poem is ‘Remembrance’ and the day after I found out after church that morning, I cried. You think it’s easy to get over a loss like that? Especially when all this young man was to us, a friend, a son, a boyfriend and a good person? Ah, I will digress because in the coldness of cyberspace, you couldn’t imagine it. Somehow, I believe you just wouldn’t grasp the emotion, so we’ll move on.

Because of many incidents like the one I described, ‘Black Flight’ began with rental trucks appearing up and down the block. We knew why our friends were leaving, the handwriting was on the wall. More than anything, the loss of youth through death or relocation signaled the beginning of the end for the innocent place we all once knew.

The Lakers were winning with Showtime, the Dodgers were in the news too so the tensions of the city were watered down by the success of our sports teams. You know, it’s always the great unifier but I’ll say more about that in the future. I don’t want to spoil the argument now. One thing I will say is that when the Lakers and Dodgers were winning, how ironic that it took these teams to ‘unite’ the city when our circumstances were so far apart? The folks who lived in the Westside and the Valley (and parts unknown) could go back home and suffer no consequences that citizens on the Southside had to go through. You could go to a Lakers post-championship rally at the Forum in Inglewood one day, find yourself in an L.A. County morgue the next over some altercation. You need not be a gang banger or drug dealer to apply. You can be an innocent mother, son, or daughter ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. That is a phrase which has been repeated over and over again until your ears bleed. It continues as I write this.

I was a young man growing up in the Southside who constantly had to watch his back as a teacher’s aide in the area during this troubled decade and believe me, not only were there were few black males working in the school system at that time, I was one of them who didn’t wind up as a young toddler of two years old told me once, “my daddy’s in jail.”

What can you say after that?

Even when you try to make a difference, you’re the Sisyphus of your community, forever pushing that rock up the hill with no results.

Prophetic quote from Colors: “There’s always going to be gangs man, there’s always going to be fighting!”

Now if you’ll please stand and rise, let’s place our hands over our hearts and recite the following theme song…..

Yes, Law and Order fans (for those who didn’t know)…that’s Ice-T rapping…..

Remember that song we sang as kids again?

Igit Digit Number Nine….

Wait.

Igit Digit…..was killed in a violent drive-by, film at 11.

So these were the ‘80’s. Stick around for Part Two….it’s a riot.

Charles L. Chatmon
President, Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

African American Poetry Celebration

 

AC Bilbrew April

Our co-owner and president of Chatmon’s Books, Charles L. Chatmon will participate in the annual African American Poetry Celebration, April 15 at 1:00pm. He will read selections from the upcoming anthology Storm Over South Central. (#StormOverSC)

Inside the newly renovated AC Bilbrew Library, Charles will join a host of other esteemed local poets sharing their works with the audience. It’s free to attend and all are welcome to join in this community event.

The AC Bilbrew Library is located at 150 E. El Segundo Blvd, L.A., CA 90061. The L.A. County Library’s website is http://colapublib.org.

The African American Poetry Celebration is hosted by the Black Resource Center.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Authors N Focus Web Series Returns

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LOS ANGELES, CA – Chatmon’s Books is proud to announce the return of the Authors N Focus web series. It will feature interviews with new, established authors including segments on the latest trends in the publishing world and on upcoming literary events in the Southern California area. Scenes from the Compton Urban Book Expo will kick off the new show in March.

For more information, please send an email to chatmonsbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Authors N Focus’. Due to the number of possible requests, we plan to reach everyone in a timely manner.

Thank you for your support. We look forward to our latest ventures in promoting literacy!

About Chatmon’s Books
Founded in July 2008, Chatmon’s Books is an online bookstore selling books to a wide range of readers. The bookstore showcases a diverse inventory, holds writers workshops and empowerment luncheons for new and aspiring authors as well as small business owners.

About Authors N Focus
Authors N Focus is a website with interviews of new or established authors, writers and poets, resources for the aspiring author, and notes of trends in the industry. We also focus on the challenges of producing a first book as well as offering our thoughts and opinions on the state of the writing world today. Authors N Focus is a subsidiary of Chatmon’s Books.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Best Books List for December 2016

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Books! Books! Books! A wide selection of books is on your way by clicking on these links!

Most Popular Books Published In December 2016 – Goodreads
The best books of December 2016 – BookBrowse
Best science fiction and fantasy books this month – The Washington Post
The 10 Best Books of 2016 – The New York Times
Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: December 2016 | AbeBooks
73 Books of Interest to Readers of Black Literature Coming Out Soon – AALBC (Oct/Nov)

Since it’s the end of the year, here’s a list to help you stock up on any books you’ve missed:
These are the 20 best-selling books of the year
Best Books 2016: Publisher’s Weekly

The Chatmon’s Books staff wishes all of you Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays or whatever feels appropriate to you. We wish you all the best in health and wealth for the new year ahead!

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Been a While

It’s been a while since our last post, but we wanted to check up with our fans to let them know we’re doing well. It’s been a busy year for us, with plans moving forward to present Storm Over South Central next year and other projects in the works we think you’ll enjoy.

In the meantime, keep in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d like to know what’s going on in your world as well, including the books you love to read.

  • The Chatmon’s Books Staff
 
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Posted by on December 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The NEW Chatmon’s Bookstore

14702421_1482662995083949_8454956293302010316_n.jpg Thanks to the fine folks at Facebook, we’ve just opened our new online store on their site.  Now you’ll be able to purchase books from us if you’re a user and discover the authors and books we’re helping to promote. Remember, Authors N Focus content is now exclusively shown at Chatmon’s Books, so we want to make sure you enjoy the best of up-and-coming authors by buying a book from us at our new Facebook store or continue to join us here on the blog for more.

Here’s the link to our Facebook page. We invite you to join us if you’re not on this site: https://www.facebook.com/ChatmonsBooks

Until then, take care and remember: #LiteratureUnlimited

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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