L.A. Riots: Baldwin Hills Bus Tour Drives 'From Chaos To Community'
This story is part of a special Neon Tommy series revisiting the upheaval 20 years ago surrounding the Rodney King trial. See more of our anniversary coverage here.
Hundreds of community members and leaders commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots Tuesday in Baldwin Hills, a remembrance that included a bus tour “from chaos to community” in South L.A.
Nonprofit Operation HOPE organized the event to highlight growth in areas affected by the violence of the riots. Speakers addressed the changes over the past two decades and offered their own memories of the unrest in 1992.
“What I remember the most," Councilwoman Jan Perry said, "is looking into your eyes and seeing the sadness, and seeing the weariness and disappointment.
“But what it reminded me of," she continued, "is something my grandmother always said, which is ‘We’re here long before you got here and we’ll be here long after you’re gone.’”
Peter Ueberroth, former chairman of Rebuild Los Angeles, said, “If you’re up close, you can’t see change. It’s getting better every day.” He suggested aggressive reform in the inner city's education system to further promote positive change.
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank watched the riots on TV from her home at the time in Chicago, and wondered what would happen next.
“We watched as a prostrate Rodney Glen King was beaten," she said, calling the riots a difficult time for the entire nation. "We watched for months as justice seemed to never come."
Ubaid Gibson was 19 years old then, studying at Long Beach City College. He said he felt for himself the discrimination resulting from the conflict when he went to the college in the aftermath.
“Even a young black man in college can be portrayed as though ‘he was the riot,'" he said. "That was what woke me up more than anything. After the riots, you realized you had a target on your back without someone even knowing who you were."
He said the city can learn from the riots by working to see people for who they are, by being willing to say hello to strangers, and get to know them instead of relying on stereotypes.
Gibson said he believed race relations had changed for the better over the past 20 years. “Right now I think it’s more than just a cultural situation, it’s an economic situation,” he said, drawing on his work in finance.
Sharon R. Blackburn, executive director of South Central Prevention Coalition, was at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church the night rioting began.
She said once the verdict was read, the city went into an uproar. Blackburn was concerned about the people in the church and what was happening to the neighborhoods around South Central L.A. where family and friends lived.
“The sentiment [in the church] was they were a little angry," she said, "but they didn’t feel that they should take it out on other communities and areas of housing."
Blackburn also said the Trayvon Martin case is a setback to progress.
“The captain of the police department was asked to resign. He did. A commission is putting him back to office. I’m just hoping Florida doesn’t go through the same thing," she said of L.A.'s past upheaval.
But she said despite its experience and the progress made since then, L.A. wasn't much better off when it came to dealing with racial conflict.
“There is no community relationship with the officers and communities,” she said.
See below for video coverage of the bus tour from ATVN.