April 29, 2015 marks twenty three years since the beginning of one of the largest urban uprisings in US American history. For several days after a Simi Valley jury let the Los Angeles police officers who beat and tasered Rodney King go free, residents throughout LA county expressed frustration, anger and sadness; marched, walked, and fought back against systems of arbitrary state power and inequality. Some Anarres Project contributors reflect on this day.
The verdict, the uprising, the Black leadership that stepped forward, in my personal life and in society, powerfully set me on the trajectory of working to build up racial justice consciousness, commitment and action in white communities. As tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Los Angeles and around the country, a whole generation of activists was radicalized and they deepened their commitment to building powerful multiracial grassroots movements that could bring down the horror of white supremacist ruling order and build up multiracial democracy and socialism.
I pray that millions of people are coming into consciousness and being radicalized by the #BaltimoreUprising, and in particular that millions of white people are listening deeply to the voices and experiences of Black people in this time, and dedicating themselves to being part of racial justice struggle for collective liberation. For my beautiful Whittier community who went through that time together, marching in the streets in the days after, raging with grief and anger, loving each other enough to lay ourselves bare and grow stronger, I love you. I believe that we will win.
I was in my senior year in college in Portland, Oregon, about a month away from graduating. South Central was a world away. I remember being drawn to the crowd of people around the communal television after the verdict was announced. There was widespread shock. Folks that I knew who were from Los Angeles ran to their dorm rooms to call family back home.
But some things remain the same as today–the whispers around the television from mostly white, middle class students: How can people do this to their own neighborhoods?
I went to graduate school in Riverside about a year later, around the time of the Reginald Denny trial. Denny was the white construction worker who was pulled from his truck during the uprising and beaten nearly to death by four young men. I remember riding a bus to a morning class on the day that the verdict would be announced. I sat near some tattooed cholos and listened to their conversation that I never could forget;
“Hey ese, did you hear about that Reginald Denny vato and his trial?”
“Yeah, I read about it in the LA Times today.”
“Chingao, it will be all fucked up if they find those dudes guilty.”
“Pues si. If they do, we should just light this whole motherfucker up.”