Righteous and ready to burn: 20 years after LA

It’s time to show the mothafuckin’ news how the streets feel /
Give ‘em a cup of this truth they need a refill…
Damn, that’s the life we live /
If a pig wanna shoot you than your life is his /
I guess the laws don’t know what bein’ righteous is
By Any Means, Young Gully (2010)

Righteous and ready to burn: 20 years after LA

by Jesse Strauss

Twenty years ago this weekend, after four cops were acquitted for the widely publicized assault of Rodney King, communities in LA united in anger. In under a week, thousands showed through physical expression of their anger that the Dream of the U.S. was not working. In that time 53 lives were taken and more than 3,000 fires caused about a billion dollars of damage, according to reports. But let’s be clear: two decades after LA went up in flames, the anger still bubbles barely beneath the surface and the US remains in crisis.

Every April, I spend time finding accounts and analyses of the 1992 rebellions. For the 20th anniversary, some LA-based news organizations have put together spotlight websiteshighlighting the events of 20 years ago and what has changed since. A few things stand out.

First, there’s a heavy focus on ways the Los Angeles Police Department has improved in the past two decades. There’s a similar focus on how “race relations” have improved.

Fuzzy comfort

Rodney King

As evidence of how LA has “changed over the years”, the LA Times offers a short photo gallery of “then” and “now” images — for example, what a burning building looked like in the midst of rebellion, and what that same space looks like now — without any explanation of what the contrast is meant to represent. Buildings currently standing where others burned may look better now than they did while on fire. But beyond the fuzzy feeling that a modern lack of fire means peace, they’re irrelevant. LA continues to have decrepit buildings and abandoned overgrown lots, some in the same places where buildings burnt down in 1992. A photo series could have the exact same effect if it compared images from burning buildings in the 1965 Watts Rebellion to what those same places looked like on April 28th 1992—the day before another round of rage-fueled fires ignited.

The anniversary coverage in 2012 tries to offer a warm-and-fuzzy comfort, but some of it seems pulled from thin air. This MSNBC article cites a Loyola Marymount University study reporting that “most say LA is unlikely to see a repeat of such riots in the coming years.” Butthe study doesn’t seem to say anything like that. Rather, it is entirely focused on people’s changing perceptions of police since 1997, and actually suggests that people are slightly more dissatisfied with the LAPD overall than they were when the study started.

The implied sense of calm or peace that the photos and bizarre survey reports offer is in a way representative of cultural change in the past 20 years. We haven’t seen uprisings to the scale of the LA rebellions since then, but the righteous anger that fueled those events has not been significantly addressed. Rather, it’s been reinforced.

Let’s be clear: a lot has changed since 1992. Globalization has affected us deeply: We now have a much more intensely consolidated media mechanism; “free trade” policies that encourage migration patterns moving north from Latin America; wars that have been fought and lost in our names for more than a continuous decade – which corresponds to the racial targeting of Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim people; and far more access to global communications (internet) than most of us could’ve imagined in ‘92. Racism has changed too, but rather than being at ease, it has adapted. “Free trade” with Mexico comes with legally- and racially-targeted limited freedom of movement for Xicanos/Latinos in the form of the Minute Men, laws like Arizona’s SB1070 and that same state’s elimination of ethnic studies curriculum. 9/11 and a decade of war corresponds to Islamophobia campaigns and religiously (and often racially) targeted violence towards Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim. And urban outbursts, kicked off by racially stigmatized events, still happens regularly.

Putting the PIC on blast

The famed video of Rodney King being attacked in the middle of a road by a crew of baton-wielding aggressor cops became the first incidence of “citizen journalism” (or according to media reports back then: “amateur photography”) that, when brought to a mainstream news source, demonstrated to the world what was already known to many in Black and Brown communities about racially-targeted police violence. But that didn’t tip off rebellions, as the video emerged in March of ’91: more than a year before the rebellions.

Neither was the tipping point caused by the emergence of a surveillance video that showed the killing of 13-year-old Latasha Harlins, shot by Sun Ja Du over a fear that Harlins may have been stealing an orange juice bottle from Du’s store (the video was released two weeks after the video of King’s beating). Or even when Du was sentenced to a mere probation term for the killing (which was contrasted on local Channel 4 news at the time with a man being sentenced for 30 days in prison for beating his dog).

What set people off was the complete acquittal, on April 29th, 1992, of all the cops who attacked King.

Together, the series of events displayed publicly the ways that the “criminal justice system” works on many fronts to enforce and defend racism. Rather than exposing a few bad apples, the events showed ways that racism is embedded in the functioning of the Prison-Industrial-Complex (PIC) , both on the streets and in courtrooms. The events catalyzed an expression of righteous anger about what had been happening under the mainstream radar for a long time: so long, in fact, that there was already a built-in soundtrack for the rebellions. Music that appeared in previous years that became anthems for the rebellion was not a causal factor of burning or looting. Rather, it reflected cultural experiences and attempts to name the realitiesthat had been part of artists’ communities’ everyday experiences.

Original media coverage of the events seems to recognize some of those realities, at least superficially. One ABC news report from the time of the unrest says: “Civil rights organizations say the Los Angeles Police Department has a history of brutality and misconduct that goes back a quarter of a century, including one incident that sparked the Watts Riots. So far this year there have been 125 complaints of police misconduct filed with watchdog organizations.” While the expressions of anger in LA were largely reported as “riots” or “looting” in original news material, I don’t see as significant reference to histories and patterns of violence in newer coverage of relatable events.

In fact, a Sky9 news anchor, reporting during the uprising, referenced the local history of the Watts uprising, the present situation, and a warning for the future: “As you said, this has no boundaries. 1965, 1992, and from looking at the scores of children on the streets, you kind of hate to wonder what will happen 20 years from now.” The historicity of this comment seems almost too apt in 2012.

The LA Times’ initial report included a surprising quote from LA Mayor Tom Bradley: “The jury’s verdict will never blind the world to what we saw on the videotape.” Bradley also reportedly called the verdicts “senseless.” While this may not amount to a critique of the PIC as a whole, it offers recognition that the system can produce dysfunctional results.

Seventeen years later, on New Year’s morning of 2009, Oscar Grant, a young Black man and a father, was shot in the back by a cop while lying facedown on a subway platform, all caught on video. Afterward, bureaucratic inaction fostered impunity for the trigger-happy officer, along with his racist co-workers, leaving the people of Oakland to assume that Grant’s case would repeat what many had been seeing in their neighborhoods for a long time: official immunity from the PIC for those who benefit from it. That is, those whose job it is to enforce the PIC (police, ICE agents, judges, etc) as well as communities that are not targeted or extra-heavily policed (which happens in largely working class neighborhoods where mostly people of color live and experience in the forms of profiling and gang injunctions, for example).

The first public comment by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums on the situation came more than a week after the killing, and after some property in the city’s downtown area had been damaged by people expressing rebellious anger. Unlike the comment from Bradley, Dellums directed his focus in a way that validated the PIC. He said he wanted the official police process “to investigate this homicide the way [they] would investigate any other homicide in the city of Oakland.” With this, Dellums missed the mark. Many in Oakland had experienced that the way official investigations operate leave more Black men in prison and corrupt cops on the streets.

Oakland’s 2009 unrest paled in comparison to LA’s in 1992, doing far less physical damage to the city. But rather than relating Oakland’s deep history of Black struggle to current events, the news slapped loaded labels like “rioter,” “outside agitator,” and “looter” on the people expressing their righteous anger in a disorganized way.

Righteous chaos

London Riots

Last summer, however, we saw collective expressions of anger more closely rivaling the LA rebellions—this time in the U.K.

At a rally to support “justice” for Mark Duggan, a Black man who had been killed by gun-toting cops in his own neighborhood of Tottenham, London, a few days earlier, police reportedly started a confrontation with a young woman, setting the crowd off from a growing sense that cops hadn’t earned the authority they were demanding. London became engulfed byrighteous chaos.

The news repeated a statement by David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister: The actions were “criminality, pure and simple”, as opposed to any kind of thoughtful anger being expressed. To underline his point, Cameron said in parliament that “gangs were at the heart of the protests and have been behind the coordinated attacks.” Research by the U.K.’s Guardian showed otherwise: Not only were gang members inactive in a coordinated way during the rebellions, but that there was a de facto gang truce during that time—which also happened during LA’s rebellion.

The British government’s neglect of the underlying reasons for righteous anger leaves London unsure of it’s peaceful future. An official report on the London uprising leads to the same conclusion: “Will riots happen again? The answer is quite possibly ‘yes’.” This is because the report authors “noted a collective pessimism about the future. We were shocked by the number of young people we spoke to who had no hopes or dreams for their future.” In other words, London could reach another tipping point any day. Let’s remember that the killing of Mark Duggan wasn’t even recorded.

Globalization and adaptation

Former LAPD Chief William Bratton

London is just as far from LA geographically as it was in 1992, but the two cities’ police systems are less distinct. After the London uprising, the city brought in “gang expert” William Bratton straight from LA. Similarly, the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain hired John Yates, a British assistant police commissioner, and John Timoney, a former Miami police chief, to help shut down the country’s yearlong unrest. This is not to equate the struggles in LA, London, and Bahrain, but rather to underline that as we begin to develop a global understanding of anger and its various and chaotic expressions, these and other governments recognize the value of practiced stifling of expression.

While righteous anger can be expressed in many ways, state responses to it appear to be growing more homogenized and standardized. The globalization of what we experience in the U.S. as over-policing or even systematic violations of our constitutional rights is becoming a valued trade technique for “experts” in crowd control.

But beyond recognized police misconduct (when cops break their own policies and the law), the expertise being imported to the U.K. and Bahrain is based on a strong handling of the PIC as a problematic and discriminatory system.

Moreover, unless a grassroots people’s movement of some kind gives the media no choice, these killings receive no attention. And this is lesson one: rebellions work. Without convincing videos or some kind of salacious sensationalism, police misconduct gains no public traction. We don’t see public beatings or killings, like those of Rodney King or Oscar Grant, every day, but that’s largely because our media mechanisms don’t care to focus on them.

That’s certainly the case in the Trayvon Martin police operation. After Martin was killed in February by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer, national media couldn’t have cared less. It was a growing show of public anger, albeit very different in appearance from the LA or Oakland rebellions that brought Martin’s death into the spotlight. In his case, it was the same demonstration that the PIC is working just as it was designed, that catalyzed anger. The law supported police to allow an admitted killer to avoid arrest until a nationwide mobilization that included vigilante bounties and hoodie solidarity gave them no other choice.

But we’re still in the early stages of the Martin ordeal. Now that we have a global audience tuned in to killer George Zimmerman’s trial, what will happen if he is acquitted?

Righteous anger – 2012 remix

Twenty years after LA burned, tension stays heated. Police maintain repressive crowd control that is sanctioned by the PIC, but intensely organized policing promotes neither justice nor peace, let alone eases tensions. The experience of anger changes over time and adapts to societal changes, but the persistence of the PIC ensures a significant righteousness. On top of local experiences—as in the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, or school districts being shut down and sold to the highest bidders in New Orleans or Philadelphia—the root of righteous anger acted on in LA 20 years ago is being exacerbated nationally.

United for a Fair Economy’s State of the Dream 2012 report shows that already: “Blacks are six times more likely to be in prison than Whites, and people of color make up over 65 percent of the prison population.” The report offers evidence to suggest that in the next 30 years: “If we do not change course, we will continue on a path toward becoming a country in which the overwhelming share of the emerging non-White majority is economically insecure… If the trends in racial economic inequality of the last thirty years continue for the next thirty years, the racial economic divide in 2042 will be vast and devastating for communities of color and the nation as a whole.”

Let’s also not forget that as a remaining underlying construct for the PIC, slavery remains legal “as a punishment for crime” in the very document our entire legal system is based on, the Constitution.

Trayvon Martin

Of course, anger is not the only reaction we could have to these injustices, or to the case of Trayvon Martin, or of any of the 28 Black people killed by “police officials, security guards, and keepers of the peace” in the first three months of 2012. But expressions of righteous anger have not gone away. They will continue to show up in spurts and in different forms – and in potentially dangerous ways, if this is at all indicative. To be clear, I am not excusing the destructiveness, violence and rage that was expressed in LA’s, Oakland’s or London’s rebellions. Rather, this is a call to reposition responsibility for those actions on the legal sanctioning of targeting and killing people from certain communities (1) – that is, on the everyday function of the Prison-Industrial Complex.

An anger-fueled soundtrack continues to smolder twenty years after LA’s fires burnt out. With music as a reflection of socio-cultural experience, rebellious recordings are being produced out of studios and basements, and are easily accessible online. Time keeps our soundtrack moving forward, but it doesn’t erase samples from the past. While raw funk beats bumping on the radio might be replaced by the downloadable synth-heavy soundtrack of 2012, throwback references to NWA and Tupac anchor them in continued righteousness in the context of state-sanctioned injustice. Whatever actions today’s soundtracks accompany, they will reflect realities deeply rooted in local and global power structures—realities far more complex than tidy photographs of restored buildings.

(1) This piece focuses on rebellions sparked by the PIC’s targeting of people of color, and specifically Black men. This focus is intentional, in that the significant uprisings in the past two decades that share characteristics of LA’s ’92 rebellion have been sparked by the killings of Black men. These types of rebellions are characterized by the ejection or exclusion of a class of people from mainstream US culture, which is why it’s relevant to reference the PIC-sanctioned targeting of people who’ve been ejected like indigenous Americans, migrants, Muslims and queer people. In the past 20 years there have not been outright rebellions sparked by the targeting of those communities, but righteous anger from being targeted is easily accessible. But, for example, San Francisco saw the White Night rebellion in 1979 after the PIC handed the lowest possible sentence to Dan White, the killer of the city’s first queer and out elected politician, Harvey Milk, as well as Mayor George Moscone. All three of those men are white, and the uprising was acted on by righteous anger that had swelled in San Francisco’s queer and queer-supporting community.

written by Jesse Strauss

We Remember the Rodney King Uprisings and the Historic Gang Truce of 1992

As we look back on the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King/ LA Uprisings there are a few things to keep in mind that’ll hopefully bring all that went down April 29th 1992 into a clearer perspective..

The vicious beating of unarmed motorist Rodney King which was caught on tape, March 3 1991 by bystander George Holiday angered many. But at the same time it gave people some sort of hope that things would change. The video tape was seemed the crucial piece of evidence that many had long been waiting for that would vindicate thousands of Black and Brown folks living in Southern, Cali who had long complained about the brutality of LAPD…Many felt it would lead to the arrest and criminal punishment of the 4 officers who were seen striking King over 50 times with batons and tasering him. The video tape underscored the long list of social and political conditions that were leading up to the 92 Uprisings. You can peep that infamous video HERE

The Sordid Legacy of Daryl Gates and LAPD

Rodney King

Prior to the Rodney King beating, many in the mainstream (whites) were dismissive of complaints from people in the hood about LA police brutality. In their minds they figured whatever was done by the police was justified, after all many had come to believe that areas like South Central LA, Watts, Compton and East LA to name a few, were ‘infested’ with out of control gangbangers who needed to be ‘suppressed’ at all costs.

I use words like ‘infested‘ and  ‘suppressed‘ deliberately because that’s the dehumanizing language often used by the main antagonistic to Black and Brown communities in LA at that time, former Police Chief, the late Daryl Gates.

For those who don’t know, Gates was a  media savvy, sadistic man who ran a well-heeled media campaign that convinced the world that his police force needed to be further militarized. Building off the legacy and policies of his mentor and predecessor LA’s police chief William H Parker, Gates started dressing his officers in military garb and supplying them with military weapons. He also got the department to  adopt intrusive tactics more associated with Marine invasions vs protecting and serving the community which is the slogan seen on LA police cars.

Gates used the influx of crack cocaine and fights over drug turf as the rationale for ramping up his force. He even went out and got a tank that was modified to knock down crack houses. This tank was immortalized in the song Batter Ram by LA rapper Toddy Tee.. The Batterram garnered headlines when zealous officers knocked down the homes of innocent people thanks to faulty information or them being overzealous. Gates was unapologetic.

His campaign was suppression of the Black and Brown folks, no matter what walk of life. Under an infamous policy known as Operation Hammer, everyone from those communities who came in contact with LAPD  was seen as a gang member. Again this is not exaggeration. Part of Gate’s strategy was to establish an extensive gang database, hence anyone pulled over for a traffic violation or stopped and detained for minor infractions was most likely to be entered into the database.

Gate’s policy was simple; you were associated with a particular gang based upon the neighborhood you lived in. The result of this policy was aggressive and harsh treatment, suspicion & profiling and oftentimes arrest when police pulled you over or detained you and found your name listed in the gang database.

Any crime committed against you was tainted as ‘gang related‘. The implication was , you were a victim of a robbery, or assault because of gang ties. This resulting in many crimes not being taken seriously. On top of that, complaints against the police was put on the back burner, especially if it could be shown that you were a ‘gang member’ listed in the database. By the time the Rodney King/LA Uprisings kicked off, a whooping 47% of Black males between the ages of 21-25 in Los Angles were deemed gang members thanks to the database.

LAPD’s Unwritten Policy of Suppression

The unwritten policy of LAPD dating back to the 1950s under Chief William H Parker was to establish dominance send a strong message to the growing population of Black and Brown folks that the police were in charge. This was done two ways. First, Parker notoriously recruited officers from states throughout the South, which were still immersed in Jim Crow. Many of the officers harbored strong anti-Black sentiments and carried it with them to their new jobs in Los Angeles.

LAPD Chief William H Parker

Second, his officers would make it a point to stop and detain Black youth while they were pre-teens or in their early teens. This was Parker’s way of as a way establishing presence. He wanted certain residents of LA to know the police were always around and ready to roll and clamp down. Parker’s attitude was get to them while they’re young and put fear in them. The adults who were stopped by his men were treated even more harshly. Oftentimes they were talked to in a demeaning manner i.e. being  called ‘boy’ or a racial epithet.

Parker’s cops were known to purposely embarrass adults in front  of their kids or on husbands in front of their wives.. All this hostility was complicated by the fact that LA at that time was very segregated and had on its books housing covenants which restricted the areas that Black and Brown folks could live..

Watts was the main Black area was known among police officers as ‘the Duck Pond. Here officers who patrolled it, did so with the goal of containing Black residents and keeping them from entering into white sections of the city.

There was study done in the 60s that showed that 90% of the juveniles arrested by LAPD were not charged. This was essentially Stop-N-Frisk ala NYPD decades before it showed up as police practice in NYC. Many say Parker’s harsh policing policies led to the 1965 Watts Riots/Rebellions..

It’s important to understand this history when looking at the Rodney King uprisings. Its important for folks to know and understand how deep rooted and systemic police/ community relations were and the type of discontent that it caused.  In the 1965 Watts rebellion, in spite of the resulting  39 dead and over a 1000 injured, conditions and policy didn’t change too much in LA. If anything they got worse.

By the 1980s  LA’s first Black Mayor Tom Bradley continued that harsh policing when he famously ordered massive roundups and arrests via Daryl Gates, of Black and Brown men as LA hosted the 1984 Olympics. It’s reported that over 25 thousand were locked up. A few years later Gates implemented Operation Hammer which was a system of gang sweeps and massive arrests. One weekend he locked up over 1200 residents suspected of being ‘gang members’.

Gates said there was a war going on in the streets and his police force was determined to fight it. However, as we now know Gate’s war machine should’ve been directed at the government who supplied infamous drug dealers like Freeway Rick with the cocaine and not the community who were catching hell on both ends. On one hand, many in  Black and Brown communities fell prey to crack addiction or crack related violence. While on the other hand, they also felt the the wide sweeping brunt of Daryl Gates and his brutalizing police force.

Latasha Harlins

Latasha Harlins

In looking at the Rodney King uprisings, many believe you can not overlook the shooting death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins at the hands of Korean grocery store owner Soon Ja Du. her death happened 2 weeks after Rodney King was beaten.. A video tape surfaced showing Harlin’s being shot in the back of the head as she attempted to leave a store where she was suspected of ‘stealing a soda.

According to court transcripts, what went down was; Harlin put a soda in her backpack and went to the counter to pay for it. Ja Du not seeing the money in Harlins’ hand grabbed her and a tussle ensued.  During the struggle, Du threw a stool at Harlin, she in turn picked up the soda and threw it on the counter. Harlins then turned to leave the store at which point Du pulled out a gun and shot her in the head claiming she feared for her life.

Tensions between Black and Korean merchants exploded. Korean merchants felt that they were frequent victims to violent crimes at the hands of Blacks. Black customers felt they were always being far too often deemed suspicious and treated badly by Koreans who were getting money from the community yet didn’t live there or show respect. Harlins murder was the tipping point.

Verdicts Gone Wrong

The trials demanding justice for Harlin and King looked to be open and shut with convictions eminent. Many in the Black community were hopeful, after al,l both incidents were caught on tape. Unfortunately these trials were anything but simple.

In spite of the video and contradictory testimony Du was sentenced to 5 years probation at the conclusion of her November 1991 trial. A news report at the time showed a Korean man being sentenced around the same time for being cruel to a dog. He received 30 days.. That was contrasted with the Harlin’s verdict and caused widespread outrage. You can peep that video HERE.

Koon, Powell, Briseno & Wind

The Rodney King trial took a longer path. First, it was moved out of LA to Simi Valley which is home to a lot of police officers. defense lawyers claimed there was too much pre-trial publicity.

Second, there were no African-Americans on the jury. The trial to convict LAPD officers  Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind was heard by a jury consisting of ten whites, one Latino and one Asian..

On April 29 1992, that Simi Valley jury acquitted all 4 officers. Once the word got out, all hell broke loose. The result?  53 people dead, about 2,500 injured and more than $400 million in property damage.

The sentiment was Black life didn’t matter and there would never be any justice for those who found themselves on the receiving end of oppression and abuse.People were angery and felt hopeless, as if nothing they did mattered or would be given a fair shot.

Mayor Tom Bradley visibly taken a back by the verdict publicly stated; ‘the jury’s verdict will not blind us to what we saw on that videotape. The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the L.A.P.D.

Then President Bush sr stated; ‘viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I and so was Barbara and so were my kids’.

Daryl Gates defended his department and his decision not to have extra officers on hand after the verdict was read.. He claimed that his department would shut down any disturbance. After the uprising, Gates was asked to step down, by Mayor Bradley, he steadfastly refused and a huge public dispute between the two men emerged. Gates finally stepped down, two months later in June 1992.

6 months after the uprising Gates showed his true sadistic colors when he acknowledged that he made errors in judgement around handling the uprising. He said; “Clearly that night we should have gone down there and shot a few peoplethat’s exactly what we should have done. We should have blown a few heads off.’

The 92 Gang Truce

The LA Uprising brought to life a beautiful facet that had  been in the works for a couple of years prior and had been cemented two days before the infamous Rodney King verdict.

Rival Blood and Crip sets in Watts signed historic Gang Truce on April 27th. More than 300 gang members showed up at City hall to mark the occasion. Many didn’t realize a truce had went into effect until all the turmoil jumped off and folks noticed that rivals gangs were working hand in hand, calling for unity and exuding a spirit of cooperation. There were signs painted all over the city that read Crip, Bloods and Eses Together. Many thought the lopsided verdict brought everyone together overnight. The truth of the matter was the ensuing rebellion underscored and accentuated the peace and healing work various cliques had been working toward…

What led to the truce was gang members tiring of senseless deaths. LA had its highest murder rate two years in row leading up to the uprising. Much of the violence was around drug turf. In response gang members in Watts began to wake up and start a process that would eventually lead to peace.

Landmark meetings with Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and later numerous gatherings at the home of former football legend Jim Brown played key roles in helping facilitate the various peace process gang members had undertaken..Its said Brown put almost half a million dollars of his own money into efforts to lay down a foundation for peace.

The 92 Gang Truce set off similar efforts throughout LA and around the nation. Its also one of the most under reported facets of what went down 20 years ago.


Aqeela Sherills

We recently sat down with Aqeela Sherrills who was part of that important process. In this interview he gives an indepth run down of what took place and what’s going on now in LA, 20 years later. He talks in great detail about the decrease in crime because of the Truce. He noted that LA has its lowest crime in over 40 years and that its currently in its 8th year of decreases. He also talked about how the 92 Gang Truce was an inspiration for the Million man march which took place 3 years later.

He also goes into detail explaining the attempts to break the Truce.. The main culprit? LAPD. He noted that the police had strong economic incentive to keep the chaos going due to the huge amount of income they were generating via overtime pay and the formation of specialized task force. It was in their interests to play up the fear and downplay the truce.

In our interview  Aqeela also talks about the Black/ Brown conflict. He explains how a lot of the beef has been rival gangs (one Black  one Brown) going at it and not so much due to racial hatred..

Here’s a link to this insightful interview..that aired yesterday on our TRadioV show

Below is an incredible clip just days after the Rodney King Uprising..It aired on Nightline w/ Ted Koppell and features gang members Bone and Lil Monster


We went digging in the crates to pull out an insightful interview w/ former Gang member Twilight Bey who was the inspiration for the PBS show Twilight LA…He gives a solid breakdown of the 92 Gang Truce and what led up to LA Uprisings..  Much of what he said 10 years ago holds true today.. Below pt 1 of the 4pt conversation..


The Role of Hip Hop

As we close out we have to acknowledge the role music and Hip Hop played in the Rodney King/ LA Uprisings.. First a bit of history… Back in 1965 during the Watts Rebellion, the media and the police blamed popular African-American disc jockey Magnifigent Montague for setting it off. Montague was heard on KGFJ where he frequently peppered his on air banter in between the hottest R&B and Soul songs of the day with tidbits about African American history. He would often have guest on his show including Malcolm X. Martin Luther King name checks him in a couple of speeches praising him for his activism.

Montague had a slogan that he used whenever he played a hit record.. That phrase was ‘Burn Baby Burn‘. Listeners would call up when he played a dope song and repeat the phrase.  During the Watts Rebellion in 65, folks in the streets adapted the phrase. Some flipped it and said Burn Whitey Burn..

Montague was on the air encouraging folks to go home, but that didn’t stop Chief William Parker from publicly calling for Montague to be fired. LAPD also stepped to him to stop using the phrase. Montague kept his job, but dropped the slogan and changed it to Learn Baby learn as he committed himself to working with youth and calling for peace.

Ice Cube

The scapegoating of Montague should be noted because years later during the 92 Uprisings, folks blamed rappers like Ice Cube for setting a tone that would lead to social unrest.  Folks looked at songs like Black Korea, which Cube did in homage to Latasha Harlin 7 months before the 92 unrest where he warned Korean merchants to respect the Black fist or get burned to a crisp.. When folks went after Korean stores during the rebellion, Cube was called to task and accused of being racist..

What was overlooked was that Cube and many others were soundtracking the emotions and sentiments held by many at that time.. We could look back to Toddy Tee doing Batterram and Ice T doing 6 N the Morning as giving us early glimpse into what Black folks in LA were struggling with..

NWA‘s Fuck tha Police took it to a whole other level and became an anthem, which netted response from police departament and the FBI.. Police in cities throughout the country pressured venue owners to not allow the song to be played.. An FBI member sent a letter to the group condemning the group.

After the uprisings Cube shunned his critics and turned up the heat with songs like We Had to Tear This Mother Up Here he talks about going after the Simi Valley jury and personally assaulting the 4 officers who were aquitted. He name checks each of them and drops a line explaining the violent manner he would like to see befall them.

Meanwhile, his then newly signed artist Kam who was apart of the Gang Truce documents and celebrates it in his song Peace Treaty . His video brings to life the beauty of unity that was unfolding in Watts.

In the wake of that dozens of songs emerged referencing the 92 Gang Truce, the LA Uprisings and anger toward the police.


As we look back on the 20th anniversary, lets allow what occurred to be an inspiration. Lets learn lessons from the historic gang truce, lets try to bring similar efforts in our own communities. Lets also learn the lessons of a police force that refuses to change. 20 years after the Uprisings we seen the police departments get worse. It was just last week that we saw the investigation into LA sheriffs about a group of rogue cops calling themselves the Jump Off Boys.. The struggle continues..

written by Davey D

An Epic Intv w/ Jeru tha Damaja: Maturing In Hip Hop & Making An Album in Poland

It’s always good to chop it up w/ Brooklyn emcee Jeru tha Damaja.. We go back a long ways and with each interview he provides more and more jewels.

This past week was no different, Jeru came by the crib where we chopped it up about everything under the sun.. We talked about the origins and meaning of his name and what he meant when he used the tag ‘damaja’. It was a question I never asked, believe it or not.. he said it meant he was one to destroy the mics and destroy misconceptions…

We talked about maturing in the industry and the importance of not being seen as ‘old school’ but instead being seen as classic.. We talked about the importance of Hip Hop pioneers Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa who recently celebrated birthdays. Jeru explained about how both men have always respected him and he in turn have viewed them as big brothers who have positive impact on him..

We talked about his friendship w/ the late Guru of Gang Starr.  Jeru reminisced how Guru rescued him from the streets and help give him direction. he talked about the formidable rap crew that included Group Home, MOP, they had when Guru released th Ill Kids project. He regretted that everyone didn’t stick together We also talked about the issues related to the 2Pac hologram its pros and cons.. We also talked about his travels and what parts of the world he likes performing in.. Jeru talked about a new album he just did in Poland that features both American and Polish emcees..