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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Florence and Normandie - 20 Years After the LA Riots

This month is the 20th anniversary of the LA riots which began on April 29, 1992,  following the acquittal of 4 LAPD officers in the brutal beating of Rodney King. I was assigned to photograph the neighborhood twenty years after the flashpoint of the violence, including the notorious Florence and Normandie intersection where Reginald Denny was seriously beaten. I was excited and also cautious about this assignment. The first day I accompanied a reporter as he interviewed some of the local neighborhood folks. Mostly, I found people to be friendly and willing to talk and be photographed. It was early in the day, but the liquor store on the corner was bustling and a few people had already had more than enough to drink. We walked the neighborhood and met some of the local residents. On the second day, one person suggested I "bring a bodyguard next time". A passing motorist yelled out some threats, but thankfully drove on when the light turned green. The only time I felt a real sense of fear was when a very loud boom went off, startling everybody in the vicinity, to our relief it was a couple of unlucky pigeons that somehow set off a small explosion on a power line. 

 Down the block, there was a small makeshift memorial with candles wrapped in blue bandanas, the colors of the local crip gang, where a young man was gunned down in a drive by shooting that week. LAPD officers detained two teenagers that were paying respects to their fallen friend. They were relieved when the police let them go on their way, and were nice enough to stop and give me their names for captioning. A man was intently watching the whole scene unfold across the street, he told me he wanted the police to see someone was watching them. He went on to describe in great detail the chaos that he saw on that day 20 years ago.

Rev. Cecil Murray
 The final days off covering this assignment, I had the awesome experience to photograph the Rev. Cecil Murray, who helped calm the violence and tension as pastor of the 1st AME church back in 92. In addition, a very kind and gracious congregation invited me to attend a Sunday church service inside a converted former small storefront, and I checked out an open house at a bank owned duplex selling for $290,000. Sadly, most people told me that not thatnmuch has changed in the past twenty years in South LA, jobs are scarce, and many people are severely struggling just to keep a roof over their heads. But there is also some hope that things improve, and I really hope it does.

1 comment:

Luis Gomez said...

Wonderful work Jonathan!