Produced in the months following the L.A. riots, this documentary takes a look at the aftermath, focusing in particular on how it affected the lives of business owners whose businesses were destroyed by the fires and looting, but also including a number of segments with other members of the community including an ex-gang member expressing the underlying problems that caused the riots, a woman from El Salvador who lost her home when the fire spread across an alleyway, police officers attending the funeral of a black community leader and evangelist, a follower of Malcolm X's Muslim teachings, etc. The segments provide a wide range of opinions and ideas about the riots and the state of Los Angele's race relations before, during, and after the events.
0:03Copy video clip URL Slate and titles — Life & Times: Exit King Blvd.
0:12Copy video clip URL The program begins with aerial footage of the fires in L.A., with audio of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the top: “Yet the truth is that no one can scorn nonviolent direct action or civil disobedience without cancelling out American history. The first nonviolent direct action did not occur in Montgomery, its roots go back to the American revolution.”
0:48Copy video clip URL The host, Ruben Martinez, introduces the program, which focuses on Los Angeles’s attempts to recover from “the riots, the rebellion, the unrest. Call it what you will, we were at war with each other.” Martinez says that LA has rapidly tried to move into a state of recovery and healing, but asks if the city is just retreating to normal behavior so it can get on with the day-to-day life of running a city, or if perhaps LA can look at the ashes as a unique opportunity to rebuild as “a healthy, just, and economically viable community.”
2:15Copy video clip URL A montage of often heavily-manipulated footage from the unrest, including looters, fires burning, police, etc. set to “Fire Burning’ On Main” by Rhythm Tribe.
4:44Copy video clip URL A photographer takes some photographs of a pair of shop owners whose stores were both in a mini-mall that burned down.
5:29Copy video clip URL They look at the rubble where the Aquarian Bookstore and Cultural Center once stood, including the ashen remains of book pages that litter the ground. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author who had multiple book signing at the store, talks about its importance as both a cultural meeting place to the literary community in LA and a cultural resource for the community as a whole.
7:00Copy video clip URL Alfred Ligon, the owner of Aquarian, says, “This is the phoenix fire… out of his ashes, he rises again.” Ligon says he’s not “moaning or crying” over the loss of his bookstore because he believes that we must try to understand each event that happens in our life and act based on that, so he sees the fire as a new beginning. He says he does plan on re-establishing the Aquarian bookshop.
7:54Copy video clip URL Hutchinson speaks over footage of a book that has turned entirely into ash, saying he thinks that the true spirit of progress for humanity is thoughts, and while books and the written word are ideas made manifest, you still cannot destroy those ideas even if the books are gone.
8:21Copy video clip URL Chris Bemuth and Norberta Ramires, owners of People’s Choice Thrift Shop, which also did consignment sales. Bemuth says that even before the riots, people were afraid to say anything about the drugs and violence in the neighborhood, because it would make you a target. “Our windows got smashed several times just because [for example] a color TV didn’t work right.” He talks about some of the locals who were shot in the months before the riots, and talks about “15 or 13 year old kids who carry a piece [a gun] right behind [their backs]” as if “it’s no big thing.” He says South Central is not the place to do business if you have any sense. “It’s too tough and your life ain’t worth it.”
10:51Copy video clip URL Joe & Joyce Wilson, owners of Pop’s Restaurant, talk about the first day of the riots. He said he couldn’t believe that his store was on fire when it spread from other shops in the mini-mall, and that people had to pull him out of the kitchen. The Wilsons talk about how they actually had good business the first morning of the looting: people who were looting set their stolen goods outside and came in to have breakfast, “and they paid!” Joyce says, “They said, ‘Are you alright?’ We said, ‘We’re alright.’ They said, ‘We’re going to come back to see if you’re fine.'”
11:56Copy video clip URL Joyce says, “This weren’t no Rodney King thing, this was a people thing.” She says that although television news reports never explicitly told people to go out and loot, they still let looters know about places that were unprotected. She begins to choke back tears, “‘No policemen around. You can come over here.’ They didn’t say it, but that’s what they meant.”
12:37Copy video clip URL They look at the burned out shell of their restaurant. And Joyce comments that one of the men working to clean it up said that before this, he was unemployed. “I’m going to work, help clean,” the man says, “You know, I mean, I’m scrapping, true. But still, I’m cleaning, okay?” He says he wants to help so the work crews can start rebuilding.
14:46Copy video clip URL At their home, the Wilsons talk about their interfaith marriage: Joyce is a Baptist, Joe is a Muslim. Similarly, one of their kids (Inshallah) is a Baptist, the other (Adam) a Muslim, and the third is still deciding but goes to a Muslim school. “She’s not public school material,” Joyce says, “She’s kind of hyperal.” Her daughter corrects her, “Hyperal? Hyper!”
15:29Copy video clip URL Joyce talks to her daughter about the riots: “When I give you the lunch money every day, what do I tell you?” “Don’t get no free lunch.” “Okay, it’s the same thing about looting. Instead of you going out looting, you go to work.” Joyce says the first night, her daughter was worried the fire or looters would attack their home and they had to go to the door and reassure her.
17:24Copy video clip URL Anthony Howard, a former gang member, reads a prepared speech that is reminiscent of slam poetry, sometimes overlaid with footage of the events. He talks in particular about the mistreatment and abuse of black men by the police. “The Rodney King beating wasn’t the reason for the riot… We black brothers have been overloaded too long. Police harass you for no reason. What’s a difference from a brick and a baton? They have you lay down on the ground just to get your ID out of your pocket.” He says that the police would take arrest a Crip and take them into Blood territory. “You’re in the backseat telling the police, ‘Officer, please don’t let me go. Please don’t, I don’t want to get beat up, I don’t want to die.”
19:55Copy video clip URL “Those police officers were on trial for all the young brothers that they beat,” says Howard. “It’s a shame that it took fire for people to see that we are somebody.” He also pleads for all his brothers out there to stop gangbanging.
21:41Copy video clip URL Vittian Pozo, a little girl from El Salvador, shows how the fire spread from a store across the alleyway to her family’s home. “This was my house and my workplace,” says her mother, Bertila Pozo, amid the charred debris of her former house. Nothing was saved. She talks about how the Red Cross has helped her buy some clothes for herself and her daughters, and that they’re also going to pay her first month of rent. She says she used to make pillows in her home, but will now have to work elsewhere—”a garment shop, or as a maid, or whatever I can find.”
24:51Copy video clip URL Bertila Pozo tells a story about seeing firefighters running from an angry mob, so she invited the firefighters into her home to protect them. One of the firefighters gives a fairly dry and factual recounting of their plans to put out the fire when a car pulled up with guns and told them to stop. One of the men pointed a gun directly into the fire captain’s face. The captain gave up his radio and signaled for the firefighters to give up and leave. “They wanted us to let it burn and not put out their fire.” They left the truck and fled on foot. Pozo says, “I knew that I could get hurt helping them, but I always believed in God and I thought, ‘Oh well…'”
28:21Copy video clip URL At Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School: Mary Lewis, a teacher, instructs a class that is a doing a project where they get to edit the lead editorial in an issue of the LA Times. Gayle Pollard Terry of the LA Times talks to the class about what could be done to stop future riots. First the kids provide simple but less meaningful answers, like saying that people should just get along, but Terry guides them to think of more specific solutions. She asks, “What do people need?” After some silence, one kid says, “Money,” and they talk about how they need to hire people for full-time jobs.
29:25Copy video clip URL Sue Horton of USC School of Journalism helps the class decide on what they think of the riots and why it happened. The class talks about prejudice and discrimination that they themselves have experienced. An Asian boy says he’s been called “Ching Chong Chong.” Some of the class laughs and he seems embarrassed, but Horton agrees that that is a horrible thing to call someone.
30:08Copy video clip URL In separate interviews, some of the kids comment on racism and prejudice. A boy from Mexico talks about other Latino kids who pick on him by calling him a Mexican. “What do you think you are? You’re the same thing. We’re both Latino. They don’t know.” A girl says she doesn’t like to think certain ways about people because of their color, but admits “sometimes I can’t help myself and I do.”
30:58Copy video clip URL Horton and Lewis continue to guide the class on their editorial. Lewis talks about her experiences working for years in an inner city school, and her disappointment in many teachers who leave because they think minority children aren’t as smart as white children. She also talks about fears about safety, and why she doesn’t live in the neighborhood anymore. “I did, and I had problems. Being alone now, it’s not worth it.”
35:25Copy video clip URL A segment about a group of police officers who were pallbearers at the funeral of Evangelist Frances Williams, a community leader who reached out to gang members and troubled kids. Margie Evans, Williams’ niece, talks about the strength of Williams’ faith and her lack of fear when it came to dealing with gang members. Bernard Ricketts, William’s son, talks about how she would wake up with a gun in her face and would just say, “Praise the Lord! What you need, take it.” He says that once, the robber apologized and climbed back out the window. Evans talks about a young gang member who was abusive of Williams, but then one day he came up to her and apologized and embraced her.
40:22Copy video clip URL Officer Reggie Page of the LAPD says he remembers how welcoming she was. “If there was [even just] one person at her home, she’d make it as if there were 50.” Page also talks about PACE (Police Assisted Community Enhancement), a project where the cops are trying to work together with the community to solve the problems. He talks about explaining the Rodney King trial to his son, saying, “As there are good officers, there are also bad officers… there are good and bad people in every walk of life.” Page also says his relationship with the community didn’t face a setback from the trial and riots, because people in the community know him and his character. “Law enforcement is not the end-all answer for the social ills of our community,” he says.
44:15Copy video clip URL “Why you take it?” Bona & James Lee, a Korean couple whose store was destroyed in the riot, confronts two men who were looting the ruins of their property. The looters seem to think they are justified, and one of the men even threatens to take the cameraman’s equipment.
45:50Copy video clip URL The couple enters the ruins of their shop, Don Re Market, and talk about their journey to the US from Korea. They worked multiple jobs for years, saving up money. “I never slept more than 5 hours [a night] over the last 20 years,” Bona says. Don Re Market was their first business, “and as you see, it’s gone like ash.”
48:16Copy video clip URL Bona Lee says the news media reports the one or two stories about black customers killed by Korean merchants, but not all the Korean merchants killed by black customers. She becomes emotional, saying, “I’m supposed to be understanding [of] their anger and forgive them, but who’s going to [be] understanding [of] my anger? … How can I express my feelings [about the] vandalism and hatred? … I’m a human being, I can’t be like a god. … I try to be [as] nice [as before], but there is no healing at all, period.” In a caption at the end, it’s stated that “According to the KOREAN AMERICAN GROCERS ASSOCIATION, between the two year period of January 1989 – January 1911, 19 Korean store owners were murdered in Los Angeles County.”
51:32Copy video clip URL At Muhammad Mosque No.27, Dr. Khallid Muhammad talks about the mosque’s history: “The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad sent his national assistance and national spokesman, Minister Malcolm X, to this area during the late ’50s to establish a self-help or self-reliance program for black people.” He says that Rodney King was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. He also says that “rebuilding” Los Angeles would mean returning to business as usual, i.e. to literally build the same thing again. “Black people have no vested interest in the ‘rebuilding’ of Los Angeles. For the same bloodsuckers of the black community to return to their shops and stores will do nothing for the… wretched condition… of black people here in South Central and the South Centrals all across America.”
53:11Copy video clip URL He says that they say to the Hispanic people who come in, “The same dog that bit you bit us too. We’re the same people. We’re one family.” He talks about the importance of unity for minority communities, which must come together in fighting oppression. He says the divisions go beyond Crips and Bloods, but also to black academics, corporate black America, black police officers, etc. who might deal condescendingly with the rest of the black community. He hopes all of the black community can come together and stop relying on white men in Washington or other positions of power, and instead rely in the God made manifest in the form of every black person in the community.
55:19Copy video clip URL Mailman Woody Taylor walks his usual route of the past 27 years, which takes him through a tightly-knit black community in South Central. The video crew speaks with some of the residents, who say that this is a community of long-time residents who value their property and community. “If you look at the media, they will show you the slum areas,” but not areas like this where people actually care about the neighborhood. Residents make small talk with Woody, and discuss how the neighborhood hasn’t really changed much in the past 20 years.
1:00:18Copy video clip URL At The Color Scheme, a fabric and clothing store specializing in African attire, owner John Farris says that he’s had more business lately, and suggests that people are becoming more aware and proud of their heritage and culture. His daughter, Dorriann, says, “It wasn’t a riot, it was a revolution,” and says that black people are becoming more unified and want symbols of their culture.
1:01:47Copy video clip URL John Farris talks about how black people have difficulty loving and respecting each other, which he traces back to slavery. John’s wife, Odell Farris talks about actually looking up what black and white meant in the dictionary, and her shock at the stark differences in connotation. “White: it incorporates a race of people, pure, snowy, everything good. Over in the black definition: evil, witchcraft, malignant, and then it incorporates a people.”
1:03:09Copy video clip URL The Farris family talks about how important it is for black people to own businesses, especially black businesses in black communities. They debate the reasons why black people don’t own as many businesses. Odell says that because of slavery, there is no familial history of owning business, i.e. there isn’t a line of merchants who can teach their children the family trade. John argues that there are plenty of black people who know how to run a business but choose not to do business in black communities. Dorriann says this is because black people have been taught and conditioned to hate themselves by white society, citing how black women have been taught to be ashamed of their black bodies and view them as ugly. Odell agrees and emphasizes that black people need training on how to run a successful businesses, not just money. Dorriann also talks about how Asian business owners are able to sell at a lower price to the poor communities, which John says is because Asian business owners are more likely to run “a family business” where they have less overhead because they don’t have to pay employees.
1:07:08Copy video clip URL Dorriann says her generation is “a generation for change,” and that they’re not going to just sit around praying for help, they’re going to take action.
1:07:40Copy video clip URL California Cleaners owner Jesse Zaragoza talks about his rottweiler, who is trained to viciously protect businesses. Zaragoza tells a story about how during the riot, his first instinct was to defend his business, so at first he locked himself up in the store with a gun and his dog. However, he realized he’d rather lose his business than his life, and went home, leaving the dog to protect his store. He says according to some neighbors, some looters came but when they saw the dog, they left. He also says that initially, he wanted to relocate out of the area after the riots, but business has been down (less business from hotels because fewer people are travelling to LA right now, and some of the other businesses he serviced have burned down) so they are currently just taking it one day at a time. “We’re now in the business of security, to protect ourselves.”
1:10:46Copy video clip URL A high school class vents their frustrations after the riots. “These kids have a sense, whether justifiably or not, that their lives [and] well-being has been put on the back burner,” says Principal Robert Barner. “One of my roles as principal is to keep hope alive.” He talks about his reaction to the Rodney King verdict, and driving around with his kids looking at the chaos and being unable to explain why. He says that many of the kids don’t have a sense of their own future, and that a good education that gives them hope would cost less than trying to repair the harm and damaged caused otherwise. He says his district is neglected because it’s a minority district.
1:14:47Copy video clip URL At a barbershop, barber Marcus Martin and his customers talk about the changes in the neighborhood. Martin says the shopping center across the street was good for the neighborhood, and a lot of people are upset that it burned. “All the burning they did, I don’t think it was necessary, putting folks out of work.” One customer says that financially, he can’t afford to leave the neighborhood, but he’s looking to move if he can find someplace, although he would still come to this barbershop because he loves the people here. Another customer, a black teenager, talks about how he has to change how he dresses and acts to avoid being targeted by police and possibly other gangs.
1:17:56Copy video clip URL At St. Brigid Church, Fr. Fernando Aritzi says it’s an afro-centric church, but there’s a growing Latin@ population, and he talks about their attempts to grow and invite in the new culture, not to lose the black culture but enhance it. During his sermon, Aritzi says, “We live together, my brothers and sisters… It’s time for us to start dialoguing, it’s time for us to explore new avenues for the future.”
1:20:53Copy video clip URL Fr. Aritzi hosts a dialogue with the African American and Hispanic youth. He says that first, they just have to express their emotions, then they start to analyze the problems, and the third step is, “Where do we go from here?”
1:23:06Copy video clip URL Aritzi meets with his friend, community leader Virginia Hughs. She talks about Aritzi: “Young people say, ‘He’s cool,” old people say, “He cares.'” The interviewer asks, “What do you think?” They laugh and Hughs says, “I think the Good Lord screwed up when They didn’t make us natural brother and sister.” Aritzi jokes, “I was going to say, ‘Don’t say it!'”
1:25:18Copy video clip URL Host Ruben Martinez says what happened on the streets “cannot be explained simply as a race war—it was race and class, it was hatred of the other and self hatred as well… it was a black thing and a Latin@ thing, a white thing and an Asian thing, it was a thing of the well-off and the downtrodden. The riots showed us just how intricately our destinies are woven, and just how divided we are. And it will be together that we will determine whether it is our salvation or damnation that rises from the ashes of 1992.”
1:26:03Copy video clip URL End credits set to “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye.
1:27:12Copy video clip URL End of tape.