Twenty-five years ago, the LA Uprising was not set off by a single jury verdict. As much as society tends to point fingers at the acquittal of the four white police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King—a black man—by a predominantly white jury, the Rodney King verdict was a symptom, not the source, of the 1992 LA Uprising. Rather, the civil unrest was triggered by South LA residents’ ongoing frustrations with the systemic disinvestment, injustice and historic marginalization of low-income communities of color that devalued and dehumanized their community.
Contrary to negative persisting narratives about the region, South LA’s story is one of resiliency and growth. For twenty-five years, South LA residents have been sending elected officials a strong and consistent message: don’t make policy about us, without us. In recent years, community members and organizations have come together as part of the South LA Building Healthy Communities (BHC) collaborative to organize around community issues, including school climate policies, healthcare access, environmental justice and equitable community development.
On April 29th, South LA residents filled the intersection of Florence and Normandie with art, spoken word and music as community members share a collective vision for the future of South LA on the 25th anniversary of the Uprising. The historic intersection, once the flashpoint of the 1992 civil unrest, was the starting point of Future Fest – a march put on by the BHC collaborative that culminated at 81st and Vermont.
At South LA BHC, our network of partners promote policies that value and support the health and wellbeing of our community. Driven by adult and youth resident leaders and a robust nonprofit infrastructure, South LA BHC partners have had incredible success securing tens of millions of dollars for community investment and advancing new policies that promote equity and justice in South LA and the LA area. This includes successful advocacy for reinvestment of funding from incarceration to prevention, increased resources for parks, negotiation of community benefit agreements that provide both housing and economic development returns for long-term residents, protecting residents from polluting facilities, reforming harsh school discipline policies and securing more equitable distribution of state resources for the most needy schools and expanding healthcare access for undocumented populations and increasing access to care for transgender populations.
Looking forward, while the South LA community has achieved numerous organizing and infrastructure wins, we must also recognize that many of the same conditions present in 1992 continue to exist today. Our partners have developed a joint platform which they intend to leverage to help build power for South LA that transcends any single-issue campaign and, instead, recognizes that the collective movement is what will bring real transformation to the systems that have oppressed and marginalized them for decades.
The injustices we see in different places are tied together. We cannot extinguish harmful narratives about our community without also addressing harsh school discipline policies that punish students—no more than we can promote equitable community development without also prioritizing environmental justice. Given the interconnected nature of the issues our community faces, BHC partners collaborate across sectors to create space for intersectional analysis. Just last month, South LA BHC community partners engaged in a resident townhall to spark new dialogue across sectors.
Future Fest marks a pivotal moment in which, having reflected on how far South LA has come in the past 25 years, our community partners will launch a unified plan of action for how to transform the South LA community into one that is healthy and just. South LA is the future, and the future of South LA is inextricably tied to the future of the City. Only through leveraging our collective power can we truly sustain community voice and advance community-driven solutions that bring about systems change and policy innovation.