I was in L.A. during the L.A. Riots. And what I noticed was that the people that were tearing down their neighborhoods and stealing. Were poor, white, black, red, brown and yellow. And as I watched them on the news, breaking into shops and burning down buildings. I could not help but notice, what they were stealing. They were stealing, toys for their kids, diapers, and eggs, etc. I realized what the L.A. riots was all about. It was about people, who were starving.
People who were not stealing, for the sake of stealing. But people who were stealing, what they needed to survive. Stealing, in order that they might regain some sense of self respect. In a society, that values a persons wealth and status. Rather than “The content of their character”. Stealing, because they were not able to provide, for their children. Stealing the things that would allow their children, a sense of status in society.
At the time nationwide, young black boys were killing each other. And taking their Nike shoes off their dead bodies, along with their sports jackets.
My performance group, THE HITTITE EMPIRE, created the play THE NIKE KILLER. To bring attention to this issue. In hopes that Michael Jordan, and NIKE CORPORATION, would lower the price of their NIKE shoes. Decreasing their value. In order to stop the bloodshed. But NIKE and MJ, were more concerned with the “bottom line” than the lives of young black youth
The initial destruction of property, was a demonstration of a communities “rage against the machine”. It was not until later, that people came from the outside to plunder. People who had no interest in their struggle. People who had not been in the trenches. Fighting the good fight, since the Watts Riots. People who just made the situation worst. People stealing, based on their self-interest. People who had no rhyme or reason to steal. But stole, for stealing sake.
It was also, the first time in my lifetime, where white citizens were being beat up, and shot and killed as they drove by. Shot and killed, in broad daylight. Our sound art group, BLACK MADRID. Even created a record called “Reginald Denny, he ain’t dead. Oops upside his head. To combat the 24hr coverage, of the Reginald Denny’s beating on national television. We wanted to create our own press release, about the 19 young black youth. Who had received no media coverage. And were the first to day in the L.A. riots.
The people who came from outlining cities to steal. Were not part of the community, that had to suffer under that particular type of poverty. A poverty that made them vulnerable to, police brutality. A community, that had a vested interest, in trying to better their situation “By any means necessary”. This insurrection, was not a new occurrence in the black community. There have been, slave rebellions in the past. And thousands of rebellions, throughout history. Including hundreds of rebellions in America. The Boston Tea Party,and the Revolutionary War are just a couple of examples.
The people who came in, from the outside to steal. Had no reason to be there at all. Opportunist who watched the news, and saw a chance to take advantage of the situation. They did not understand, what setting things ablaze meant. They had yet to suffer, under the thumb of “The Vikings”. A Aryan group within the L.A.P.D. Who acted without impunity. Like a gang, within the Los Angeles Police Department.
They also participated, in their own drive by shootings. And terrorized communities throughout the city of L.A. I remember taking clothes to a shelter in L.A., after the riots. And a police car drove by, and the people in the community, would be shaking in fear. Don’t forget at that time, President Bush had his “War on Drugs”. Where dogs were unleashed, and sent into black neighborhoods, apartments and houses. And their apartments, turned upside down, just based on a tip.
America at large, did not know the meaning behind, picking up a rock and throwing it through a plate glass window. A form of “rage against the machine”. Rage that starts, from “the womb to the tomb”. We lived in a world, where our voices were not heard. A world where we had no, political power to speak of. And the only time, that we could get people to listen, was to destroy something that they cherished. To burn their brick and mortar, to the ground. Brick and mortar that can be replaced by insurance policies. That what America calls a “riot”, is another communities way of crying out. Crying out to be heard.
Killer Mike and T.I. tell us to vote. As if history has not taught us that, the promises that are made, are never the promises that are kept. But our parents, and our pastors, have instilled in us. The belief that, “A promise made is a promise kept.” But as we grow, into young men and women. We realize that, the laws that are made by men,can also be changed by men.
The L.A. Riots, was a poor peoples rebellion. Not unlike, Bacon’s Rebellion in the past. Dr. Martin Luther King, tried to have a “War on Poverty”, before his untimely death. And the fighting of that war, might have been the nail in his coffin. Killed, because he wanted to dismantle, the House of Tudor’s hierarchical system. A system, that was brought to these shores from England. A system, that is maintained to this day. A system, that his hidden in plane site. Hidden, by the idea of race.
When I started teaching my acting class, for the Mark Taper Young Conservatory Theater in Los Angeles. It was right after, the L.A. Riots. I wanted my class, to be an alternative to gang violence. I was taken a back, by my young female student. Who said, that she did not want to learn acting. I asked her why? She told me that, she was tired of waiting for change. She said that, “My father, my fathers father, my fathers, fathers, father, waited for change. And it never came. I don’t believe in change”. She said, “I’m pakin’ and I’m ready to die.” And this 15 year old girl, was white.
I still could not rap my mind, around what she had told me, until I went on tour to Belgium. I was asked to perform my one man show, “STORIES I NEVER TOLD MY FATHER”. At the first ever Belgium, BLACK HISTORY MONTH FESTIVAL. While I was there, I found out that they were hiding, the MOVE ORGANIZATION. A black liberation group, founded in 1972 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by John Africa and Donald Glassey. They were currently on the run, from the FBI and CIA. They were not scheduled on the calendar, for obvious reasons. But gave an impromptu panel discussion, about their Movement.
They were there, to talk about why they were on the run. And how the Philadelphia Police Department, Bombed its own people. Under the black police Chief Willie. And future police chief, of Los Angeles during the L.A. Riots. “The bomb was a satchel bomb, a demolition device typically used in combat, laced with Tovex and C-4 explosives. This bomb was dropped on the move organization. Who were living in a rowhome in West Philadelphia. The building was known to be occupied by men, women, and children”.
While I was sitting in the audience. I started to reflect, on what that 15 year old white girl, had told me in my acting class in L.A. She said, “I’m pakin’ and I’m ready to die”. I also reflected on Martin Luther Kings, “War on Poverty”. I thought that, capitalist cannot exist without wage slaves. And what motivates the working class? But to strive for excellence? Their greatest fear being, not “pulling up their boot straps. And looking down on those who don’t. That population below them being, the poor who need handouts to survive. And becoming, a part of the lower class. In other words, the fear of falling into poverty.
The poor have to continue to exist, in order to motivate the working class/slave wage workers. That is why the Tudor system, has existed, to this very day. That is what Martin Luther King, had figured out. And it is probably why, he was allowed to be killed. That is why our money, has our founding fathers faces on it. Their faces represent, the ruling class. “Not unlike the mint of Alexandria, conscientiously registered the faces of the emperors.”
I realized while sitting in my chair, that Dr. Martin Luther Kings dream of a war on poverty. Had organically manifested itself, in the Move Organization. Here were Black, White, Asian, Latin, all nationalities, united. United, under the flag of poverty. The funny thing about it was; In the panel discussion, not one of the Move Organization members acknowledge, that that, was what had brought them together. It was unconscious and organic.
That is when I realized, that the powers that be. The government, that has existed up until this time, would never be the same. Because when I was a kid. People of color, who were poor. We knew, that we were all fighting over the crumbs, from the masters table. But what we did not know was, why were we fighting over those crumbs. We fought, because there was only so few crumbs. We did not know, that the Ruling Class, were causing us to be divided. In order that, we be conquered. They told us that the other poor races, were keeping us from our share of the crumbs. Not the government/ ruling class.
We were taught, to believe that big brother, was watching over us. But as time passed, poverty had pushed all of our backs, up against the same wall. And when we looked to our left, we saw our yellow, red, and white, brothers and sisters. And when we looked to our right, we saw our black, and brown brothers and sisters.
Then we all said,”Big Brother said, that we were pushing up against each other”. Then we all asked ourselves, “If we all have our backs, up against the same wall” Then who is pushing up against us?” That is when we all faced forward, and realized, that we had the same enemy. It had been, Big Brother all along. Who was making us believe, that we had only two choices. And that those choices were limited to, either an apple or an orange metaphorically.
Big brother, Knowing full well, that there were other varieties of fruit. And that they and their descendants, would maintain and inherit the “Promise of Seeds”. The ruling class, realized that the practice of saving seeds, would mean the survival of their species. Saving seeds, was accumulated wealth. “Presidents Washington and Jefferson formed agricultural societies that saved, cultivated and exchanged seeds, although they were not widely available to the public”.- THE PROMISE OF SEEDS, attractionmag.com
And that is why, this government, is trying so hard to not only to silence the poor, but to scare them into submission. Because without them, the rulers cannot rule. Without the poor, staying poor. The Tudor system will fall, like a house of cards.
And right before I left Belgium, I was asked to interview Mumia- Abu-Jamal. He was convicted of murder, and sentenced to death in 1982, For the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Unfortunately that fell through.
When gang members, are shooting out windows on the 405 freeway. With semi-automatic rifles, for fun. Then that means that, these impoverished, communities are becoming like incubators. Incubators, for some of our children, who are growing up in a environment so depraved, that it fosters sociopaths. Who don’t know the value, of human life. A poverty that pushes up against them so hard; that it is like, “a dog which is cornered”.
Backed into that corner, every single day of their lives. Children that grow up, with nothing to lose. And the only remedy, from that the state of mind, is a behavior that leads them, to committing crimes. Defined by Darwin, as the “Survival of the fittest”. But Darwinism totally excuses the fact that, the environment that poor people must exist in, is manufactured and designed, by the ruling class. By the ruling class storing the seeds, for themselves. And that Darwinism, is a manufactured excuse, for hiding this fact. Darwinism was invented, to hide the shame and self-loathing of the white ruling class. Darwinism is a theory, and a theory is not scientific. A theory is not proof.
And the only reward for trying to survive poverty/ survival of the fittest, is police beatings, and mass incarceration. If pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, is the Protestant Ideal. And attaining wealth, is the manifestation of a person that is favored by god. Then how come successful black men and women, are still treated like second class citizens? Because divine favor, and divine rule, is seen as something only for BLUE BLOODS. The problem with slavery, is that created the inherited poverty. That created the inability to save seeds, for the next harvest. Not the “Survival of the fittest”.
“Three Strikes” and your out. The biggest lie that the government tells its citizens, is that they can put 100,000 police on the street, and it will make a difference. When their are over, 50,000 gangs on L.A. Modern day policing is symptomatic. Prevention is the key.
It has been 27 years since the Los Angeles insurrection. And we are still using our police force, as a blunt instrument. Our way of fighting crime, is symptomatic and archaic. We need to focus on prevention. Prevention, is the way of the future. We cannot have a “War on Crime”, that involves a war against our own people. This is a war, that the government, is sure to never win. The French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, and Francois-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Haitian Revolution, is proof of that.
“Save the children, save their dreams. Their dreams are dying.” Don’t let our kids grow up in a world. Where they are afraid, to invest their energy in hope. Because they believe that to lose hope, is not worth a life of disappointment and regret.