ARTIST AND PIONEER, JACKIE APPLE

Los Angeles Riots of 1992, major outbreak of violence, looting, and arson in Los Angeles that began on April 29, 1992, in response to the acquittal of four white Los Angeles policemen on all but one charge (on which the jury was deadlocked) connected with the severe beating of an African American motorist in March 1991. As a result of several days of rioting, more than 50 people were killed, more than 2,300 were injured, and thousands were arrested. About 1,100 buildings were damaged, and total property damage was about $1 billion, which made the riots one of the most-devastating civil disruptions in American history.

Although many Angelenos in the late 20th century prided themselves on their city’s ethnic diversity, there was a strong feeling in Los Angeles’s minority communities that the city’s predominantly white police force practiced racial profiling and engaged in racist brutality against African Americans and Hispanics. These suspicions seemed to be confirmed by a videotape shot on March 3, 1991, by a man who watched police officers brutally beat Rodney King, an African American motorist who had been pulled over for speeding after an eight-mile chase. When the officers’ initial efforts to bring a noncompliant King to the ground failed, they clubbed him with their batons dozens of times. The videotape, which was broadcast across the United States, prompted a huge outpouring of protest.

 The above article by Jeff Wallenfeldt, does its best to depict what had happened during the L.A. Riots. But it cannot compare to what it was like to be in the city of L.A. during that time. Because if an outsider had entered the city at that time, it would have been hard to convince that person, that this place was once called,  “The City of Angels.” The entire citizenry felt a sense of shellshock as if the city had been bombed by the German blitzkrieg during World War ll. And in the aftermath, we were wandering the streets like refugees. You could still smell the burning embers, as you walked from block to block. At any moment you felt as if the embers, could reignite. The city was divided by race, creed, and color. Black and white people made sure that they stayed on opposite sides of the street. Looking for loved ones, some of them homeless, some of them dead. There were business owners, still with their guns at the ready. Protecting only rubble, that was once a thriving business. There weren’t enough therapists in the entire city, that could help the citizenry cope with what had just happened. A city too polarized, to utter a single word.

But the fire flared up once again. But this time, the fire came from L.A’s artist community.  Jackie Apple was her name. Jackie brought the fire with her piece. “Redefining Democracy” in America. I was lucky enough to play a part in this production, along with Kieth Antar Mason. Jackie was ready, willing, and able to not only articulate what had just happened to the city.  But she also wanted to remind the community, that this was still, “The City of Angels”, angels with stories to tell. Stories from every city, Burrough, and block.

I had the feeling that Jackie was trying to get us to articulate as artists, that nothing had been lost.  But at the same time, our stories were a cautionary tale. A warning to those that would come after us. What if we don’t, “Redefine Democracy?”, the fire next time will leave nothing for us to build from. Jackie Apple’s “Redefining Democracy”, was like the rise of a phoenix, from the ashes of the L.A. Riots. Jackie Apple is one of the bravest women/artists, I have ever known.

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