The Rodney King Foundation Is Getting Hands-On For School Supplies And Youth Development

Lora King's Aug. 15 event drew dozens to a Watts parking lot. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

While L.A. County is starting the school year virtually, kids still need notebooks, pencils and more to work on their assignments. It's an expensive time for parents — on top of a pandemic that has already financially strapped so many Angelenos.

This is where Lora King stepped in through her Rodney King Foundation in a Watts parking lot over the weekend.

Kids and families lined up early for the supplies. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

"A lot of kids in this community don't have anything," King said. "So we wanted to provide hands-on things so that they can still feel like they're involved in education and still be excited about it. This is stressful on kids too, as far as [COVID-19] is concerned. We just wanted to lift the burden from the parents."

Piles of backpacks, stuffed snack bags and books lined the tables. Kids also had an opportunity to get a free outdoor haircut from Karissa Francis, who volunteered her time to work with King.

"I got a black backpack," said Justin Revels. "My cousins got blue backpacks and my sister got a red backpack. We also got a bag of snacks and we got some books. It's kind of hard to enjoy these snacks while it's super hot."

The event attracted people from all over the county and helped more than 100 kids. There was free pizza for the attendees too. Still, it's a drop in the bucket in this pandemic.

"There's a lot of kids that don't have food in the house," said Felicia Robinson, a resident of the Crenshaw area. The grandmother of 10 said it was important to get what she could before heading out to another event in honor of Nipsey Hussle's birthday.

From left: Lyric Revels, Roderick Johnson, Urika Miles Jr. and Justin Revels wait for their families. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

"It means a lot. Sometimes [necessities] are hard to get," Robinson said. "And then I got laid off and it's hard to get unemployment, it's hard to get the stimulus check. So it's been up and down."

Another family from Pasadena that lined up an hour early for the event said seeing generous organizations rise up during the pandemic is what keeps events like this accessible.

"It's a really big help for single mothers like myself," said Rosa Nene. Her kids weren't familiar with Rodney King's history, but she said they will now do that research at home.

Free books were on deck, donated by Books for Bullets. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

The foundation is just starting to get its footing, but King has a long history of activism in her father's name. She previously worked with her cousin through Tranquility Counseling Services in Long Beach. They've held backpack giveaways like this before.

And she's been vocal about the protests that started after George Floyd's killing. King shared that she doesn't see much change in the way Black men are portrayed since her father's beating almost 30 years ago.

"I think it's a repetitive thing because it's like they actually want to break down the person's character who they hurt or killed," King said. "And so that's one of the things that we're big on [with the] I AM A KING scholarship: to promote African American image and promote African American fathers that love their kids, that spend time. Because we know that's the main foundation of a beautiful world."

The I AM A KING scholarship has been awarded to 10 fathers so far. Recipients receive financial assistance and have 100% of their costs covered to spend a day doing family-building activities with their kids. She said fathers are using this as a chance to do basic things that some people take for granted.

Hayley Chan holds a snack bag that's nearly half her size. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

King is also a mother. She has some advice for parents looking to go deeper with their kids to understand the protests still unraveling across the country.

"Just think from a non-judgmental standpoint, because we live in a society that everything is judged based on how we look," King said. "But as long as you operate out of your heart, you won't go wrong, and just have the domino effect [to] help somebody else."

King was seven years old when her father was beaten, and eight when the unrest started in L.A. (He died in 2012 at the age of 47.) She also has some advice for younger kids — or anyone — trying to understand this current era:

"My family was a big help, and just doing my own research as far as Harriet Tubman, and our ancestors that went through what we went through — and I saw what they went through," King said. "It pretty much gave me the strength because it was like they went through so much. I just encourage everyone to just do their research on things that we went through in the past, and see how they can be beneficial to today's world."

The Rodney King Foundation will continue its relationship with Engage The Vision, a partner of the event, to enhance community self-esteem and youth development throughout South Central — and they're seeking volunteers.

To learn more, folks can opt-in for the foundation's newsletter.