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30 Years After Devastating LA Uprisings, Black And Korean American Leaders Plan A Show Of Unity

Six Black and Korean American leaders sit at a table together draped in a sign that reads Korean American Federation of L.A. The table is covered with documents and several microphones face the speakers.
Some of LA's Black and Korean American leaders announce a joint unity event to mark the 30th anniversary of the L.A. Uprisings
(Josie Huang
/
LAist)
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Black and Korean American leaders on Tuesday announced plans to hold a joint event on April 29 — that’s the anniversary of the acquittal of four officers accused of beating Rodney King. That verdict set off nearly a week of unrest and violence.

The event, to be held at Liberty Park, will be a time to remember one of L.A.’s most troubling anniversaries:

  • More than 50 people killed, more than 1,000 injured
  • Billions of dollars in damage to property
  • Korean-owned businesses disproportionately bore the brunt of damage

“Let me just say we're stronger together,” said Michael Lawson, president and CEO of the Urban League said at an event at the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles. "Part of what this country has been trying to do is to keep us separate, trying to keep us against one another."

A view, in color, of a street in Koreatown in 2017 superimposed with a black and white photo of police and fires burning on the same block in 1992.
Police quell violence on South Vermont Avenue in Koreatown on April 29, 1992.
(Mae Ryan/KPCC, with archival photo by Gary Leonard)
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Lawson said it was also important to recognize the racial tensions leading up to the uprisings. He brought up Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl who was fatally shot by a Korean shopkeeper who suspected her of shoplifting.

‘We cannot ignore look away from the tragedies that occur,” he said. "Because we don't remember them, we are bound to repeat them.”

Outrage erupted when the shopkeeper, Soon Ja Du, was sentenced to probation.

At Tuesday's event, Connie Chung Joe of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA said the sentence reflected a flawed criminal justice system.

“What happened is it became a system of Koreans versus Blacks created by this system that said: We're not going to treat this Black girl’s life as important,” Joe said.

Joe said the media fanned the flames of racial conflict at the time by framing stories in a way that pitted the two communities against each other. She said she sees history being repeated today in the coverage of anti-Asian attacks.

“How many times have I heard from the public or from some of the portrayals that we've seen that it is Black-on-Asian hate crimes that are occurring,” Joe said.

Orlando Martinez, the hate crime coordinator at the Los Angeles Police Department, said anti-Asian attacks have been carried out by a combination of Latino, Black and white suspects.

The unity event is scheduled to take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on April 29 at Liberty Park, 3700 Wilshire Blvd.

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A Black woman in her 30s is flanked by a middle-aged Black man to her left and an Asian man in his 20s or 30s on her left.
Former K-pop idol Alexandra Reid will co-emcee a commemorative event on April 29. She is flanked by Reverend “J” Edgar Boy of The First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles (l.) and Justin Park, a singer-songwriter who will be performing at the event.
(Josie Huang
/
LAist)

One of the co-emcees will be Alexandra Reid, a former member of the South Korean girl group BP Rania. Reid, who is known as the first Black idol in K-pop, expressed her affinity for the Korean community at Tuesday's event.

"This event is really important to me, because I feel that it's just one chance to support each other, uplift each other, and ultimately bring each other together," Reid said.

The April 29 event will feature performances by Black and Korean American artists, including Dok2, Tayla Parx, Junoflo, G2, Ted Park, RÜDE CÅT, Justin Park and Know-Madik.

The event is co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Los Angeles Urban League, Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Koreatown Youth & Community Center and the Korean American Coalition.

Editor's note
Have a question about Southern California's Asian American communities?
Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.