On the 25th anniversary of the L.A. Riots, Angelenos will hit the streets, this time for a march to remind the city that there's still progress to be made when it comes to economic and social justice south of the 10 freeway.
“We're trying to point out that there has been almost 50 years of disinvestment in the community,” says Manuel Criollo, director of organizing at the Labor/Community Strategy Center, one of the groups behind the April 29 march. “There's still a lot of cultural struggles.”
The South Los Angeles Building Healthy Communities Collaborative, part of a California Endowment initiative on safe and healthy communities, has rounded up more than 30 organizations to participate. The event, which includes a rally and community festival with to-be-announced entertainment, starts at 11 a.m. at Florence and Normandie avenues, the flashpoint of the riots. The march will end at 81st Street and Vermont Avenue.
Though conditions that fueled the unrest in 1992 have changed, including a demographic shift in the area from predominantly African-American to predominantly Latino, some of the same problems remain. African-Americans are shot by police in L.A. County at three times the rates of whites and Latinos. Minority neighborhoods require, on average, a majority of residents' income just for rent. And L.A. communities at the bottom of the economic scale tend to stay that way over the years, according to a recent analysis.
And there's another looming issue in South Los Angeles these days: gentrification. A rise in home values and an influx of residents who can afford those home prices has social justice advocates concerned that locals are being pushed out. The issue will be at the forefront of the march.
“Can we keep South Los Angeles for those who lived here for decades?” Criollo asks. “It's why we're coming together for the whole community and saying, 'This is our home, and we will fight for this home.'”
With Latinos composing as much as three-fourths of the population, the arrival of Mexican and Central American immigrants has brought a new entrepreneurial infusion to the 16-square-mile area. But life remains a struggle for most, regardless of background. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, South L.A.'s median individual income is a sub–poverty level $11,145; for L.A. County as a whole, that figure is about $28,000.
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents nearly 2 million constituents in southern L.A. County, said in 2015 that “the issues are substantially the same” for blacks and Latinos in South L.A.
“We also deserve an L.A. that will respect everybody,” Criollo says. “There cannot be a future for South LA. if we don't maintain the integrity of this community.”