Each year, 826LA partners with one Los Angeles public school to create a beautifully composed, impeccably designed collection of student writing. Over the course of seven weeks, volunteers work with students to draft, write, and rewrite pieces centered around a common theme. This year’s Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP) revolves around the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings.
25 years ago, Los Angeles was on fire, sparked by the “not guilty” verdict in the case against LAPD officers’ taped beating of Rodney King. Generations of issues came to a head on April 29, 1992. In commemoration of these uprisings, students at Alain Le Roy Locke High School in Watts are using the history of their community to take a deep look at their present and imagine what the future holds for themselves and for their city. Students in Kate Rowley‘s English Language Development class and Grace McCormack’s 12th grade English class are studying Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 as their principal source. Based on 300 interviews of Angelenos, the one-woman play is an account of the 1992 uprisings told through multiple points of view. In conjunction with studying Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, this month students interviewed four scholars, writers, and community leaders (pictured below) whose perspectives offer firsthand knowledge and insight around the history they are studying to inspire their pieces in the book.
“It’s the same problem, but it’s how we respond to it — that’s what has to change.”
Wendy, a student in Mrs. Rowley’s English Language Development class, reflected on what she has learned thus far. “We have to change our response to the problem,” Wendy said. While much has changed in the years since the 1992 Watts uprising, we find ourselves in a new era of violence, injustice, and pain. Exploring the complex history of our city helps give students’ context and insight into their past. By listening and elevating the stories of young Angelenos, we hope to understand how the issues at the center of 1992 uprisings still continue to affect communities today throughout Los Angeles.
Read about the interviewees below:
Rose Salseda grew up in South LA. She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. Rose studies the art that was made after the 1992 Riots. Her longstanding interests in the parallel and intersecting legacies of Latinx and Black history have led her to develop scholarly backgrounds in the art of the African Diaspora in Latin America and the art of Chicanx, Latinx, and African American artists in the United States. Currently, she is writing her dissertation called, The Visual Art Legacy of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, which explores two generations of artists who have made work in response to the civil unrest, the police beating of Rodney King, and other related episodes of racial violence.
Aqeela Sherrills is a campaigner against gang violence and the death penalty who lives in Watts, Los Angeles, United States. He is co-founder of Amer-I-Can and the Community Self-Determination Institute. In 1992, Sherrills brokered a peace agreement between the Bloods and the Crips (two rival gangs). His son, Terrell Sherrills, was shot to death in 2004 in an apparently random killing. In 2005, Sherrills visited sacred sites around the world, and upon returning to Watts he launched The Reverence Movement.
Katherine Yungmee Kim is a second-generation Korean-American writer, journalist, and educator. In Los Angeles’s Koreatown, she has collected more than 200 historical images from the Korean American Digital Archives at the University of Southern California’s East Asian Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the invaluable Helen Ahn Collection, and from the private collections of families and community-based organizations.
Sam Joo worked with the Asian American Drug Abuse Program on 54th Street and Crewnshaw in the 1990s, near the ’92 riot epicenter. He is the current Director of Children and Family Services at Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC). For 25 years, he has worked in various communities in Los Angeles County managing programs that address child abuse prevention, community engagement, gang prevention, mental health substance abuse prevention and treatment, and youth development.
Victoria Brown is a South Los Angeles business owner and Locke High School alumna from the first graduating class of 1969. She lived through both the 1965 Watts riots and the 1992 uprisings.
Each year, 826LA works with a different LAUSD high school to give a group of students an apprenticeship-like experience in writing and publishing through the Young Authors’ Book Project. The book featuring pieces by students from Alain Le Roy Locke High School will be released this spring.
For more information about 826LA’s In-Schools Program and the Young Authors’ Book Project, click here.
Photos Courtesy of Alex Rapada Photography.