Black, Korean leaders to commemorate 20th anniversary of L.A. riots
Seeking to create a multi-cultural Los Angels that exists in lasting harmony, Korean-American and Black community leaders are spearheading a committee to commemorate next year’s 20th anniversary of the 1992 civil unrest.
Korean Churches for Community Development, along with more than 50 broad regional and national civic organizations, officially launched the 4/29 SAIGU Committee at a Nov. 3 press conference held inside the Glory Church (formerly the Olympic Grand Auditorium), located at 1801 S. Grand Ave.
In the Korean language, SAIGU spells out 4/29 — the day on which the L.A. riots began — and the letters also stand for Service, Advocacy, Inspiration, Giving and Unity.
Speakers at the event included KCCD president Hyepin Im; Misook Na, a businesswoman and victim of the riots; Rafael Gonzalez, from the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles; Pastor Toure Roberts, of One Church International; and Rev. Norman Copeland, presiding elder of the L.A. District of the Southern California Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Also on the panel was Michael Brigham, a representative of Storycorps, whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories.
The organization has collected over 40,000 interviews from over 70,000 participants from all 50 states.
Each interview is recorded on a free CD for participants to take home and — with their permission — a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
According to Im, the committee’s vision is to revisit and learn from a tragic chapter in the city’s history, which was reflective of the racial, economic and political disparities of the time.
The unrest resulted in 53 deaths, 3,600 fires, 1,100 destroyed buildings, 2,000 damaged businesses and property totaling $1 billion, of which 50 percent was incurred by Korean Americans.
“I am honored to be in the company of our distinguished committee members,” Im said.
“Working with such a diverse group of leaders is a testament to the power of true partnership and respect for our differences. Through our forums and activities, the committee hopes to heal and build a Los Angeles founded on the spirit of unification.
Meanwhile, Na painfully relived the devastation when she saw her store burned to the ground.
“I felt a great sense of loss when I went to see the store the next day,” Na said, her words translated by Im. “There were those in the community who were trying to protect the store, but only rubble was left.
She added: “I have incurred great financial loss and it has been quite a struggle, but I’m thankful my husband and I got into the real estate business and have been able to move on with our lives.
“I see the riots, not as a conflict between the African-American and Korean-American communities, so much as a conflict of the Rodney King situation, in which there was great confusion and loss. My hope is that we can come together and then people will no longer be in a position where they can incur that kind of loss.”
Rev. Copeland echoed her sentiments, beginning his address with a look back in history.
“I am very committed that we move this process forward,” he said.
“As I reflect upon Plessy v. Fergusson where they took away the dignity of Black Americans, in 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education gave our children the opportunity to go to school.
“I knew Linda Brown, her mother and Jack Greenberg, who was the attorney in the case that was argued by Thurgood Marshall in the Supreme Court.”
Copeland continued: “I have lived long enough to go through the rallies, long enough to see the pain and hurt from minority communities. Let me put it this way; we travel the same streets as Blacks, Latinos and Koreans, shop in the same stores, our kids go to the same schools.
“If we all work together, stand together, then we can build a neighborhood for all communities that will take us on a journey to make all our lives better.”
Photo: (l to r) Rev. Young Ik Byun, Pastor Toure Roberts and Rev. Norman Copeland attend the launch of the 4*29 SAIGU Committee. Credit: Olu Alemoru