How Do We Prevent Another L.A. Riot? Give Youth a Voice

After the L.A. riots, student paper L.A. Youth provided a critical student voice. Now it's in danger of closing.

If you lived in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, you remember where you were when the city began to burn.

I’d just turned 18 and was two months from graduating from Los Angeles High School. I grew up in Koreatown, the biracial son of two public school teachers living in a multiracial, middle-class neighborhood in the center of the city. I saw Los Angeles as a city of diverse voices telling their own personal, yet interconnecting stories in a beautiful multitude of languages. And because of my involvement in L.A. Youth, a nonprofit youth newspaper founded in 1988, I knew that it was important that my classmates and I share our voices.

On the day of the verdict acquitting LAPD officers of beating Rodney King, I was leaving campus early to take the bus to UCLA where I was taking a class. I will never forget the voice of the teacher who told me what had happened: "They found them not guilty, Jason. NOT. GUILTY. Now tell me that there's justice in this world."

I watched righteous anger turn into fires, violence, and looting. There was no school the next day and the National Guard soon turned L.A. High's blacktop into a staging area. Since I was also editor-in-chief of the high school paper, I talked my dad into driving me around over the next couple days so I could take photos of destroyed businesses in Koreatown, the Humvees on my campus—and eventually, of people coming together to sweep and clean the streets and sidewalks.

And, with the fires still smoldering, L.A. Youth put together a special issue. We called it "Rebuilding the Dream” and devoted it to asking questions about how we’d gotten to where we were, and where we needed to go next. We student writers knew this was our city, even if the mainstream media never showed youth who looked like us unless the story was negative. These were our communities, our realities. And the future was ours to build. We couldn’t do it alone, but we weren’t going to sit back and be silent either.

That fall I headed off to college in New England—3,000 miles and a world away from Los Angeles. But what those few days in the spring of 1992 and my experiences with L.A. Youth taught me about the intersection of race, class, history, identity, and community, and the importance of voice and stories became the focus of my life.

I always imagined that I would return to Los Angeles—the city was part of me, was me—but now I live 100 miles away in central California. My parents still live in the city, though, so I visit frequently, and I am connected to it when my Facebook feed fills with news. Now, on the anniversary of the riots, the question on everyone’s mind is, Could the riots happen again?

Some things haven't changed in Los Angeles. Friends share stories—like the recent shooting of an unarmed black male youth by police in suburban Pasadena—that are reminiscent of what happened to Rodney King. Then there are the stories about the injustices perpetrated against students and teachers in overburdened public schools, and tales of the insidious intersection of racism, classism, and city politics.

But wait. Counterbalancing those stories are other stories of hope. Two decades after L.A. Youth tried to make sure that diverse young people's voices were heard in the aftermath of the riots, its handful of adult staffers is still helping young Angelenos tell their stories.

The stories L.A. Youth’s 80 current student journalists are producing, like surveying 1,850 Los Angeles County high school students on how education budget cuts are affecting them, expose the truth about what’s happening in Los Angeles today in a way that wasn't possible 20 years ago. The spotlight the paper recently shone on the disproportionate truancy ticketing of students of color in lower income neighborhoods by the police helped bring about an end to the practice. Through their stories—and the way they travel on social media platforms—today's student writers are speaking truth to power and fighting for their peers, for their communities, local organizations, and for themselves.

I know how important that is, as do the several thousand students whose words have been printed on its pages in the almost quarter-century L.A. Youth has been in existence. But L.A. Youth—like many nonprofit organizations fighting the good fight in a climate where fewer and fewer resources are devoted to more and more problems—is in financial trouble. The paper needs to quickly raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep operating. If it doesn't, the student voices and stories that need to be told may be silenced. Silenced frustration can bubble over and turn into the kind of rage we saw burning through Los Angeles 20 years ago.

We can't let that happen. For many young Angelenos, the dream remains deferred and half-built. People, young—and not-so-young anymore, like me—still have work to do. Let's give our support to L.A Youth and make sure they can tell the story of how young people in this city are making the dream a reality. To donate to L.A. Youth, click here.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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