‘LA92’ explores LA riots; sparks conversation about past, present

WASHINGTON — “Hey, what’s going on over there?” I asked my mother, while staring out the front passenger window. Helicopters were circling to the east.

She was driving north up Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles to the mall so she could buy our monthly bus pass stickers. My little brothers were in the back seat. Mom had picked us up from our different schools that day.

But something was wrong. Police helicopters didn’t usually circle that long.

“If it’s anything worth knowing, it will be on the news,” she replied with her usual calm.

What I didn’t know at that time is how anxious she was to get us back home.

It was April 29, 1992. The verdict in the Rodney King beating trial had been read earlier that day. We were seeing our dear city erupt before our eyes.

We completed our errand, and Mom navigated the usual route back south to our home. The streets seemed unsettled that afternoon. When the car stopped in our driveway, I ran inside, turned on the television and saw footage from news helicopters. They were circling the intersection of Florence and Normandie.

I wasn’t ready.

People were being pulled from their cars and assaulted. The folks I saw didn’t look like me. Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck and beaten on live television. Looters were running in and out of a store. All of this chaos was erupting just a few miles from my home.

I have no idea how many hours I spent watching TV that night. It was unsettling to know an intersection my family had driven through countless times was a volcano.

Meanwhile, my dad recalls, one of his concerned colleagues offered to give him a ride home from work that afternoon.

“I thought it was nice of her … because she didn’t really have to do that, and I was very thankful,” he told me.

When they arrived at an intersection down the street from our church, he said, “I think I asked her to let me out so that I could catch the bus the rest of the way home.”

As April 29 bled into April 30, sleep somehow found me. But before sunrise, I jumped out of bed — because the house was on fire!

I woke my sister so we could warn our parents and siblings and escape — but there was no fire after all. We opened the front door and found an eerie, smoky haze outside.

School was canceled for about a week, but we didn’t stay at home all day. We traveled to neighborhoods west and south of ours to purchase groceries and other items. Some of our favorite shopping locations had been either looted, burned or both.

Twenty-five years later, six films chronicle those tumultuous days in Los Angeles history, including the documentary “LA92,” which premieres on the National Geographic Channel Sunday, April 30 at 9 p.m.

“LA92” was directed by Academy Award-winning director duo Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin.

“We tried to make a film that would be a visceral experience and elicit a conversation, and we’re glad to see that’s happening,” Lindsay told WTOP.

“The one thing that we haven’t gotten a chance to talk about as much as I think we’d like is … it seems by inherently exploring these events, for some, it becomes immediately politicized,” Martin said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we took the approach we did, which is having no narration, no interviews, and just to drop you and immerse you into people’s experiences.”

“And by looking at those different experiences, acknowledging them, maybe then we can just have a conversation, not a debate, about what those experiences look like and how they’ve shaped us today.” — TJ Martin

“The design in the film is not to engage in political debate or terse debate about race, class and injustice, but rather can you acknowledge that everyone has a different experience within the kind of socioeconomic stratification of America,” he said. “And by looking at those different experiences, acknowledging them, maybe then we can just have a conversation, not a debate, about what those experiences look like and how they’ve shaped us today.”


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