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CAAM exhibit on 1992 riots defines city’s culture clash

EXPOSITION PARK — It took California African American Museum History Curator Tyree Boyd-Pates a couple of months to put together the startling and well-layered “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” exhibit that is now being showcased at the museum through Aug. 27.

For Boyd-Pates, a former professor of Africana Studies at Cal State Dominguez Hills, it was well worth the time invested in the project.

“It feels like my whole life,” Boyd-Pates said. “It was a labor of love.”

The shock-and-awe display of images, videos and media compilation of events leading up to the deadly riots in 1992 that “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” offers, was one of several new museum pieces that previewed at CAAM on March 8.

Other exhibits making their debut at CAAM alongside “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992,” include “Derrick Adams: Network,” “Keyatta A.C. Hunkle: The Evanesced,” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992.”

“No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992,” however, is the museum’s headline exhibit for the next five months. And it has the juice to garner quite a bit of attention from all the archival artifacts and documents on display.

The police badge of Tom Bradley, the city’s first black mayor, is part of the collection. The 1965 Watts riots, another weeklong rebellion, is detailed in length through multiple media platforms.

Latasha Harlins, a South Los Angeles teenager killed by a Korean shop owner in 1991, is part of the ‘No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992’ exhibit at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. Curator Tyree Boyd-Pates says Harlins’ death was one of many things that led to the 1992 riots. (Photo by Dennis Freeman)

Latasha Harlins, a South Los Angeles teenager killed by a Korean shop owner in 1991, is part of the ‘No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992’ exhibit at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. Curator Tyree Boyd-Pates says Harlins’ death was one of many things that led to the 1992 riots. (Photo by Dennis Freeman)

Latasha Harlins, the black teenager whose high-profile shooting by a Korean grocer in South Los Angeles nearly two weeks after King’s beating took place, has been afforded a section in the exhibit.

Boyd-Pates also had the audacity to include information from the Zoot Suits riots in 1943 as well.

“No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” is an exhibit that conjures up the painful relationship that have unfortunately bonded the city’s law enforcement community with that of African Americans and other people of color.

“I made sure that every single major ethnic group in Los Angeles is represented,” Boyd-Pates said. “In this exhibition, you have obviously, the African-American community, but you also have the Korean community, the Asian community. You also have the Mexican American community. You’ll have the white community, and their response to the uprising. And then you’ll have law enforcement, which I also included as well, combined within the other different groups as well.”

It’s been 25 years since Los Angeles erupted into gunfire, calamity, looting and destruction. Shortly after the acquittal in the jury trial of four white police officers charged in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King, the 1992 Los Angeles riots consumed the city for six days, caused an estimated $1 billion in property damage and claimed 53 lives.

The destructiveness of the uprising still reverberates today as evidenced by the many unoccupied spaces and rundown buildings trolling South Los Angeles. Boyd-Pates beautifully underscores this in the exhibit.

Instead of just focusing on the 1992 riots themselves, Boyd-Pates retraces the history of race and law enforcement, more specifically the Los Angeles Police Department, and the often turbulent engagement with the city’s black citizens.

Inspired by the Academy Award-winning documentary “OJ: Made in America” and its racial storytelling elements, the riots of 1992 is a narrative Boyd-Pates said he was compelled to tell.

“I was inspired by Ezra [Edelman],” Boyd-Pates said. “I saw how he beautifully and cinematically told this powerful story about O.J. (Simpson) and his rise to prominence and his fall. But it wasn’t solely about O.J. It was about the social factors that contributed to O.J.’s life.

“He was a USC student who had no inroads with the black community during the Black Panthers era and all of this different ebb and flow. I was fascinated by this, so when I had the opportunity to do this exhibition, I was like Rodney King is equally as a polarizing figure, a black figure like O.J.

“But Rodney King isn’t just Rodney King. There were social factors that contributed to Rodney King, like interaction with the police. I wanted to tell a story that built up to that.”

 

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