On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, triggered riots in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots, The Jewish Journal invited to our offices nine prominent L.A.-based civil rights activists. We asked them to reflect as a group on two questions: Are we better off than we were 20 years ago? Could what happened in 1992 happen again here?
The result was an often-heated 90-minute conversation that vividly demonstrated the passions that the riots and the issues they raised still evoke in this city. View the edited transcript of the conversation here.
Samuel M. Chu
Director of national advocacy and organizing for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, leading local and regional campaigns around issues of food insecurity and access. He is also a research associate at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at University of Southern California. He is Chair and President of the board of directors of One LA-Industrial Areas Foundation, one of the nation’s largest community organizing networks, and of 1010 Development Corp., a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Los Angeles rooted in the United Methodist tradition.
Joe R. Hicks
Vice President of Community Advocates Inc. and the former Executive Director of the L.A. City Human Relations Commission, 1997-2001. He was also Co-founder and Executive Director of the Multi-Cultural Collaborative, which served as an umbrella group for a diverse group of community-based leaders. In the early 1990s, Hicks was Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the well-known civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He co-writes The Wide Angle blog with David A. Lehrer for jewishjournal.com.
Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), the mission of which is to help churches nationally to build capacity to do economic development work on a larger scale. She has also served as venture capitalist for Renaissance Capital Partners, an affiliate of First A.M.E. Church and Hancock Park Associates.
David A. Lehrer
President of Community Advocates Inc., which he co-founded after 17 years as director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League. He co-writes The Wide Angle blog with Joe R. Hicks for jewishjournal.com.
Abby J. Leibman
President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. She was a co-founder of the California Women’s Law Center.
Founder and Executive Director of Big Sunday, a volunteer organization that engages about 50,000 volunteers from all corners of the region on a weekend in the spring, as well as for other projects throughout the year. He is also a playwright, screenwriter and the author of “Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins: How Absolutely Anyone Can Pitch In, Help Out, Give Back, and Make the World a Better Place.”
Co-founder and Co-director of the Advancement Project, Rice is renowned for tackling problems of inequity and exclusion. She received the 2001 Peace Prize from the California Wellness Foundation and the John Anson Ford Humanitarian Award from Los Angeles County. She successfully co-litigated class-action civil rights cases during her nine-year tenure in the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. (LDF). Her memoir, “Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, From the Courtroom to the Kill Zones,” has just been published by Scribner. (Rice participated by telephone.)
Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, where she works to expand access and success in college for California students. With her leadership in 2010, the campaign led the effort for historic transfer reform that will make it easier for students to transfer from any California Community College to the California State University system. In addition, she helped launch a public awareness campaign directed at the new governor of California called “One Million More College Graduates by 2025” to ensure attention to the critical priorities for higher education.
Raphael J. Sonenshein
Executive Director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, Sonenshein is a professor, author and expert on the governance of Los Angeles and the region. He previously served as Chair of the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice at Cal State Fullerton. He was also Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Appointed Charter Reform Commission, which helped create the first successful comprehensive reform of the Los Angeles City Charter in 75 years, and has advised charter reforms in Glendale, Burbank, Culver City and Huntington Beach. Sonenshein writes a monthly column for The Jewish Journal.
Panelist photos by Dan Kacvinski. Connie Rice photo courtesy of the Advancement Project.