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VOICES

One Year Later

April 25, 1993

Thursday marks the anniversary of the not guilty verdicts in the first Rodney G. King beating trial, which touched off the worst urban riots in the United States this century. City Times asked residents how the riots changed their lives. And some talked about the federal civil rights trial that ended April 17 with convictions of two of the police officers in the King beating. The residents were interviewed by Kevin Baxter and David Dorion.

Eric Mann

director, Labor-Community Strategy Center, L.A.

I think the federal government said, "I know we've tolerated this kind of police behavior for years, but because of the rebellion, we need a conviction here." It's only the threat of rebellion that leads to even a modicum of social change.

What could come out of the (federal) trial is the possibility of a real multiethnic movement for change.

The fundamental thing about going back to normal is that normal is a 50% unemployment rate for African-American men in South-Central Los Angeles. And it's more than 70% for African-American women without a high school diploma. Normal is 500,000 Latinos and Asian-Americans working a full year for less than $10,000. Normal is a school system that is falling apart while teachers are asked to take a pay cut.

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The Rev. Hyun Seung Yang

director, Korean American Food and Shelter Services, Koreatown

What I learned from last year is we still must live together. No separation between the races can occur. The bottom line is: We should love each other.

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Phyllis Williams

student, South-Central

Currently, I am in an entrepreneur's class (offered by the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment), a program that teaches the lay person about business. I entered the program because I felt I should become part of the rebuilding process.

In the end, though, I believe the community will be greater. People are becoming activists, are pulling together and leaving their cocoons. They can no longer be separated from their neighbors.

South-Central isn't as bad as it seems, but of course, the people are different. Children are scared about their houses being bombed or burned down. My son is still affected by it. On one end, it's like the rising of the Phoenix--you know, coming up out of the ashes. It's never the same. I mean, it's like we should say to ourselves, "Gosh, none of this would have happened if we hadn't been sleeping (in ignorance) the way we were."

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Paul Gamberg

activist, Westlake

My initial reaction to last year's riots was that it didn't surprise me. It could have been any incident that would have tipped it off.

As a "blanco," which is a minority white person in a city that has gone multiethnic, I've encountered discrimination. I've dealt with it by knowing that under all the B.S. we're still human beings. If my intentions aren't greedy, but are instead clean, I can get past the racial stuff.

What has angered me in the time that has passed since the riots is how Westlake has been passed over. The interest should not be in Balkanizing the city into small communities, which is what the city government does. The interest is in helping and participating in making this a better place to live overall.

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Sue Embrey

ESL teacher, Echo Park

I drive at night. I am not so much fearful as I am more aware of where I'm going. I mostly travel on surface streets. I don't feel any less safe, because I'm used to driving around Los Angeles and I'm not in unfamiliar territory.

I have felt more anxiety the last couple of weeks because it's mostly from watching the news. The media did a lot of damage. The media was looking for news and that's their business, but it sort of agitated people.

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Quinton Worthams

computer consultant, View Park

I feel I am older and wiser, and at the same time I am much more tolerant of other people.

I developed a good relationship with a Korean mechanic and the owner of a liquor store at Stocker and Crenshaw. Eric, the mechanic, and I have played golf once, and we've talked about going again. After the riots, my kids indicated they wanted to move. My wife and I have talked them through that and I think we have made them understand that that was an aberration and, although things may not be what we would like them to be, it is still a good place.

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Mike Gomez

dentist, Huntington Park

Prior to (the riots) I did not keep weapons in the house because I have small children. The last time it occurred, it caught us off guard. I'll never let that happen again.

I had a alarm on my house before, but I got two German shepherds to protect my family. I got dogs, a security system and a gun. And I've continued my karate classes.

I was outraged by the riots, but I can understand that a lot of people deserve better health care, they deserve better things.

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