"Remem-bearing" and Renewal: Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Uprising/Riot

On April 7-8, 2017, the Angeleno community gathered to "remem-bear" the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising/Riot. We gathered to do our work around history, unresolved trauma, and how it impacts justice issues today. 

Friday evening centered around the stories of Korean Americans and how "Saigu" (4.29-the date when the verdict for Rodney King's trial came out) traumatized this immigrant community. Many businesses were targeted and looted incurring 50% of the one billion dollar property damage.

Dr. Young Lee-Hertig of Innovative Space for Asian American Christianity (ISAAC) gave her account of what she experienced during the Uprising/Riot that propelled her to create a third space to intersect racism and sexism in the Christian community.

Like Dr. Lee-Hertig, the Uprising/Riot for 1.5 and second generation Korean Americans  was a wake up call that we needed to prioritize engaging in our local communities. This unrest instilled in a generation of Korean-Americans, the importance of engaging with civic organizations, being activists, about caring for all members of the community to fight racism and economic inequality. 

Sula Kim of WDSU in New Orleans grew up in Los Angeles and vividly recounted the 1992 Uprising/Riot as a pivotal moment in her life that drew her into journalism and cover stories of injustices in the community (video edited by Hansoo Kim)

Mrs. Sukja Kim recalled how her business was looted but in looking back recognized that "we" included only other Koreans and challenged us to expand our understanding of "we." (video edited by Hansoo Kim)

Context of 1992"Social, Historical and Theological Themes" - Ched Myers

What is "remem-bearing?: Trauma and Response-ability" by Elaine Enns

On the second day of the forum, we had two powerful panel discussions. In the morning, Art Cribbs (Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity), Michael Mata (Azusa Pacific University), Daniel S.H. Lee (Lee & Oh), and Leonardo Vilchis (Union de Vecinos) gave powerful and deeply insightful perspectives that were both personal and historical. 

Morning Panelists: Remem-bearing 1992 - Art Cribbs, Michael Mata, Daniel Lee, and Leonardo Vilchis (Video by Kang Soo Yu) 

The panel session was followed by workshops:

  • Faith-focused organizing (Art Cribbs)
  • Koreatown from 1990-2015: What does statistics tell us? (Soyeon Choi, Junghyun Choi, Cheolho Lee)
  • Social investment and community building in an age of gentrification (Leonardo Vilchis)
  • Women doing justice (Elaine Enns, Grecia Reyes, Elizabeth Leu, Sue Park-Hur)
  • Organizing urban communities for transformation(Michael Mata)

These workshops helped us to dig deeper into the roots of the Uprising/Riot and find ways to connect with each other for the future.

In the afternoon, we had a panel of young adult community leaders, Hyung-In Kim (Fuller Seminary), Grecia Lopez-Reyes (CLUE), Jason Chu (Jason Chu Music), Elizabeth Leu (DOOR LA). They were not living in Los Angeles during the 1992 Uprising/Riot but we asked them where they saw hope as they work in the city and what they envision for the future.

Closing panelists: “Where is the hope?” Hyung-In Kim, Grecia Reyes, Jason Chu and Elizabeth Leu (video by Kangsoo Yu)

Special performances by Jason Chu and Derek Brown (video by Kangsoo Yu)

Special performance by Zehnders (video by Kangsoo Yu)

Collaborative closing worship (video by Kangsoo Yu)

Special thanks

We wanted to thank many volunteers who made this forum possible and so meaningful.

Hospitality and food: Clara Kong, Jeehye Kim, Katelynn Williams

Registration/administration: Lindsay Airey, Tom Airey, Chris Wight
Programming and technical sound: Kyoungseok Oh
Photos and video: Kangsoo Yu and Chris Wight

And finally to Ched Myers and Elaine Enns of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries for their incredible partnership and wisdom

Not always black and white

By Lynn Hur

The classroom is silent, apart from the ticking of the clock and the shifting of a chair. My English teacher looks at us pensively as my classmates awkwardly look around, waiting for someone to speak up. We had been beginning to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and the inevitable subject of race had been brought up again. My friend tells the teacher that she cried watching the assigned documentary following the Scottsboro Trials, and how she couldn’t believe the injustice of it all. Heads nod in agreement. I respond, commenting that this isn’t just something that happened, but is happening today as well. My teacher nods once again, agreeing. I try to continue, but get cut off. “Moving on,” he says. “You guys can talk more about that in a history class. We don’t have time to get too deep into the details.”

 I look around in disbelief. In history class? This stuff is happening now! And freshmen don’t even take history! This topic is so relevant in this class, but discussing the symbolism of a copper coin is more of a priority? I turn around to look at my friend, but she is already turning to the next page. The class continues, and the discussion turns to the theme of maturity or something. My ears ring and my cheeks flush with frustration for the rest of the day.

My school is predominantly Asian-American and it is a bit of a privilege to be able to grow up in an environment where I’m not teased because of my small eyes or praised for my surprisingly “good English.” However, the stereotype of Asians staying quiet is frustratingly fulfilled. Talking about religion, politics, or racism in general is a bit of a taboo at school.

During PE, I rant to a couple of my friends about this as we shoot some baskets. “Why are we so afraid to talk about what’s happening outside of school?” Swish. “We only talk about what happened in the book. We ignore the racism around us. And we even have Trump to talk about, but we don’t.” A friend looks a bit uncomfortable. “I get what you’re saying, but no need to bring him into this.” Airball. I turn around as she continues. “I mean, you’re totally worked up about this!” She laughs stiffly. I look away. Swish.

Is it weird because I’m not black and that I get “worked up about this”?

Why are we so quiet about it? Maybe it’s because Asians are just never in the picture? These questions swirl around my head for the next couple months.  I almost forget the racism that Asian-Americans go through. So does everyone else.

One problem with attending a mostly Asian high school is the blindness of the racism that we will face in the real world. Not everyone is accepted so quickly, and many of us are unaware that we even face racism. We don’t get shot at or brutally killed as frequently as black or brown bodies. We aren’t called rapists or drug dealers or gangsters or trouble. But we have our own names. We are the perpetual foreigners. Our women are “exotic” so they’re sexy, and our men aren’t at all. We are called Oriental (are we rugs?). We are told to go back to our countries, even if we were born here. We all look the same. We all have the same culture anyways. We are ninjas. We put chopsticks in our hair. We aren’t expected to know English. We are submissive. We are weak. We are not athletic. We aren’t rebellious, cool or fashionable. We aren’t here to take away jobs. We are the shopkeepers and immigrants, the rude ones or the quiet ones. We want to be white. We should learn the language. We are the lame nerds in TV shows, the smart ones (by the way, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “good stereotype”), the sidekicks, that person that gets three seconds of screen time so people can call it “diverse.” In fact, we can make any group “diverse.” We are the invisible minority.

As a high schooler in the current public school system, I can say with confidence that the education system is not preparing the next generation for the real world. Rather than learning how to face racism, break gender stereotypes, or even how to pay taxes and learn proper manners, we learn how to fill in bubbles and stay quiet in class. We learn that the teacher’s word is law. We strip ourselves of our own voices and individuality to fit in at school. We don’t bother to talk about what will really matter later on.

As the daughter of two pastors and a follower of Christ, I expect to learn from church.

I expect to grow spiritually, not to color in pictures or discuss Noah’s Ark for the five hundredth time. I expect to use my voice as a Mennonite youth and tackle things that I don’t at school. If these issues aren’t brought up, the church is not fulfilling its duty to the people and to God.

As a child of the next generation, I want all people to know a couple things. Number one: racism is not just a black and white situation. Racism isn’t always blatant and immediately offensive. It is not colorless. Racism encompasses the entirety of our colorful and complicated world. Number two: no one is completely innocent. Asians have their own assumptions and stereotypes of others, despite our experiences. Number three: I want us to look at racism in the eye, name it, and undo it. 

Lynn Hur is a ninth grader living in Pasadena, California. When she is not writing, you will find her in the kitchen reading her favorite cookbooks and perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe.