Bringing a Community Together, Healing after the L.A. Riots
On this day in 1992, twenty two years ago, Los Angeles was suddenly struck by the worst racial rioting Americans had seen since the Civil War: the Rodney King riots. Mile after mile, communities were being incinerated.
Despite our policy disagreements, the first President Bush reached out to me to ask me to go to Los Angeles and do what I could do to calm the city.
I did what the President requested of me.
For six months, I met with leaders of the Crips and Bloods gangs. I urged the involvement of the downtown elite. For weeks at a time, I walked through Korean, Black, and Hispanic communities, working with the leaders to try to use my external influence to calm tensions. I scheduled meetings --- lots of private, behind the scenes meetings --- to get disparate parts of the community to work with one another for a better future for the young people who lived there.
After a while the rioting stopped, the yelling abated, and calm prevailed.
Hispanic, Black, and Korean civic leaders and merchants, who didn't even know each other at first, began to meet regularly. They were joined by youth service providers and church leaders and gang bangers and others.
It's helpful to have the President of the United States support your work: I got federal money behind an effort to get all these folks to work in common on microenterprise projects that would benefit all segments of the community.
Tom Bradley, the great Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles at the time, publicly commended me for my work ending the worst rioting in recent American history in a beautiful City Hall ceremony.
Thankfully, District 19 is not 1992 Los Angeles. But our various religious, racial, and ethnic communities all too often live apart from one another, meaning that we lose economically and culturally enriching opportunities to work together, opportunities that could strengthen all of us in the process.
I've helped bring a community together before, and I did it by focusing my work around economic development programming that was explicitly designed to benefit all facets of the community. As the person running for the open Delegate seat with the most proven public sector economic development experience and the most private sector business and job creating experience, I'm running to apply the lessons of Los Angeles, where rioting transformed into a communal effort to help the next generation, to our community to help us similarly create a better future here for our next generation.