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A man holds a portait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during demonstration against the war in Iraq asking US President George W. Bush to bring US troops home and to stop funding the war, Los Angeles, 2007.
In 1965, at the request of local citizens’ groups after what has come to be known as the Watts Riots, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., traveled to Los Angeles to inspect the situation and attempt to ease tensions. Stunned by what he saw, King wrote that not only had federal, state, and city governments failed to do their due diligence for Los Angeles’ African-American community, but that the Southern civil rights movement was also culpable, due to its failure to provide the kind of organizational support necessary to help Northern communities.
King’s legacy in Los Angeles began before this visit and continued long after, but 1965 was a watershed moment in the effort to end poverty and economic inequality in South Los Angeles via community organizing. While many of the original community activist groups in Southern Los Angeles have either folded or been folded into larger (sometimes governmental) organizations, other groups continue to arrive – and thrive, such as the Community Coalition of Los Angeles, founded in 1990 by Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-CA’s 33rd District. Originally established in response to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, the Community Coalition expanded exponentially after the 1992 riots – which followed a jury acquittal of four LAPD officers accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King at the end of a high-speed pursuit – particularly its approach towards eliminating “nuisance businesses” such as liquor stores in Southern Los Angeles. On today’s program, Patt checks in with Congresswoman Bass and current Community Coalition president and CEO, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, about King’s legacy of community activism and its effect on Southern Los Angeles, especially post-1992.
Rep. Karen Bass (D – Los Angeles), founder of the Community Coalition of South L.A.
Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of the Community Coalition of South L.A.