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A glimpse inside the inner workings of the South LA community




On April 29th, 1992 four men pulled Reginald Denny out of his truck and nearly beat him to death at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles.
On April 29th, 1992 four men pulled Reginald Denny out of his truck and nearly beat him to death at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles.
Mae Ryan/KPCC with archival photo by Kirk McCoy

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Let's set a scene for you:

It’s lunchtime in a high school cafeteria when suddenly a milk carton goes flying in the air. It hits one boy on the head, there’s yelling and then someone swings. As the fight progresses, the students begin to divide along the courtyard.

Sounds like something that can happen in any of the thousands of high schools across the country, but it's what takes place next that makes this particular incident unique to the people and the setting in which the incident took place:

"These two young boys, one African-American, one Latino start talking to each other, like they're working out a problem. And then when it's over, the relations between both groups kind of just settles down and things go back to normal."

That anecdote according to Cid Gregory Martinez, based an experience he had working in a high school in South L.A.

It’s a story he opens up his new book with, “The Neighborhood has its own rules: Latinos and African Americans in South Los Angeles.” The example is important to understanding how conflict in South L.A. is dealt with outside of traditional systems.

It's one of the many ideas Cid Gregory Martinez explored during the many years he lived in the South L.A. community. For this book, he conducted an ethnography, which is the method of study that observes society from the point of view of the subject:

"What I did in South L.A. is I wanted to look at different dimensions of the community. So, what I did is I volunteered and lived in parishioners of a local catholic church in the area and this was kind of in the south south part of South L.A. I volunteered and worked with kids who were on probation. A lot of them were kicked out because of their gang affiliation and that was kind of the in the central part of South LA in the west part of South L.A. And then I volunteered and spent a lot of time at the Los Angeles city neighborhood councils and that was all over South L.A, I kind of wanted to get a feel.

I spent a lot of time looking at religion, at gangs via schools and local politics. I did what's called a community study and I wanted to see how those different segments of the community intersected and shaped people's daily lives."

For more on his findings and the understandings he gained regarding the community and how it reduced violence and conflict outside of the system, Cid Gregory Martinez stopped by Take Two to speak with A Martinez.

To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above.