Throughout the past month I’ve seen hundreds of news stories on the L.A. Riots and almost every single one of them was published by someone who experienced the events of 1992 as an adult. But we haven’t heard anything from the perspective of children who lived through the civil unrest and remember the chaos.
I was 9-years-old and living just a mile away from the intersection of Normadie and Florence where Reginald Denny was pulled out of a trailer and brutally beaten. I have vivd memories of my mother and I looking out our window at news helicopters in the sky, then turning around and seeing the images they were shooting of our neighborhood on the television screen. I remember the anxiety on my mother’s face because my older brother wasn’t home from football practice yet.
Throughout the past month I’ve been meeting with men and women my age — the children that experienced the LA Riots — and recording their stories.
I asked my fellow Angelenos what story they share most often with friends and what they remember most vividly about the civil unrest in 1992. Below are 10 of those memories—there are stories about love, fear, happiness, sadness, loosing businesses and wishes for a baby grand piano of my own.
There are also questions about how to remember the events of 1992 and you’ll hear variations of how people identify the events in the video portraits below. I identify the events as the “1992 LA Riots,” but for others it was “civil unrest,” and “sa-i-gu.” I’ve asked each subject to identify the events of 1992 how they’ve come to recognize them 20 years later.
Edson - Sons Clinged to Dad to Stay Home
Edson was ten in 1992. He remembers his cousins and siblings clinging on to the men in the family as they left to protect their store from looting.
Dalena - Students Going Home as Riots Unfolded
Dalena was twelve in 1992. She recalls being on a school bus and hearing the bus driver wonder if he’d be able to get students home. And then there’s the Sister Souljah music video story too.
Monica - National Guard Brought Back Memories
Mónica was twelve in 1992. The civil unrest in Los Angeles brought back distinct memories of the country she left during a civil war.
Paul - Remembering the Peace Rallies
Paul was eight in 1992. He recalls going to a peace rally that his mom heard about on the radio.
Nyla - “Take Your Seatbelts Off and Get Down!”
Nyla was nine in 1992. She remembers her father waking her up at 6am so they could drive around and look at the damage from the first night of the riots.
Jorge - “Dreams of a Baby Grand Piano”
Jorge, age nine in 1992. This experience was what led me to this project.
Sophia - Family Stores Looted, Vivid Memories
Sophia was twelve in 1992. She vividly recounts images of her mother crying when she saw video of the family store being looted.
Ginny - Curfew Made it Real
Ginny was nine in 1992. Although she was farther north of the epicenter she understood the situation was really bad when the mayor set a curfew at sundown.
David - Community Divides
David was twelve in 1992. He grew up in East L.A. in a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood and felt racial tension after the riots.
Brandon - Mandatory Evacuations
Brandon is slightly older than the rest of the subjects. He was 20 in 1992 and is the only person we could find that faced a mandatory evacuation.
This project would not have been possible without the invaluable help and encouragement from Mónica Novoa, Channing Kennedy, the Hing Sisters and the dozen individuals who allowed me to put a camera in front of them while they shared personal stories. A special thank you goes out to the interviewees—know that I’m deeply honored to have been able to record these oral histories.