Capital & Main’s Latest News Section.
April 29, 1992. For me, at the time an 11-year-old Black child living in a low-income section of Long Beach, that date represents more than a civil disturbance. While too young to clearly understand concepts like oppression, I was old enough to know the profound frustration associated with being poor within an economy that continued to deny the aspirations and dreams of many in my neighborhood.
Those were the years immediately following Reaganomics and the George Bush “read my lips” tax plan. The good ol’ colored people in communities like South Los Angeles, Compton, Watts and Long Beach were supposed to wait quietly and patiently for the day when the free market, through the trickling down of quality jobs, health care and good schools, delivered the gift of liberation we had all hoped for. Unfortunately, with each passing moment, those promises faded deeper and deeper into a dark empty background – with no hope of ever resurfacing.
This past Monday, I drove to Long Beach to participate in the Living Wage Campaign. A large group of us met up at the North Long Beach Christian Church at 2 p.m. I was nervous, the way I used to get on the first day of school. There were a bunch of kids I didn’t know and some of them were smoking in the parking lot — I was the new guy, unsure and walking around aimlessly.
The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community has been in a fight to get its hotel workers out of poverty wages. The organization is attempting to get an initiative on the November ballot that would require hotels with more than 100 rooms to pay their workers $13 an hour and give them five mandatory paid sick days per year.
Of course an initiative like this requires lots and lots of signatures from registered voters,
Ruben Martinez is a professor of literature and writing at Loyola Marymount University; his most recent book, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West, will be released in August. At the time of 1992’s civil unrest, he was a reporter for the L.A. Weekly. Martinez spoke to Frying Pan News about his coverage during that volatile week.
Frying Pan News: What was your assignment that first day?
Ruben Martinez: I was at the courthouse in Simi Valley, camped out with Eric Spillman of KTLA – I couldn’t get inside, there were too many people there already. Outside, all the veteran journalists had their lawn chairs and umbrellas — they’d been there for weeks. The spectacle of it impressed me.
Did the acquittals shock the media?
Yes. A really motley crew of people – reporters,
What do I most remember about the uprising of ’92? That certain feeling of powerlessness.
I have so many vivid memories: People swarming the supermarket on Third Street and Bonnie Brae, just west of downtown, rushing out with baskets loaded with diapers and food supplies. Outraged young men standing in the middle of Crenshaw Boulevard near Adams, blocking my way home — at least until I figured out how to go around them. Burning buildings all around where I worked in Pico Union, and where I lived in South Los Angeles. And then the drawings of my five-year-old twins, showing burning buildings and people running for their lives.
I was a 32-year-old mother of three young children, and working as the Executive Director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Pico Union. I was living in a four-bedroom bungalow house near Crenshaw and Venice boulevards, so between my home and work,
If you haven’t checked this out yet, you need to. Now.
According to the New York Times, Walmart fueled its rapid expansion in Mexico with millions in bribes paid to get building permits and land use approvals through quickly. The story is based on a whistleblower, who told Walmart leadership about the issue, which they confirmed was very likely true before allegedly sweeping the whole thing under a rug. The Washington Post reports that the Department of Justice is investigating.
From an L.A. perspective, the money quote is here: “In an interview with the Times, Mr. Cicero said Mr. Castro-Wright had encouraged the payments for a specific strategic purpose. The idea, he said, was to build hundreds of new stores so fast that competitors would not have time to react. Bribes, he explained, accelerated growth. They got zoning maps changed.