On April 29, 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers who’d been charged in the beating of a Black motorist named Rodney King. The beating had been captured on videotape.
This April 29, a commemoration service will be held at the former Olympic Grand Auditorium, now Glory Church, at 3:30 PDT.
“We are doing something called the Saigu campaign,” said Hyepin Im, campaign director. “And Saigu literally means 4/29, April 29 in the Korean language. Kind of like 9/11.”
Im, who is founder and president of Korean Churches for Community Development, is also a White House appointee to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
She said the goal was to take a day that was tragic and make it into one from which people could learn, and into something everyone could work towards.
“We took the acronym and we came up with these words: Serve, Agitate, Inspire, Give and Unite,” she said, adding that they’re calling it the Saigu Campaign for the 20th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots.
“We wanted to make it a campaign, because we recognize that there’s a chasm between the narratives and experiences of various individuals who experienced the Los Angeles riots,” she said.
She said they’re looking for “change makers” known as “Saigu heroes.” These agents or champions of change are people who have really made a difference through their contributions in lifting up the strengths and diversity of Los Angeles, both during the riots and as a result of lessons learned because of the riots.
Im said a Korean American took Korean barbecue, put it into a Mexican taco, and used the Armenian food truck and social media.
“Basically, he transformed the food truck industry,” she said. “It used to be called the ‘roach coach. But now, it’s become a very cool, hip thing when the food trucks come to town. That’s kind of an example.
“In that way, we want to help create a bridge of understanding. And I think there are many store owners who are struggling immigrants who have found themselves doing business in communities where there’s high crimes and high poverty, because that’s all they could afford as well. And I think in working in a very high stress environment with a high language barrier, and very little training or resource to reserve, it could create a path for misunderstanding.”
She said they’ve done a series of events, from prayer breakfasts to visiting the flash points, looking at what’s there, what has happened and what should happen.
“We’re doing a day of dialogue,” she said. “We’re also doing a commemorative as well as an art memorial project. So there’s a series of events to help foster that understanding.”
Im said the efforts to foster understanding involves everybody, but acknowledged that communities of color have a lot of shared pain and shared challenges.
“A lot of them are common challenges that many communities share, but particularly because of the amount of minority mix, the Asian community is often looked upon as a ‘they’ instead of a ‘we,’” she said. “So those are things that we do want to do, but at the same time we want to lift up the strengths of each community.”