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Panel Dismayed by L.A. Riots Documentary

A pair of Oscar-winning directors have revisited the 1992 Los Angeles riots in a new documentary, but not all are thrilled with what they say is the silencing of the black community.

During a panel discussion at Howard University’s School of Communications on April 28, several panelists voiced their concern about the production of “LA 92” by directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin, which attempted to encapsulate the destruction of the riots 25 years later.

“One major problem that I had with the film is that there was no black narrative — or any narrative, at that,” said journalist and riot witness Ronald Harris. “I was living in L.A. during the riots in one of the poorest areas where the police were very oppressive. I even had one officer just walk up to me outside one day and point a gun to my head. So I understand why those people during the riots were pissed. I lived there and I saw how [black people] were treated.”

Lindsay and Martin, in partnership with the National Geographic Documentary Films, explored the riots following the Rodney King verdicts, which was categorized as the one of the most destructive disturbances in U.S. history with more than 58 deaths, 11,000 arrests and over $1 billion in damages.

The film debuted on Friday, April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and aired on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, April 30.

Harris said the film’s lack of context showed “why it’s important to get all-around perspectives.”

“I can’t tell you how many times as a journalist while I was living in L.A. that I covered shootings or knife fights where I would speak to people in the neighborhood who would say that that hadn’t even happened or that important details were left out,” he said. “With the riots being on video, I thought, ‘wow, now it will be a slam dunk’ — and the story still wasn’t told properly.”

Lisa A. Crooms-Robinson, associate dean of academic affairs at Howard’s School of Law, weighed in on the 1992 verdict that acquitted four white police officers in the brutal videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King, reflecting on how the same problems still continue today.

“It seems that in order for a white cop to go to jail for shooting a black citizen, there must be some kind of video with a white cop deliberately saying, ‘I am shooting you because you are black and I do not like you because you are black in order to prevail in a civil court case,” she said.

Greg Carr, HU professor and chairman of Afro-American studies, also shared his perspective.

“This fascination with the overall spectacle undermines any opportunity to resolve the problem,” the outspoken Carr said. “I mean Ice Cube says it all in his old song, ‘Black Korea.'”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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