1992 LA Riots: 25th Anniversary

Photo by: 5chw4r7z.


April 29th, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots.

Marked as one of the greatest civil disobedience events in U.S history, the 1992 Riots sparked national interest on police brutality.

In 1991, Rodney King was on parole for robbery when he led LAPD on a high speed pursuit.

Once the chase ended, police used excessive force to detain King. He soon became unconscious, yet a bystander was able to capture the brutal beating on camera.

The trial took place a year later. By that time, tension had built up on the black community’s shoulders.

A couple days after King’s assault was released to the public, Korean store owner Soon Ja Du shot 15 year old Latasha Harlins after suspecting that she was stealing.

When a year later all officers involved in the altercation were acquitted, it pushed the community over an edge. Additionally, Du was also found not guilty of Harlins’ death. The results of these two verdicts resulted in anger and uproar.

After three days of rioting in April of 1992, Los Angeles was left in ruins. Korean store owners who set up shop in South Central were the victims of looting. Hundreds were injured, and 53 people were killed.

The police were acquitted because, despite causing King permanent brain damage, they were simply “doing their job.”

Although the jury found Du guilty, the judge let her walk free because she was believed to be a model citizen prior to Harlin’s murder.

The victims were seen as the real criminals and the plaintiffs were given every right to defend themselves.

The media played the riots over and over, ultimately ignoring the cause of the riots.

Lessons should have been learned from the biggest uprising in U.S history, yet over the recent years, similar events constantly repeat. Just to name a few for example: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner. The police officers involved in their deaths have not been indicted.

Today we have #BlackLivesMatter, an organization that speaks out against the injustices of police brutality.

All communities of color should stand alongside the black community and demand justice.The LA riots serve as a reminder that violent injustice will not be tolerated by our communities.

Chicano Batman at Santa Monica Pier

Every year, the Santa Monica Pier hosts their Twilight Concert series showcasing an array of musical artists from all types of genres. For this 31st year anniversary, the Twilight Concerts’ lineup includes musical artists such as Real Estate, Sister Nancy, and Ariel Pink. Chicano Batman performed and opened the stage on July 23rd with their retro ruffled suits and psychedelic funk before the headliners, Cubanismo.

The quartet, featuring Carlos Arevalo (guitar), Bardo Martinez (lead vocals, keyboard, guitar), Eduardo Arenas (bass, vocals), and Gabriel Villa (drums, percussion), put on an amazing show encompassing a broad collection of Latin sounds from past generations rejuvenated to fit the present. With their surf-rock Cumbia, romantica-style melodies, and Colombian rhythms, Chicano Batman pays homage to influential legendary Latin groups such as Los Lobos, Los Mirlos, and Los Angeles Negros. Their bilingual transitions during sets speak to the legacy of the Spanish language musical heritage of the United States which continues to diversify the dance floor and concert spaces with a bit of multiculturalism. Bossa Nova is also a major musical influence on the band’s fusion of Portuguese, samba, and jazz. But more than a tribute band, Chicano Batman is on “a mission to bring the overlooked to the forefront” as they state on their website.

In fact, Chicano Batman’s logo pieces together the United Farm Workers’ eagle designed by Caesar Chavez in the 1960s and the batman symbol. Together these symbols represent the band’s allegiance to the Latin community both through pop-culture and political cultural identity. Through their lyricism and rhythm, Chicano Batman expresses the daily experiences of modern day Latin Americans, presenting themselves as an example. Their music stems from their own living experiences and memories within the Los Angeles community. Thus, each track generates a sense of nostalgia, which is a common response to most postmodern art forms. Not only do they borrow from past traditions in both their music and style, but they seek to immortalize the experience of growing up to the sounds of their parents’ music. It is for this reason the band combines these styles for their live audience throughout local Los Angeles. A passerby might say they sound different and for others, psychedelic Chicano rock. Whichever genre they fit, Chicano Batman will not be mitigated to menial parts of the record store. They are a group of passionate Latinos from East Los Angeles who appreciate and validate a multicultural community through language and art.

Chicano Batman’s latest album is titled Cycles of Existential Rhyme and you can catch them at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on August 28th.

Latino Representation in SuJu’s “Mamacita”

This past year, the Korean Pop group Super Junior (SuJu) released their seventh album with the words “Ayaya Mamacita” on their cover. After only three days of its release, SuJu’s album topped the Billboard World Albums Chart. Their music reached fans outside of Asia and they are now considered the “veteran boy band” that stayed together since their debut in 2005. SuJu is now an iconic group from Korea, thanks to their fans throughout the world, who refer to themselves as E.L.F.s (EverLastingFriends).

In Korea, large music labels, like SuJu’s SM Town, continuously produce new boy bands formed by young teens after years of practicing to become KPop stars. Although many teens are chosen to train, not all trainees debut in a group. Because there are frequently new groups debuting, it is difficult for each group to keep the spotlight while competing with other talented groups. Despite these obstacles, SuJu has been able to maintain their popularity amongst fans and held a world tour in 2013, which even included Mexico City. SuJu’s world wide fame means that fans from different countries are exposed to their videos and the messages they send. SuJu has the power to send positive messages to their fans through their music and videos, but they also have the power to spread racists stereotypes through videos like their newest hit, “Mamacita.”

In the attempt to create a new commercially successful album for SuJu, their seventh album incorporates references to Latin culture. Unfortunately, the references the album uses are racist stereotypes that come off as offensive to Latino communities. At the beginning of the “Mamacita” music video, the camera shows a “Wanted” flyer written in Spanish that says, “Se busca vivo o muerto. Recompensa $5,000.” This flyer written in Spanish implies that the video is taking place in Mexico or a Latino community. But the video also has signs written in English, which is confusing because it becomes unclear as to where the video takes place. In fact, the newspaper that comes out in the beginning is also written in English, but contains stereotypical Latino names like “Lopez.” The costumes used by SuJu members Siwon and Leeteuk, the sheriff and criminal in the video respectively, include a poncho, boots, and a fake mustaches. The fact that the video uses these clothing stereotypes is disturbing because the video suggests that wearing boots and growing a mustache makes one Latino or Mexican. There are many Mexicans who grow facial hair or prefer to dress in Ranchero clothes, but this alone does not define what it is to be Mexican or Latino. These stereotypes used in the video limit the scope on Latino culture and heritage, and they create a biased perspective towards Latinos. The stereotypes the video suggests do not apply to all Mexicans, nor to all Latinos. Although SuJu’s song “Mamacita” is catchy, the music video and lyrics fail to correctly incorporate Latino culture and terms like “ayaya” into the song. The fact that KPop music artists like SuJu are attempting to use Latino traditions into their music is amazing because they have taken the time to adopt cultures outside of Asia, but their misrepresentation of the culture is disappointing because they are portraying a racist image of Latino culture to their fans worldwide.


The Price To Pay in Keeping ICE In LA (or ICE Out of LA!)

On March 3rd earlier this year, former Los Angeles County District 1 Supervisor Gloria Molina failed miserably in her attempt to unseat City Council District 14 incumbent Jose Huizar. After decades of sitting in office as one of the “kings and queens” of the L.A. County, Molina was forced to face the reality of her standing with the immigrant community.

Huizar, born in Zacatecas 46 years ago, obtained 65.7% of the votes while Molina only received 23.9%. No one thought that Molina, whose political career began in 1982 in the state assembly and ended last year in the county board of supervisors, would even nip at his heels. Molina was not only out of touch with the impact issues that many L.A. residents face daily, but she also decided to go against the wishes of her community by spearheading the passage of the 287(g) MOA renewal as a last move in her role as Supervisor.

We entrust our local officials with the power and influence that they hold because we believe that they wield it in the interest of the community – both its safety and its progression. When members of our community are working to pay the rent or driving from point A to point B, the last thing on their minds should be whether they or a family member is going to be torn away from the life they have tirelessly worked to build. When a member of our community is seized by a local official, it must –without exception – be in accordance with the Fourth Amendment right afforded to each and every one of us in the constitution. Unfortunately, in LA County, this is not the case for immigrants who are the victims of the collaboration between Sheriff’s deputies and immigration officials.

LA is one of two counties in the state of California (Orange County being the other) that continues separating families through its cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the form of a 287 (g) agreement.

The 287 (g) agreement, in which LA County is still engaged with, means that local law enforcement can  receive training to do the work of  ICE officials. For years, this agreement has maligned the relationship between the police and the people they are sworn to protect.

In 2013, a study by the University of Illinois found that 70% of undocumented Latino immigrants and 28% of Latino U.S. citizens were less likely to contact law enforcement if they were victims of a crime for fear that police would inquire about their immigration status or the immigration status of people they know. Aside from depleting the trust that community members have for law enforcement, 287 (g) has been denounced for its inefficacy by organizations like Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and even ICE itself.

With this picture, one might argue that the 287 (g) is rationalized in this day and age by the money it brings to the county. However, even going by the numbers proves 287 (g)’s case is becoming increasingly harder to justify because the funding has been sharply cut from $13.9 million in 2004 to $3.4 million in 2014. These arguments only compound the irrationality of programs like 287 (g) – programs which have been proven time and again to invite the acrimony of racial profiling.

Despite the failure of 287 (g) agreements in counties all across the country, there have been policies all too similar in nature over the past years that have terrorized communities like ours. Possibly the most infamous is the defunct now ‘Secure Communities’ program. Secure Communities, (S-Comm) is a federal program that adds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to information-sharing chain after the FBI. S-Comm allows ICE to access fingerprints taken by local police pre-conviction, to screen detained individuals for immigration status and to request that law enforcement agencies hold them (this hold is known as a “detainer”) for an additional 48 hours if they’re found to be undocumented. The program soon proved to be a detriment to the communities of California for various reasons. First, studies after studies showed that S-Comm was used as a major vehicle for mass deportation with only 12% of deportees under this program during Fiscal Year 2013 having committed a serious offense. In fact, many of them were deported for having committed infractions. Even more troubling is the fact that, under S-Comm, fingerprints are taken and scanned by DHS pre-conviction.  This means that people could be deported without having been convicted of any crime.  This raises incentive for racial profiling because undocumented people can be falsely accused of a crime and be deported even if they’re not guilty.

Lastly, a 2011 study conducted by a commission consisting of national and community-based organizations among them the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) found that contrary to its name, S-Comm threatens public safety.  In this report, local law enforcement officials explained that S-Comm “distracts police from their primary functions, it diverts [local] resources, and it destroys trust with immigrant communities by making police frontline enforcers of broken and outdated immigration laws.  Without trust, crimes go unreported, investigations go unsolved, decades of community policing efforts are destroyed, and we are all less safe.” To this chorus of the policy’s failure, Governor Jerry Brown signed the TRUST Act on October 5th, 2013. By doing so, he created clear guidelines on under what circumstances local law enforcement officials can issue a detainer.

This road brings us to the present. In 2015, there are sadly immigrants who know the paralyzing terror of deportation proceedings all too well from personal experience. Omara Gomez-Aviles, a devoted mother of three US citizen children who fled the civil war in El Salvador and a survivor of human trafficking and domestic violence, was deported on April 8th 2015. Her oldest son, Omar, is graduating from Roosevelt High School in June, and his mother’s absence will be a dissonance echoing over Pomp and Circumstance Marches. There is no arguing with stories like this. The conclusion is clear: Any and all collaboration with ICE separates families and victimizes immigrant communities. So long as LA county officials play a willing participant in this misguided cooperation, they will be seen as a predatory force looking to persecute rather than to protect. For law enforcement officials, this means dissolving its 287 (g) agreement and pursuing a model of community policing that will restore faith in the law. It also means not complying with the adoption of any new program like PEP that will replace S-Comm. We all need to stand against any policy that fractures our communities by letting local elected officials know that starting a dialogue with LA County immigrant residents begins with breaking the ICE.

La Raza Meets Up at Coachella 2014

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is synonymous with intense heat, soreness, dehydration, and pain, and yet it never fails to sell out every year. It is recognized world-wide as the official opener for music festival season, and people from all over the world are willing to pay small fortunes just to be able to attend. The truth is that although Coachella might be one of the most uncomfortable and exhausting experiences, what it ultimately offers is a lifetime’s memories of a weekend filled with thrills and a whole lot of dancing and music. No one is impervious to the Coachella effect, including the Latino community.

It seems like Coachella has a special appeal to Latinos, as their presence is definitely apparent. If you’re camping on location, you’ll see several cars with car plates ranging from Baja California to Mexico D.F. As you make your way around, you will undoubtedly hear many a person speaking fluently in Spanish. And it all culminates when la raza comes all together in support of the few (and in this year’s case, only) Latino bands that play the festival, and the crowd turns into a passionate mass of people that whoops and shouts and dances nonstop. Last year’s Coachella saw a donkey-shaped piñata making its rounds at the Café Tacuba and 3Ball MTY shows, and this year, the Mexican flag was present at the show put on by Zoé at the Main Stage on Sunday afternoon, in which lead singer León Larregui even took the time to acknowledge it and comment on its beauty.

There’s even a group on Facebook called “Mexicanos en Coachella” which specializes on sharing the latest news regarding the festival, survival tips, and support for those in need of transportation or a place to stay. When the festival is actually ongoing, there is an appointed person from the group that carries with them the Mexican flag that lets others know of the Latino presence, and they even organize group meet-ups in which they give out free pins commemorating the event.

As it turns out, Coachella is a particularly memorable event for Latinos every year. Latinos are both represented by at least one musical act every year at the festival and, unofficially, by this Facebook group that seeks to help and prepare those who are about to set out on the phenomenon that is Coachella.

So if you are a Latino who is thinking or already planning on attending next year, never fear and know that you are not alone. La raza will come out and support you wholeheartedly.

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Ronaldo Retires After 18 Years

Ronaldo scoring the winning penalty in the 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final against Paris Saint-Germain. Photo: Wikipedia.

After 18 years of professional play, after being named FIFA Player of the Year three times, after setting – and still holding – the record of 15 goals scored during the World Cup, and after winning the World Cup twice, Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo retires from the game because of persistent knee injuries and his body’s inability to keep up.

With tears in his eyes and his two sons by his side, the 34-year-old announced his decision on February 14, which ended his contract with the Brazilian club Corinthians.

Fans have been disappointed with Ronaldo’s performance, which has been deteriorating for two years during which he’s faced three serious knee injuries that have threatened to end his career. He’s been forced to work even harder since he learned he has hypothyroidism, a condition that makes it difficult for him to stay in shape.

According to NPR, Ronaldo said that he wants to “publicly apologize for failing in the [Copa] Libertadores project,” the most important Latin American tournament.

However, team President Andres Sanchez handed him a jersey with the words “forever” and “phenomenon,” and former Inter Milan teammate Youri Djorkaeff said, “Ronaldo is the best player I ever played with.” Many would agree, despite his downfall these past few years.