Growing pains in South Los Angeles
Tess Vigeland: Our studios here at Marketplace are just a few miles from the corner of Florence and Normandie Avenues, where Rodney King was beaten by LAPD officers 20 years ago this weekend. Their acquittal was the flash point for riots that spread throughout the city and destroyed lives and property. Billions of dollars have poured in to South Central LA in the years since, but the neighborhood continues to struggle.
We asked one long-time resident and local entrepreneur what’s changed — and what hasn’t.
Everett Courtney: My name is Everett Courtney. I live in Los Angeles, Calif. I moved to South L.A. around 1975, and I’ve been here ever since. The rebuildings been going on quite well. We do have the Crenshaw Mall that has opened since the L.A. Riots, we have number of different developments.
However, I think it’s been slow coming. Things have been slow, and in particular when it comes to hiring members of the community. I think it has gotten better, but I think there’s yet more that needs to be done. We either need more collaboration or we need a shift in ownership of the businesses. I know when I first moved to Los Angeles, the majority of liquor stores, the nail salons, gas stations, a lot of these small businesses were predominantly owned by African-Americans. But there’s been a shift in ownership now. I’m not saying that the people that own the businesses have to be black, per se, but I feel as though that the people that run the business that they should at least hire the kids or the people in the community to create a stronger bond in the community.
The community would be a lot more stable, if there wasn’t so much transient opportunities going around, with people moving in and out of the community in order for the community to be strong and strive and survive. That when we have the same members coming in and working and everybody working together for a common goal, then things get taken care of a lot faster.
I actually love living here in South L.A. When the riots came about, I thought about leaving L.A. and going to some place else. But I said, “You know, in order for me to be a positive in the community, change starts with me.” So I looked at things, where either I’m going to be the solution or I’m going to be the problem. And if I sit back and don’t do nothing, then I’m part of the problem. So I decided to stay in South L.A. and work with a lot of the organizations here and do my part to bring about change in a significant way that’s gonna uplift the community. And also where a lot of the members are on a negative path can see somebody positive, doing some constructive things and make changes in the right direction.
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