Stopping the Violence in South LA

I was in Inglewood at a community forum Wednesday night with the Mayor of Inglewood. The topic: stopping the violence for 2011.

We talked about how kids were always getting things taken from them, how getting shot at and funerals were just a normal part of life in South LA, and how the foster sytem rips apart black families.

The forum felt productive.

However, it's occurrence was very ironic and ultimately tragic and perhaps more desperate, considering the news below which happened the same night just a few blocks away.

A 14-year-old youth was shot and killed Wednesday night while riding a bicycle in South Los Angeles, the latest probable victim of surging violence between two gangs, police said.

Taburi Watson was riding his bike near St. Andrews Place and 87th Street about 7:25 p.m. when one or more assailants fired shots.

So this night marked a few personal milestones for me.
  • the first time I rode the very spacious, bicycle-friendly Green Line.
  • the first time I was going to ride through South LA and Inglewood at night by myself.
  • and perhaps the last time I'll willingly ride thru South LA at night without full body armor.
After getting off at the Hawthorne stop (because I thought it was somehow closer to the meeting), I rode all the way back to Crenshaw Blvd till it intersected with Florence. This was around 6:00 - 6:30. Crenshaw and Manchester is an intersection I passed en route to the forum, just about a mile and a half West, and 45 minutes from where the shooting took place.

Holiday Hilarity

So...very last minute shopping.

I waited until 6 PM today to start shopping, which left me with not too many stores. It was between the general big boxes, supermarket, the drug stores, and Discount Dollar.

The general big boxes with all the fancy stuff closed at 7 PM.

I rushed to get some things in from the last big box store. La la la, everyone rushing, cue Holiday music, cue knowing smiles from everyone. Holiday music being the main provider of atmosphere.

"So hear those sleigh bells ringin', ting ting tingalin' too.... come on it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you..."

"Deck the halls with something something..."

Same as the drug store. Rushing, holiday music, smiles.

Same as the supermarket. Rushing, holiday music, smiles.

But the moment I stepped into Discount Dollar... "smack that, all on the floor, smack that, give me some more, smack that, 'till you get sore..."

A different kind of music. I could feel the rush of the street.

What was missing were the Red Light District lights, poles, beverages and women you wouldn't want to share at a family party, and we would've re-created a mini-version of my Christmas five years ago.

I made my way to the toy section.

Metro Stories: Violence

If there was a time for me to sell people on the idea of public transportation in Los Angeles, the past week was not it.

Let's recap, shall we:

1) Tending to my bike in the bike/stroller/suitcase section of the red line, out of nowhere I feel a wham. It was a lightheaded smack to my face. I wasn't sure where.

All of a sudden a burning feeling on my lip.

A female teenager witnessing the event exclaims "He didn't even do nothin'!"

Another teenager who'd been sleeping woke up and said "Man I miss all the action!"

He takes a look at me and says "This is why were getting off at the next stop." He asks his friends, "Was it a nigga?"

Someone tells me that my lip is bleeding.

I check the mirror.

I think, "Cool it's like I got into a real fight" and marvel at the fact that my lip is bleeding and can spit it out.

A stunned old lady offers me a tissue.

That lightheaded slam to my face is actually my lip getting busted by a schizophrenic man on his way out. I check if I've lost any teeth.

I'd observed just a few minutes before that this schizophrenic man earlier had been making motions with his hands as if to swat a swarm of gnats. Not really all that weird behavior to me as budding Anthropologist interested in deviant behaviors. I thought it was borderline entertaining and was wondering if he was half Filipino. But he definitely looked like a man in some dire straits and at a dark place. Perhaps I'd been looking at him too intently.

After he left me with my lip in a less than-ideal condition, I thought I heard him say "asshole." Maybe that's just something I'm adding to this memory.

I know that there was an emergency phone and all, but I wasn't even thinking about that after my lip got busted. I was just mostly shocked and didn't really feel like dealing with anything to do with bureaucracies. There was nothing I felt I could've done, putting a crazy ass person with the cops and my lip not any closer to healing.

If I saw him again though...

2) Less than a week later at around the Vermont/Santa Monica stop, at one end of a train, a scuffle.

A lady in short shorts starts slapping and punching this middle-aged to older man in a suit carrying a suitcase. These weren't little weak girl punches, these were some bruise-inducing hits that you could hear from my end of the train.

As a result, some riders scramble to get the hell out of way opening a wide-open view of the occurrences.

Some try to separate the two, but she keeps hitting this guy telling him "you're not a father to that baby!" and continues hitting this guy whose shielding himself with his back.

The hitting and the spectacle doesn't stop until they are separated by a gang of people and he exits Vermont/Sunset along with me.