Thursday, June 21


The striated images on our black & white T.V.
frighten me.
All the Negroes in the world have gone crazy!
They are pushing and screaming and burning cars -
what’s to stop them from getting into our yard?
Maybe I can see them coming before it’s too late,
spilling over the fence and up to our windows
hearing the glass break just before they get inside,
and we all die . . .

* People didn’t really take the time to explain current events to little kids. We were still close on the coat-tails of an era when ‘children should be seen and not heard’, so we weren’t asking many questions, either. The American Civil Rights movement was in full-swing; but Selma was a world removed from our 'Dick and Jane' San Fernando Valley.

The Watts Riots in Los Angeles entered our suburban living room like a ton of bricks. I was only eight years old the day before. I knew all the sidewalks said, “L.A. County”, so I figured Northridge had to be in L.A. I didn’t understand that Watts was at least an hour drive away from our house. I didn’t bother to ask my parents what was happening because anyone could see for themselves right there on T.V. It was war.

Violence is very frightening to children, regardless of who is doing it and for whatever reason. I was absolutely terrified - especially at night after the evening news had ended. This was my cue to run to the arcadia doors in the den and stare at the back fence (just past mama’s clothes line), my heart literally in my throat expectantly watching for the approach of mortal danger.

On August 11, 1965 a White police officer arrested two Blacks for a minor traffic violation in the Watts District of Los Angeles. Believing it was racially motivated; on-lookers threw rocks and bottles at back-up units arriving on the scene. The dispute quickly escalated into a riot with rampant looting and fire-bombing of local businesses.

The National Guard regained control on August 16th. Six days of riots resulted in 34 dead, 1,000 injured, 4,000 arrested and 209 buildings destroyed. Property damage was estimated at 40 million.
~ note: It was the cultural norm to refer to African-Americans as 'Negros'

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