“Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of Black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life. — Marcus Garvey
*I was born in the turbulent 1960’s and have often felt that much of the energy of those times affected me deeply and set the course for the rest of my life. I have always had a militant outlook on this nation’s treatment of Blacks, tempered with the realization that I must be informed, prepared and financially stable before engaging in any mass revolutionary activities.
I understood that much from what I had learned.
I was alive but have no real memories of anything except for the memories my mother gave me. My dearly departed mother once told me that when Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, she and I were in a grocery store. She heard of the riots and saw people running in the streets and ran with me, her youngest child, more than five blocks to our home. Everything else I have in my mind from the 60’s is from television images or from books, or from my own furtive imagination based on stories I heard.
I never imagined that I would be in the midst of a city at war with itself—a city on fire.
But in 1992, I watched my adopted city go up in flames. I had studied the Watts Riots in school, and I had heard the stories even as a child growing up in Chicago, but seeing it live was a mind and life-altering experience.
As a young Black man, I was no stranger to police brutality, and all to familiar with what has become known as “racial profiling.” When I saw the tape of the Rodney king beating, I believed, as did many African-Americans, that finally, justice would come.
It did not.
The day the verdicts came down, I felt the rage and the pain that rippled through the entire African American community and through the hearts and minds of whites and other citizens of this nation who know and understand that in the Rodney King Beating Trial, as in many other arenas of America, the lives of Black people is simply without value.
I felt that rage and pain in my heart, but I had no idea what to do with it. There were no leaders of any intrinsic relevance who could have appeared on television to set the course of the people. Our leaders of today are marginal at best, or in the case of self-appointed leaders, self-serving at worst.
There was no one voice that could have spoken for and to our people, so the people began to speak in the only voice available to them.
It was a warm Spring day, so my front door was open as I watched the verdicts and listened in disbelief.
I could feel and almost smell a tension in the air that had been lingering for many months following the denial of justice in the LaTasha Harlins shooting case.
I heard loud voices in the street and looked out to see a U-Haul truck, with two young brothers standing on either side of it. They were telling my neighbors to go to the store and stock up because a war was coming. The war they spoke of, was to be waged against the police by the new coalition of gangs who had recently struck a truce.
I walked down to hear them and to speak to them. I looked in the back of their truck and saw stacks of guns, unlike any armament I had seen before. There were rifles, handguns, bullets and even a few hand grenades.
I knew that something huge was about to happen.
I felt in my heart that I should be a part of it, but I already knew that whatever these men were about to undertake was far beyond me.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful retrospective on the LA Riots, “The Whirlwind or the Storm,” available on Amazon.com as an eBook for Kindle or PCs and as a paperback book. James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles in 2011and runs through June of 2012. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at [email protected].