Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Before I get into the Rebuilding of Los Angeles, let me introduce you to what was a good idea, taken to a new level:
Rebuild LA (RLA) was a non-profit corporation formed immediately after the L.A. civil disturbances of April 29-30, 1992, when Mayor Tom Bradley and Governor Pete Wilson asked Peter Ueberroth to lead a community-wide effort to "restore the health and vitality of Los Angeles." (LMU/LA)
Peter Ueberroth, notable organizer of the 1984 Olympics in L.A., attempted to spur development of damaged areas as head of Rebuild L.A., which fell short of its monetary goals by more than half and failed to attract substantive corporate investment in poor areas. The effort lasted until 1997 before folding. (wikipedia.com)
And in my poem from the Depths of My Soul, ‘The Fire Still Burns’, I affection ally write this in my fondest of memories about the failed effort: “Have you heard from Rebuild L.A.?” Empty promise after empty promise, etc. That’s all the citizens of South Los Angeles received. Quiet resistance from companies turning a blind eye to the needs of the residents in the community. I remember the corporate drug stores, the retail chain department stores, and other shops that used to line up the old Santa Barbara Plaza, Vermont Knolls, high retail centers within the neighborhood that as kids we used to frequent often. After April 29th, they haven’t returned since, at least the stores I remember as a kid growing up.
However, if you travel through downtown Los Angeles in 2007, you’ll see Rebuild L.A is hard at work! If you venture in the Figueroa Corridor next to Staples Center, you’ll find a brand new entertainment complex called L.A. Live is under construction with a movie theater planned, an ESPN sports bar, restaurants, you name it. So Rebuild L.A. is living up to its promise of restoring the health and vitality of Los Angeles.
Okay, all jokes aside, we all know it’s not what we all thought would happen after the last fire went out in April/May 1992, but either way it is a rebuilding of the city those of us who were here during that troublesome period, never expected. I, along with several residents were lukewarm to the promises made by our public officials that Rebuild L.A. would be worthwhile and that the residents would benefit. Four years of corporate denials failed that promise. The rebuilding efforts in downtown are the same as the rebuilding efforts in Denver, San Diego, most major cities in this country. Old skyscrapers are renovated to modern townhouses where anyone who’s affluent and well to do can afford to live in them. Smaller grocery stores are built under these same townhouses as well as other retail outlets catering to the inhabitants. Meanwhile, on the other side of town…..we called for the Mom and Pop stores in the community. I plainly remember the press conference on 92nd and Broadway when a new retail store was built, but years later….nada. So while Rebuild L.A. didn’t exactly live up to their promises, we who frequent and live in the community have to take that long look in the mirror and admit, we didn’t live up to ours either. But I digress.
Fifteen years after these promises where made by Rebuild L.A to revitalize the Southside, not much has changed. Residents are still toiling in second hand, filthy deserted grocery stores in their neighborhoods. At best, the new retail developments in nearby Inglewood are a relief to residents who seek quality, but it’s not much to go on, well compared to L.A. Live. But as much as I would love to describe about neglected areas fifteen years later, I have hope that the tide will turn one day. I have two good reasons why it will.
Only one person has stepped up to the plate and Lord bless him for continuing to promote business in the community. I’ve always appreciated Earvin Magic Johnson as a player, but even more so as a corporate entity who wants improvised communities to flourish. Say what you want about the service in his movie theatre, but I remember when we cried out loud to have one of our own, and he delivered, he partnered up with Starbucks and he delivered, even TGIF Fridays. So maybe we should take a minute and admit as much as we like to complain, if he never came through, what would we have to fuss about? I’m just sayin! I have to give Keyshawn Johnson props too for helping with financing Chesterfield Square in South Los Angeles. For those of you who have never heard of Chesterfield Square, it has a Walgreens, Home Depot and Food 4 Less, plus other shops we would travel to the suburbs to spend our money. You see, when L.A. Live is completed, our hard earned dollars are going to stay downtown. That’s just the financial reality of it.
The moral to all this?
I believe Angelinos in the Southside deserve the best, retail, entertainment centers, you name it. However, if we’re going to be serious about keeping our money in our own neighborhoods to build up our own because there’s a gnawing feeling in the back of my skull, the backers of L.A. Live won’t be thinking about where Negroes or brown folk live to help out and contribute. We’ll have to get our resources together and do it for ourselves. No one, and I mean no one is going to shed a tear, much like the crocodile tears of 1997 when Rebuild L.A. folded. That may be harsh, but it’s truth.
So Rebuild L.A. didn’t exactly lie, they just decided to go Live!
Pictures from the glorious rebuilding master plan of Los Angeles shown HERE (scroll down)