Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Sep 22, 2020

When Khemnes Fisher was a kid growing up in LA, he was taught and believed that overt systemic racism was a thing of the past. Then, LA police officers were filmed savagely beating Rodney King and were acquitted, setting off a civil uprising. Fisher’s perspective changed.

Now a social justice educator at The Mosaic Project, Fisher spoke with Mosaic Youth Leader and Stanford University student, Casey Hidekawa, to share his story and views on the ongoing fight for racial justice.

“The Giant is Slowly Waking Up”

Fisher grew up in LA, Black identified and working class, in the 1980s. Police patrolled his neighborhood 24/7. His first experience with the police was witnessing his friend Ricky getting thrown on the hood of the car because he wasn’t moving fast enough and then getting thrown to the ground himself. Fisher was well acquainted with personal, face-to-face racism, yet never thought much about systemic racism — until Rodney King.

Fisher recalls:

“I thought, oh, well, racism, it does still happen, but it’s not as so bad anymore. But then when the Rodney King thing happened and got filmed, I thought, wow, now everybody can see what has been going on in my neighborhood for as long as I can remember.”

That was the beginning of his and many others’ social justice awakening, one that continues to build momentum today:

“From the Rodney King incident until now, I think there’s been a slow awakening and the giant is slowly waking up. I don’t think the giant is fully woken yet.”

Reaganomics: From Teams to Gangs

Fisher grew up on 120th Street in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. The area had a lot of parks: Will Rogers Park, Athens Park, and Carver Park. He recalls that the city had a very strong park recreation program, so a lot of the parks had their own baseball, football, and basketball teams.

Fisher recalls, “most of the time we’re either playing sports and I’m running around in the streets, riding bikes, doing stuff.”

Gangs existed, but the temptation to get involved was low. Fisher remembers,

“[Kids who joined gangs] had a very hard home life. They weren’t in a gang because they chose to be, you know, they’re in a gang because there was nothing left for them to go to.”

The rule of thumb was that everyone had to be home before the street lights came on. For the most part, Fisher viewed his childhood as a pretty average urban one.

Then Reaganomics came through and the parks’ budgets were cut.

Fisher recalls:

“[Due to Reagonomics,] there was no more recreation stuff happening, a lot of parks didn’t have the money anymore to finance teams.”

With no organized programs after school, Fisher and his friends just started to hang out in the neighborhood, aimlessly.

“That’s when things started taking a turn,” recalls Fisher. “Those gangs that were kind of hovering around the perimeters, started coming more within the neighborhoods.” Gangs took over. Kids who used to shoot hoops together started shooting each other.

Heavy munitions entered the neighborhood, although there were no gun shops in the neighborhoods. “It was crazy,” Fisher recalls,

“It almost felt like it happened overnight, but it wasn’t always that way. I think it was a lot of benign neglect.”

Fisher began to escape into music and performing. He notes that while hip hop culture initially was positive — almost an “escapism from the hard life” — when reality rap came in, it brought negativity and glorified gang culture.

“From Over-policing to No Policing”

During the Rodney King uprising, Fisher recalls that people started with the intention to show their pent-up frustration. However, it quickly escalated, in large part due to the absence of any police intervention.

Recalls Fisher:

“The thing is, we kept waiting for the police to come through and do stuff. And there were no police whatsoever.”

The fires and damage began.

“Then, we heard that now they’re not there: from over policing to no policing.”

With this realization, Fisher says, outrage and havoc escalated. Yes, there were some residents who were setting fires and damaging local businesses, but there were also a lot of people from outside the neighborhood coming in, instigating, and adding to the destructiveness.

“No Black Liberation without Black Education”

Fisher remembers receiving very little education about Black history in school. What he was taught was limited to his ancestors being enslaved and surviving the aftermath. Fisher reflects:

“It’s not very inspiring to a Black kid, learning that he was a slave and that he was set free. When a Black youth learns that we had empires, we had civilizations that lasted for over 4,000 years, that’s inspiring — something to stand on, and that’s something to work for again.”

Kush.

Fisher remembers:

“I started understanding that we have to do more to make our society safer for Black people. My first thing was to educate more Black people and let them know that we had a history before we were enslaved.”

Fisher started to get educated. He learned about Black history and how decades of systemic racism and inequality had shaped his community. Fisher notes:

“There is no Black liberation without Black education. I think the first thing that needs to happen within the Black community is to educate ourselves and to find out who we were before the Maafa, before the enslavement, and before the colonizations.”

“Safety and Space to Grow”

The Mosaic Project, which helps youth build the peaceful world they envision.

He reflects on the need for activists to define their vision of justice, equity, and peace:

“People say they want a more peaceful environment. What does peace look like? I think people need to do more investigating on what peace looks like to them.”

Fisher defines peace as follows:

“What peace looks like to me is when people feel safe enough to walk out of their own homes… people having mutual respect for each other, people having an open mind about being able to learn new things, learn about each other, and learn about cultures. A lot of people rely on stereotypes and what they are taught in books.”

Fisher believes three things can help communities get there:

1. Self-Education

Fisher attributes his own lack of education about Black history and racial history to his early ignorance about systemic racism and the importance of social justice. He notes that ignorance fuels stereotypes and close-mindedness.

2. Self-Regulation

According to Fisher, peace looks like communities being able to self-regulate. “I’m definitely down with defunding or at least reducing the reach of police. I think communities need to be more responsible for their own wellbeing. A lot of things that happen in our communities are a lot of domestic issues and a lot of people feeling lost and not knowing what to do with themselves.”

3. Safe Spaces

“Peace also looks like providing programs for people to help develop a vision for what they want to do. Peace is a complicated concept because it looks different for everybody, but I think, in general, safety and space to grow.” The Mosaic Project provides one such space — a weeklong experiential program in nature that creates a microcosm of a peaceful, just, inclusive world and empowers students with the skills to build it.

Fisher remains hopeful that, with continued growth and learning, we can make progress on racial justice. Quoting Audre Lourde, Hidekawa notes: “Revolution is not a one-time event.”

Thank you for reading and sharing.

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Read the transcript

Casey (00:00):
Hey, what’s up. My name is Casey and I’m with my good friend. Khemnes and this is Peacing it Together with Casey and Khemnes. And we have started this podcast because we wanted to have some conversations about what peacemaking looks like in the real world. Yeah.
Khemnes (00:17):
And I’m Khemnes and I am part of The Mosaic Project. I’m also very interested in seeing what peace is going to look like, or does look like in the real world, whatever that means to people. And yeah, I’m ready to get this thing started.
Casey (00:33):
For sure. So kind of like how, how are you doing right now in this, in this cultural climate that’s all a little crazy?
Khemnes (00:39):
I’m mixed. It’s all a bit mixed bag. COVID-19 which is very spooky. You know, it was kind of like a slow uproar of it all. People really didn’t take it very seriously, and then suddenly everyone took it seriously . And I don’t think I really took it all that serious until I came into Oakland and everything was shut down when it first happened, you know. The coffee shops were shut down. The donut shop was shut down. Everything was done. It was like nothing to do. I mean, the bus, the buses were all taped off. Like you couldn’t get into front of the buses anymore. You had the bus driver wearing masks and it was, it was crazy. It was like, man, this thing is really real. And now unfortunately it’s become almost normative at this point, which is really sad because it just looked like I’m walking in one of these little,udystopian movies right now. And then with the social unrest, and with the killings of Breanna Taylor and George Floyd and all that stuff happening, just added a whole new dimension to the situation. I don’t really have a word to say how I’m feeling. It’s like, I’m just still in woe. Is that an emotion, like “woe”?
Casey (01:42):
Woe is totally an emotion. “Woe Is me, ” as the great William Shakespeare may or may not have said, Yeah, I’ve also been like kind of scattered. COVID been crazy. And I guess speaking of civil unrest today, we wanted to talk about another moment in history, where there was some civil unrest and that was in LA in 1991 to 92.
Khemnes (02:03):
Yeah. Well, as you know, I’m from LA and that was a very interesting, well, I’ll be very kind, but yeah, it was, it was it was a very explosive time in my life. I was about 25 already. So 25 just having my jobs and living life. And I was in college for a little while trying to figure that out. And also still learning about who I was as a Black man in America prior to the Rodney King thing. I thought, Oh, well, racism, it does still happen, but it’s not so bad anymore. But then when the Rodney King thing happened and got filmed, I thought, wow, now everybody can see what’s been going on in my neighborhood for as long as I can remember. And now we finally had to get some justice and I think I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that. And then when the verdict came out and they got off, it was, it just blew. I know I blew my mind. I’m like, Whoa. And that’s when I started realizing that things aren’t as harmonious as I thought they were in our nation. If something like that could happen, it was awakening that made me even more worried and sad and frustrated and angry at what had happened. Actually you have more questions I can keep going on and on.
Casey (03:17):
No, I mean, do you remember any moments or like anecdotes from that time that like stands out?
Khemnes (03:26):
It was, it was weird. It was a very weird time because at the time I was going to college and I went to college over in orange County, which is Cal state Fullerton, you know, on the weekends I lived on campus. So then on the weekends, I’d go back down to LA to hang out with friends and family. When the verdict had came out, there was a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, a lot of people really mad and there was a lot of people flexing, you know, saying they’re going to do a lot of stuff and I want to burn stuff down. But from my perspective, it was just a lot of talk yet. Then when Florence started blowing up and people started just, I remember just people going into the corner liquor stores and just pulling things off the shelf, not being well, definitely the intention wasn’t to destroy the building.
Khemnes (04:12):
But the intention was just to take things and show their frustration, especially. And I think the liquor store stealing looting, I guess they call it, that was in response to the Natasha Harding situation as well. Cause this young, Black girl got, got killed because the clerk guy thought she was gonna try and steal some orange juice. I think it was right. Yeah. That was still on our minds. But the whole thing that was happening on Florence when buildings started burning and people started pulling people out of cars that was on the other side of our neighborhood. And then it just kind of snowballed everything started going crazy. It was definitely a scary time because people were doing things you wouldn’t normally see them do. And the thing is, we kept waiting for the police to come through and do stuff. And there were no police whatsoever.
Khemnes (04:56):
People were just going crazy. And then when people started realizing that police was not coming, people just started getting buck, more buck wild and started doing things and finding other stores to go steal there. All right, since there’s no police, let’s just go steal some more stuff. Let’s just do some more havoc. Let’s go eff up some more things. You know, they’re even people that we never even recognized doing a lot of stuff. As people heard there was people coming in from other communities causing a lot of havoc as well. It was a lot.
Casey (05:21):
Yeah. And it’s like so crazy that the police chose not to intervene in that moment. And I think that really makes me think about like the way policing is really characterized by both like over policing of Black and Brown communities. And also under policing. Was there like a police response that you feel like would have been more appropriate?
Khemnes (05:44):
That’s a good question. I don’t know because the police was already vilified anyway. Yeah. I think we were just already outraged because, what, they would patrol our streets night and day 24 seven, and just pull us over from walking, from whatever, walking from the school yard to home, you know, “where are you going?” “But you just pulled us over earlier. You’re the same police person.” Then we heard that now they’re not there: from over policing to no policing. It was some weird, I don’t know, some weird cognitive dissonance or something like that, you know, like, Whoa. So now that they’re not going to come in, especially when things are crazy, you know, they’re supposed to be protecting us even though they weren’t, but now they’re not even going to come in to prevent all this craziness from happening. ‘Cause Other neighborhoods was getting, getting torn up. So a lot of people were angry. That what, so now we’re just left to this, this craziness.
Casey (06:43):
In your life. What has been your relationship with police and law enforcement?
Khemnes (06:49):
Not a very good relationship. Like I said you know, I remember a couple of times walking home from wherever I was going and just seeing a headlight or a spotlight coming in. And it was, it was pretty much predicted every time there was no respect, you know, it was like they would use very derogatory language towards us, you know, to call us bro kids or, or gangsters, what gang you coming from or what sets you’re in. It was always an interrogative situation. My first experience with the police was, was very confrontational. You know, I had my, my friend Ricky got thrown on the hood of a car because he wasn’t moving fast enough and I got thrown down to the ground cause I was confused and didn’t know why they were bothering, you know? So from then to now, I still don’t have a real easy feeling about any kind of police at all. Yeah.
Casey (07:36):
Yeah. For sure. Could you like speak a little more about like what it was like growing up in LA? Oh yeah. Yeah. Well,
Khemnes (07:46):
Growing up where I grew up, I grew up in specifically it was a hundred and 20th street an Avalon. And in that area we had like a lot of parks. So we had Will Rogers park. We had Athens park, we had Carver park. So when they had a very strong park recreation program, so a lot of the programs, a lot of the parks had their own baseball team and football team and basketball team. Right. And so we had all these programs happening, had all these parks and most of the time we either playing sports and running around the streets, riding bikes, doing stuff. Now, yes, we did have some elements of people being in gangs and stuff. But at least from our perspective, anyone who was in a gang was because they had a very hard home life and they weren’t in a gang because they chose to be, you know, they’re in a gang because there was nothing left for them to go.
Khemnes (08:33):
You know, a gang was pretty much an external family for them. So it wasn’t a volunteer. It wasn’t like it wasn’t a goal that they intended to get into a gang. Most of the things we wanted to do was either as I shared with you before my, my thing was to be a performer. I wanted to be the next Michael Jackson. In fact, I want to be better than Michael Jackson. It’s like, I can do that better. I can spin faster than him, you know? Yeah. I think it’s just any other type childhood, a desire to do something out there. You know? We, even some of us even did before we knew better were playing cops and robbers on bikes, you know, riding around. So it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of, there was some fun, there’s a lot of sports, a lot of things to do.
Khemnes (09:10):
We used to have the rule where you got to come home before the street lights come on. That was pretty much our rule . Now when summertime hit. So we knew it was longer days. So the streetlights wouldn’t come on for a longer amount of time. I think things started getting more challenging when Reaganomics came through in parks, started closing down. There was no more recreation stuff happening, a lot of parks didn’t have the money anymore to finance teams. So we just started hanging out more. There’s a lot more hanging out than just doing stuff. That’s where things started taking a turn. Those gangs that were kind of hovering around the perimeters, started becoming more within the neighborhoods. And for instance, I had friends who used to play on the same football team, but then because these imaginary lines got drawn, like, all right, this is a Crip Crips over here and Bloods over here.
Khemnes (09:58):
And because you live in that area, now you can’t cross over here. We don’t know where those lines. I don’t know where those lines came from. We didn’t see those lines get drawn anywhere, but suddenly they were there. And people used to play on the same teams were now enemies because they were the wrong portion of the neighborhood friends that used to shoot hoops at the same time were now shooting at each other with guns all because you know, these imaginary lines got drawn. You know, I’m a Crip, you’re a Blood. And I guess where I lived at, it was pretty much a borderline area. And at one East side area it’d be Crips and you go further West or South i’d be Bloods. Just these gangs just started coming up from all over, you know, even had these little makeshift gangs that had hap pop up for about a week or so they would just fall into other, other gangs.
Khemnes (10:43):
And that’s when things started getting more dangerous. That’s when people started getting these high power rifles as well, which where they get high power rifles from, you know, where would you get an M16? I don’t ha I don’t remember seeing any gunshots in our neighborhood. There were no gun shops. I mean, when I was little, it was hard to find like a little 22 pistol that was buried in my friend’s backyard, by his father, you know? And that you thought you were the, man, when you had like a little 22 pistol, that was it. But now you had cats with these you know these heavy ammunitions coming in from wherever. It was crazy. You know, it would almost happen. Almost felt like it happened overnight, but it wasn’t always that way. Like I said, I think it was a lot of benign neglect. I forgot your original question.
Speaker 3 (11:22):
Yeah. I was just asking about, could you speak more to like, how did sort of gangs and gang violence affect you in your life?
Khemnes (11:32):
I was never really, I used to get mistaken for being in gangs. A lot of my friends hung out a lot of my friends were in gangs. I personally was never in a particular gang, but I knew a lot of gang members and I don’t think it was. And it was, you know, it was just a safe you yet to have people having your back as well. But like the type of neighborhood I grew up in there was so many different gangs. The minute you solidified yourself in one particular gang, then you had a whole swarm of other gangs you had to watch out for. So I, I considered myself not wanting to be part of a particular gang, cause I just didn’t want to be tied down to any particular thing. I thought it would just wasn’t safe enough and I’ve always been visually impaired. So even though I’ve heard there have been people who have gotten shot and lost a site and still banged blind.
Khemnes (12:19):
So I don’t know there was a lot of lessons, as I said before gangs pretty much started becoming more and more prominent after things started closing down. Like there was nothing else for us to do except be involved with, with gangs, I guess. You know, and then it was a funny shift. Cause I said before, earlier, people who we knew who were involvedly banging, they weren’t there because they told us to be, they were there because they had nowhere else to go. But then suddenly now people aspire to be in a gang. And then also another thing was this whole prison culture. People started wanting to be, you know, they started looking forward to being locked up for whatever reason, because that’s where you get swolled up or you would lift weights. You know, you can tell someone who’s just not coming out of the pen cause they were big and buff. You would get some sort of reputation for being that way. And so not only now you’re looking forward to being in the gang. Now you’re looking forward to going to jail, you know, and going to juvie, which is, I found that very strange. At least in my lifetime, I saw a lot of shift.
Casey (13:16):
There was also a shift in art and culture. And as you were growing up, hip hop became a thing. How did that affect, I guess your childhood and what was your engagement in those cultures?
Khemnes (13:28):
All right. Well, yeah, I you know, well I was a kid of the seventies, so we had disco and all that stuff. I remember when the Sugar Hill Gang came out, which was back in 79, I think somewhere around that time. And I think that’s at least that’s where our West coast came. I know in the East coast they had a lot of stuff going on back then. Cause that’s where a lot of the hip hop culture derived from, but it wasn’t until Sugar Hill came and started getting more radio blasts and all that stuff. And we had groups like Houdini coming in and Run DMC. We had Poor Righteous Teachers from the East coast and we had a lot of hip hop, but a lot of the topics around these songs was having fun. You know, singing, dancing, having fun, trying to chat with each other, hooking up with a girl, a girl hooking up with a guy, all that stuff that was it.
Khemnes (14:15):
And then maybe some battle rhyming competing against each other. And that was it. And then I remember when NWA was performing and they got booed off because people didn’t feel like hearing that stuff, you know, and back then they called it reality rap, or street rap because they were talking about stuff we grew up in. Why do you want to hear about it’s like we live in it. So why do we have to hear about it? And a lot of the hip hop that first came out was almost like an escapism, you know, just dancing and singing and escaping the hard life. But then when we started hearing a lot, of this reality rap. It was too much negativity coming in. You know, now I’m living in it and now we’re singing about it. And then with, with the emergence of that, I’m sure that the gangster now they call.
Khemnes (14:56):
Then they called it. They started calling it gangster. Rap started having more heavier influence on. people joining gangs. That was probably one of the impetus that made people look forward to going to gangs and going to jail and all that stuff. But at least when I was growing up, it was a lot of singing and dancing and having fun and rapping. I remember in school, in high school, cause it was happening in the high school. We used to ditch class, end up making up our little cardboard boxes and have tiles. We would cut, we’d opened up carboard boxes and then we would glue little tiles on them. Right. So we can spin them, you know? So we lay it out on the floor in a school halls, whatever, and some kid with what song, what was that? All right. At this particular time, we’re going to break out our radios and just start dancing.
Khemnes (15:37):
And teachers had no idea how to respond to it cause what we weren’t fighting, you know? And we, we were definitely ditching, but we were dancing and it was funny cause people didn’t really have any way of reacting. Didn’t know how to react and didn’t know how to hunker down on how to control the situation. So it was actually a pretty fun time because it was new and a lot of people didn’t really have a good understanding on how to react to it, to them. It was kids acting wild and having fun dancing and stuff. And you know, I had a lot of fun memories of doing a lot of that stuff like wrapping on the basketball courts, you know, shooting baskets and just rapping against each other. And then having little cipher circles. We didn’t call a cipher back then. It was just having circles and just people just busting rhymes. We b-boxing, Fat Boys, you know, all that stuff. It was a lot of fun times, but then it kinda got co-opted with the whole gangster rap and things started happening. But your question about how it affect how it influenced me it influenced a lot because I saw it, it was a good outlet. I think for me, music performing and dancing an all that stuff, was a way of dealing with all the craziness that was happening in the streets.
Speaker 3 (16:42):
Yeah. You saw like justice not being served in the case of Rodney King. Did that change, I guess the the way in which you thought about art?
Khemnes (16:56):
Yeah, it did. I let me think. I think before I started becoming more aware of our social conditioning social conditions, my goal was, as I said before, was to be a performer. So my life centered around what can I do to get in the limelight, talent shows? And then I started getting more into deejaying. Cause like I said, hip hop culture is so, you know, taught myself how to rap and how to DJ and how to make tapes. We used to make these mixed tapes and we used to cut them. Cause you know, I was too poor to have turntables. So what we used to do was we used to buy two cassettes, a cassette deck, a dual cassette deck. I don’t know if you ever remember that but you to had these dual cassette players where you can play two cassettes at the same time and you learn how to cut tapes.
Khemnes (17:43):
And I used to be able to be able to make tapes and make it sound as if I had two turntables cause I was too poor for it. Right. So I used to be able to make these cut tapes and I would sell them for anywhere from like $3 to whatever or just give them away and made money that way. So my goal was to try and get into to the entertainment industry the best way. And I saw my way of doing that was a deejaying and, and making mix tapes and also with some rapping on top of that, you know, so doing all of that and that was my goal. And that was my goal all the way up until definitely after high school and maybe getting into community college and doing stuff like that and trying to find ways of being get into the industry.
Khemnes (18:19):
But then I think when the Rodney King verdict started happening with the outcome and the civil unrest, I started realizing that I have to get a better handle on things. And that’s when I, and I see at the same time, that’s when it also started learning about what it meant to be Black, you know, and being Black was more just learning that I was, I was of descendants of slaves. Y’know, cause that’s all they taught us in school. You were a slave and then, okay, you may have done some stuff with the reconstruction and then we freed you and all kinds of stuff like that. So it, wasn’t a very inspiring history to be part of prior, prior to me investigating more. But then when I learned like my African history, ancient African history about, about Kemet and Kush and about how we had these empires way before Europeans even existed on the planet and how we had a thriving thing and how we created mathematics and in science and how we build these pyramids, who they can’t even build these days, they can’t even mimic how to build pyramids to this day.
Khemnes (19:22):
And them things are like over 6,000 years old right now. And to this day they can’t build anything like it and they don’t even know how it happened. And because a lot of people can’t accept the fact that Black people build such things, now they call it aliens, aliens came in from another planet and started building pyramids. It’s pretty funny how things like that happen. So when Rodney after the Rodney King it really started sparking me learning more about my heritage and my history, and I guess a lot of the performance things started to become, it started taking a back seat because I started understanding that we have to do more to make our society more safer for Black people. And my first thing was to educate more Black people and let them know that we had a history before we were enslaved. And so my goal was to learn as much as possible about that. And you know, that’s how I got into wanting to become a teacher for a little while. And wow, I need you, I need you to give me another question so I can stay on the mark cause I’m flying all over the place.
Speaker 3 (20:18):
I guess just thinking about that, like when you think about Black liberation, what does that kind of look like to you?
Khemnes (20:28):
There’s no Black liberation without Black education. I think the first thing that needs to happen within the Black community is to educate ourselves and to find out who we were before the Maafa, you know, before the enslavement, you know, before the colonizations, who were we before that? So we have a better standing, you know, because as I said before, it’s not very inspiring to a Black kid learning t hat he was, he was a slave and that he was set free. You know, it’s not inspiring whatsoever, you know, but once a Black youth, Black girl, Black guy learns that we had empires, you know, we had civilizations that lasted for over 4,000 years, you know, that’s inspiring, that’s something to stand on and that’s something to work for again. But I think a lot of people these days, especially, you know, Black people who are working towards Black liberation, I don’t think a lot of them are really grounded in what was before America.
Speaker 3 (21:31):
Hmm. And then I guess just to go back to like Rodney King, when you, when you think about, I guess pre the civil unrest post the civil unrest today, like what has stayed the same what’s changed.
Khemnes (21:48):
Hmm. I think what has stayed the same is the police terrorism. You know, it’s still happening obviously with the whole Brianna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others. That hasn’t excuse me, that, excuse me, it hasn’t changed much, much. What’s different is that people are more awake or more woke up. You know, people are no longer hypnotized by what has been taught in school. I think it’s been a slow, slow rising, you know, I think from the Rodney King incident until now, I think there’s been a slow awakening and the giant is slowly waking up. I don’t think the giant is fully woken yet. I think that with the recent police killings, people are waking up even more. I still feel more planning needs to happen. You know, I still think more education needs to happen. So people can have a more clear vision on what they want to build.
Khemnes (22:59):
Like. People say they want a more peaceful environment. What does peace look like? And I think people need to do more, more investigating what peace looks like to them, you know? And there are a lot of people doing that. You know, what the whole Black Lives Matter movement happening and a bunch of other movements that are going on people are starting to try and figure things out. But as I said, I think what’s stayed the same is I think when I go back home to LA, it’s almost like people from before, everything before, before the recent killings, same stuff is still going on. They were still gangs happening in LA. You know, even though they was supposed to be a gang truce, they were still fragments of depravity happening in LA that people kind of forgot about if not even worse, you know, the difference between where I grew up in LA to what it is now, LA is crisscrossed with a bunch of freeway overpasses, you know, so a lot of neighborhoods were broken up. So I think at least from my perspective, a lot of negativity has stayed the same and maybe some minimal possible positive progressions that have happened, you know, still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Speaker 3 (24:14):
Yeah. I guess you said you think that people should investigate, you know, what peace looks like to them? What does peace look like to you?
Khemnes (24:23):
Hmm, wow. That got thrown right back at me. Okay. well peace looks like to me where people feel safe enough to walk out of their own homes. Heck I can just use what we teach at the Mosaic Project. You know, it’s like values, like people being mutually respectful to each other, you know, people having an open mind about being able to learn new things, learn about each other, learn about cultures. I think a lot of times, a lot of, a lot of people rely on stereotypes. And what they’re taught in books, peace looks like communities being able to self regulate themselves. I’m definitely down with defunding or at least reducing the reach of police. You know, I think communities need to be more responsible for their own well-being. A lot of things that happen in our communities are a lot of domestic issues and a lot of people feeling lost and not knowing what to do with themselves, you know? So peace also looks like providing programs for people to help develop a vision for what they want to do. Peace is a complicated the more I talk is a complicated concept because it looks different for everybody, but I think in general safety and space to grow
Speaker 3 (25:53):
I think there have been a lot of protests recently. When you think about like peace and protests, what I guess comes to mind for you.
Khemnes (26:03):
Yeah. Well protesting has its place, you know, making people more aware yet that also needs to be those round table discussions even more so, you know, it is my belief that there are people sitting around tables discussing on what type of world they want to live in that does not include Black people or any other people of color, you know? And so we need to be just as vigilant to have a round table discussion and figure out what kind of world we want to live in to include everybody inclusive world. What does that look like? What kind of laws need to be passed? If any laws need to be passed at all? You know, what type of education do we have to have to make sure we include everybody? You know, you’ve got people who are developing an exclusive world, so we need to sit down and develop an inclusive world, you know, because the world is inclusive. You know, this is our planet. Everybody deserves to have as much of this planet as possible and respect the planet as well.
Casey (27:03):
And I guess I also wanted to talk about like a conversation. We had a, when I approached you about having doing a podcast and I said, Kemnitz, I want to, I was wondering if you would be willing to talk about the Rodney King riots. And I noticed you really intentionally not referring to them as riots and referring to it as civil unrest. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that language shapes our understanding of history. And I’d also like, like, could you, I guess, speak a little bit about why calling it civil unrest resonates more with you?
Khemnes (27:39):
Riot has a negative connotation. It was a, it was a civil unrest because people realized that they weren’t part of the civic body. We weren’t being protected. We saw a Black man get beat down. We went through due process. Right. And then they went through the due process and what happened, there was no, there was nothing, you know, no justice whatsoever. So it was a civil unrest. Cause we realized weren’t part of a civil environment. It wasn’t a riot. It wasn’t like people, it wasn’t people just going crazy because they just woke up one morning, wanten to be crazy. And that’s my envision of what a riot is. People just some kind of tick goes off in your head and now you’re pissed off. And now I’m going to go turn over some tables. Yeah. That’s a riot with no type of reason or rhyme kind of thing. What happened in in 92 it was a civil unrest. It was a response to someone getting beat down in response to us feeling unprotected and not being respected.
Casey (28:36):
I’m wondering to what we’ve talked about. Like a lot of things. Is there anything that you like really want to mention that wasn’t said or wasn’t asked?
Khemnes (28:47):
Wow. Casey, I could say a lot anything that has, I think I said a lot, I feel like I’ve been rambling most of the time. I think the key thing is I think I want people to take responsibility and to, to learn, you know, to learn about who they are and who they want to be. I, I think there’s more people reacting than responding to things these days, you know? And I think the powers that be are taking advantage of the reaction state of mind that people are in. And I just want people to slow down, learn, ask questions, be curious. And like I said, I think everyone needs to be responsible for their own well-being as well. You know? And what I mean by be responsible, learn, you know, learn your own history, you know, learn, like do what I did. I learned about my own history. You know, I learned who I was culturally before, you know, before America and, and also learned what my people have contributed to America. You know, that gives me some strong grounding on, on how I want to pursue the rest of my life or how I envision stuff. I wouldn’t have a clear eye. My vision is more clear because I’ve dug deep into my roots and figured out what was there before
Casey (30:16):
Khemnes. Is there anything else you’re feeling like we need to say?
Khemnes (30:21):
Nah, I think I said a lot already. Unless there are any other particular questions I can answer. I think anything I’d say beyond here, I’d probably be repeating myself in different ways.
Casey (30:32):
Yeah. Okay, cool. Cool. Do we want to like end with a quote?
Khemnes (30:39):
Sure. You got one.
Casey (30:42):
Okay. I’m gonna go with a one from Audrey Lorde who is a wonderful poet. Audrey Lord says this one’s a short one. Revolution is not a onetime event. Say it again for the people in the back revolution is not a one time event.
Khemnes (31:02):
Yeah, I like that. Yeah.
Casey (31:04):
This has been Peacing it Together with Casey and Khemnes. I’m Casey signing off.
Khemnes (31:09):
And I’m Khemnes thanks for listening. Y’all is it a mic drop drop.

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King

Growing up in LA and the Legacy of Rodney King