LOS ANGELES – November 3, 2011 – Today, Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD) and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, along with more than 50 multi-ethnic civic and community leaders from across the state announced the launch of the 4*29 SAIGU Committee to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Key members of the committee spoke about building progressive programs and initiatives based on lessons from the riots and working towards unifying the ethnically rich Los Angeles communities to rebuild the American dream.
“Twenty years ago, police brutality, economic injustice and a deep sense of civic alienation came to a head in a civil unrest,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “As co-chair of the 4*29 SAIGU Committee, I am honored to partner with community leaders who worked tirelessly to heal and renew the city we all love. Today, as we reflect on and remember those difficult days, we also reaffirm our commitment to unity.”
The 4*29 SAIGU Committee’s vision is to revisit and learn from a tragic chapter in the city’s history, which was reflective of the racial, economic and political disparities of the time. The Los Angeles Riots resulted in 53 deaths, 3,600 fires, 1,100 destroyed buildings, 2,000 damaged businesses and property damages totaling $1 billion, of which 50 percent was incurred by Korean Americans.
“As we approach the 20 year anniversary of the L.A. riots, we can accept now once and for all that the Korean people of Los Angeles were victims, too. The SAIGU campaign is helping to heal the open wounds of 1992, and make our city stronger in the process. Twenty years later, it is clear that the Korean community is part-and-parcel of the L.A. riots, yet their story has not been told. The SAIGU campaign helps change and heal wounds that have persisted since 1992. That’s good for the Korean community, and good for the entire city of Los Angeles,” said Filiberto Gonzalez, Founder & CEO of Social | Impact Consulting, LLC.
“The civil unrest during the Los Angeles Riots was a pivotal event in baring the City’s economic and racial tensions. A3PCON is glad to join KCCD’s project to bring together communities to reflect on that event, examine the extent of progress made and reinvigorate efforts to promote economic progress and interracial understandings.” – Mark Masaoka, Policy Coordinator for Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON).
“Twenty years later, the civil unrest of 1992 still impacts Angelenos. Only by forging positive relationships and building bridges between all of Los Angeles’s diverse communities can we reach our full potential as a city. SAIGU is an important step toward achieving this ambitious goal,” said L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti.
“I remember the time period of the riots as fearful and confusing, where injustice seemed to be so obvious and many innocent residents and businesses were being hurt. What emerged over time was that ongoing work was needed among many ethnic communities. At the same time, the image of Korean storeowners protecting their property with guns was such a powerful positive message for me as an Asian American because Asians weren’t passively waiting for help. I was very proud of them for defending themselves. And I think it was a catalytic moment for the Korean-American community to understand that they needed to have better access through the political system.” – Mariko Kahn, community advocate.
In the coming months, the Committee hopes to begin efforts to educate, mobilize and bring Los Angeles and America together to learn from the difficult times through a series of collaborative activities that will lead to creating a brighter future for all.
“If we are to learn from our past we must continue to strive to come together as one city,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who is one of the Co-Chairs of the Campaign. “We must continue to build, community by community, and recognize that our differences and respective experiences are the common grounds for unity.”
“The 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots is an opportunity for us to reflect on the progress we’ve made in building a city and a community that is more inclusive, more diverse and stronger than before. The causes of the riots were complex and varied, and in rebuilding neighborhoods affected by the riot, we were also building those ties that have brought us closer together. We are proud of the diversity in Los Angeles, and we are proud that our city is home to folks spanning every culture and community in the world. Organizations like Korean Churches for Community Development have helped lead us in the rebuilding effort early on, and in healing the wounds and divisions that led to the riots in the first place,” said Speaker John A. Pérez, California Assembly.
“We have an opportunity to both reflect and assess where we are today 20 years after the L.A. Riots,” said Rafael Gonzalez, Chief Service Officer, Office of Neighborhood and Community Services. “While much has changed since 1992, there is still much more we can do to make Los Angeles an even greater city. We need to ask ourselves what we’ve done and haven’t done as individuals, communities and City. This will determine where the next 20 years will take us.”
Faith and community leaders from the African-American, Korean-American, Jewish-American, Latino-American, and Muslim-American communities understand the social importance of the L.A. Riot tragedies, and have banded together to provide a multicultural perspective on the events and how they can positively impact the community.
“KCCD is honored to be in the company of our distinguished committee members,” said Hyepin Im, President of Korean Churches for Community Development. “As we plan for the commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the LA Riots, I am proud of the diversity and the commitment of the committee members who are a testament to the vision of the SAIGU Campaign which is to reclaim a painful chapter in our city’s history, create new understandings and move forward together in rebuilding the American Dream.”
“We are excited about the opportunities that the campaign will create, as well as new possibilities for the City of Los Angeles,” said Pastor Touré Roberts, One Church International. “Being a resident of South Los Angeles during the L.A. Riots, I saw firsthand not only the destruction of property, but worse, the destruction of dreams and hopes of both residents and merchants in the region. As we approach the 20-year anniversary of the unrest, we are grateful to be partnering with KCCD along with other organizations and community leaders to build bridges, foster new relationships, and work together to restore the hopes and dreams that were displaced during that time.”
“AJC is proud to join the community coalition to mark the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots. We are optimistic the SAIGU campaign will enable the entire community to introspectively reflect on the physical and emotional damage suffered. Furthermore, our collaborative efforts will serve as a springboard to reconciliation, awareness and partnership throughout our diverse spectrum of ethnic and religious communities. Let us work together to restore the City of Angeles,” said Rabbi Randall Brown, Assistant Director, Interreligious & Intergroup Relations, AJC Los Angeles Office.
“The LA Riots were a defining event for me as an Angeleno and as a public policy professional. That first night, I was trapped in City Hall along with other colleagues from the Mayor’s Office as the violence raged around us. The days that followed were filled with powerful images, including those of Korean shopkeepers arming themselves to protect their property in the face of the LAPD’s complete abdication of its responsibility to protect the Korean community. My fellow Latino urban planning school alumni were inspired by the example of Korean city staff and community members banding together to protect their families and friends to launch our own efforts to assist Latino immigrant victims of the riots who had lost homes and businesses in the chaos. In the 20 years since, my admiration of the Korean community has steadily grown as Los Angeles itself has matured to more fully embrace its immigrant communities. I am honored to join the SAIGU campaign to mark this signal event in our city’s evolution.” – Cecilia V. Estolano, Partner, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors LLC
“For many in the community, SAIGU was a period of shame, destruction, injustice and sorrow. However, it marked a day in history when a new movement of Korean-American empowerment and leadership emerged. While the scars of the wounded are still evident, the hope of a better future for a harmonious Los Angeles where Korean Americans and all Angelenos will be heard and respected will soon be a reality,”stated Jimmy Lee, Co-Chair of Korean Churches for Community Development and VP of IW Group, Inc.
“Over the years our communities have lived side by side. We shop, work, eat and go to school together. Yet we do not plan and build understanding for the good of each community. We believe that by planning a day of communication though dialogue and reflection we can begin the journey of strengthening one another for a better life for each community,” said Rev. Norman Copeland, Presiding Elder of the Los Angeles District African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I am proud to be part of SAIGU, which aspires to build a better Los Angeles. It is indeed only together that we can build a better society, and Muslims are happy to join hands with our Korean brothers and sisters in doing just that,” stated Shakeel Syed, Executive Director, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
Over the next five months, key members of the Committee will work together to develop a comprehensive campaign which will include a multi-cultural food festival, candlelight vigil, town hall meeting and economic development bus tour. Culminating on April 29, 2012, the committee will lead a commemorative service and unity march. The 4*29 SAIGU Committee is planning towards convening more than 6,500 people at the Glory Church of Jesus Christ (formerly the Olympic Grand Auditorium) to celebrate a new era of unity and understanding in Los Angeles.
“It is important that Korean Americans everywhere, and not just in Los Angeles, understand why the efforts of KCCD and the LA Riots Saigu Committee is so important. The commemoration service allows even those of us in New York City to reflect on how much progress has been made, and more importantly, how much more work remains to achieve unity. I look forward to working closely with KCCD and the Committee on properly commemorating Saigu here in NY,” stated Kevin Kim, Former Democratic candidate for NYC Council, District 19 / Manhattan Community Board 5 Member
In addition, StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and sharing the lives of everyday Americans, will lend their expertise in documenting firsthand stories from the 1992 riots.
“StoryCorps is honored to be partnering with the 4*29 SAIGU Committee and radio station KCRW-Santa Monica 89.9, to record the rich and diverse stories of the Los Angeles community,” said Dave Isay, Founder and President, StoryCorps. “The SAIGU Committee’s dedication to mark the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots helps us reflect on a challenging time in our nation’s history and helps us move forward as a more thoughtful and compassionate nation.”
For people who are interested in finding out more about the 4*29 SAIGU Committee’s efforts for unity, or to find out more about volunteer opportunities, please visit orhttp://www.saigu429.com. To schedule a reservation to record a 40-minute StoryCorps interview, please call (213) 985-1500 x207 or [email protected] or visithttp://www.saigu429.com.