LOS ANGELES — Thursday marked 29 years since the Los Angeles riots began in 1992.
Just before the riots broke out, a teenager named Latasha Harlins was shot and killed in South Los Angeles. Her family said she was kind, caring, compassionate and wise beyond her years.
What You Need To Know
- Thursday marked 29 years since the Los Angeles riots began
- Just before those riots broke out, a teenager named Latasha Harlins was shot and killed in South LA in 1991
- Her family said she was kind, caring, compassionate and wise beyond her years
- Thursday, the City dedicated a park to Latasha as a way to remember her
On Thursday, the City dedicated the park where Latasha would play every day in her honor as a way to remember her.
Latasha’s first cousin, Shinese Harlins-Kilgore jumped for joy when the new name of the park was unveiled: Latasha Harlins Playground.
Harlins-Kilgore said the dedication helps her live with the pain of losing Latasha, who was shot in the back of the head and killed by a liquor store clerk who thought she was stealing orange juice.
"We lost a loved one. Her life was just worth $1.79 to the next man," said Harlins-Kilgore. "So we didn’t get justice in the judicial system, but that was 30 years ago."
Though convicted, the woman who killed Latasha was only given probation and no jail time.
It was a failure of the justice system that Harlins-Kilgore said would only repeat itself again a few months later when the four police officers who beat Rodney King unconscious were acquitted.
April 29, 1992 marks one of the worst race riots in American history, but decades later, Harlins-Kilgore finds herself praying for the very same thing: accountability for yet another black life lost.
"As far as George Floyd," Harlins-Kilgore started. "Will history repeat itself by a judge giving a light sentence, or a tap on the hand or suspended sentence? What we been through, what my family went through, convicted but no sentence? So we still got a long way to go.”
There is a long way to racial equality and the death of stereotypes that only further divide, but it’s the work that inspired Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson to run for office in South Los Angeles in the first place.
"When I was in my late teens, becoming an adult, these stories started to unfold, Rodney King, Latasha Harlins, there were others. It seemed like we needed to be all hands on deck in order to really save the city," Councilman Harris-Dawson said.
Where are we now?
Councilman Harris-Dawson said there is still so much more progress to be made in our nation.
"We still live in a country where a man can be killed by police in broad daylight with people watching. And the police officer when he did that, did not feel any fear, remorse, there was none demonstrated," Councilman Harris-Dawson said. "While he’s on trial, about a half dozen other people were killed by police on camera."
He answered Harlins-Kilgore’s call to dedicate the park to Latasha, but said the credit really goes to Latasha’s sister, Christina Rogers.
"It’s an emotional day, but I just want to personally thank you," Rogers said to Councilman Harris-Dawson.
Gratitude shared by Latasha’s Grandmother Ruth too, who raised Latasha after her mother was killed.
"Now, every time I pass by I say, 'oh this is my granddaughter cause I miss her and I love her," Ms. Ruth Harlins said.
For the cousin who was more like a sister that also lived under Grandmother Ruth’s roof, Thursday was a happy day.
It was a celebration of Latasha's life, and she now has a place to remember her and pass her legacy on to the next generation.