In an L.A. Times photo taken during the 1992 L.A. riots, a looter pushes a shopping cart full of diapers. Hawkins student Kinsley Ramos edited herself in this photo as part of a class art project. (Kirk McKoy / L.A. Times)
Augustus F. Hawkins High School

Opinion: Remembering the L.A. Riots

Jay Davis, an art teacher at Augustus F. Hawkins High School, asked students to participate in a project for the 27th anniversary of the L.A. Riots last spring semester.

The Rodney King verdict sparked the riots in Los Angeles. King’s brutal beating by four L.A. policemen was caught on camera by a bystander, and the acquittal of the police led to five days of riots, according to NPR. From April 29 to May 4, 1992 the city was on fire.

Davis asked students to place themselves in a picture that was taken during the time of the riots in 1992. The collage lesson taught students about a piece of L.A. history that isn’t often explored in school.

“I asked students to use digital imaging technology in their creative expression to show they have agency in moments of history,” Davis said.  

For my project, I imagined myself as a participant during the riots as a local kid whose family needed diapers and their father was doing the best he could under the circumstances. Right or wrong, in this piece of art, I realistically saw myself being apart of this scene. Who wouldn’t try to survive even under these extreme events?

No one in the class of 2020 was alive at the time that L.A. was patrolled by the national guard. Many students had not even heard of the L.A. Riots.

Some students knew a little bit about the 1965 Watts Riots, which also left the city aflame.

“They thought it was wrong, what the police did to unarmed black men,” English teacher and journalism adviser Alyssa Moore said. “It is not that all police are bad, however if you have police officers that are not protecting or serving and the masses feel that justice is not listening to them, then they will make themselves heard.”