Sam Yorty at City Hall

On this Day: Watts Spiraled Into Flames at the hands of the LAPD as Mayor Yorty Blamed “Communists” for Sowing Black Resentment

55 years ago, a summer celebrated for its record-setting economy nevertheless missed Black youth in Watts and South Los Angeles when L.A. officials like Mayor Yorty refused to allocate federal money available for youth jobs in these areas. At the same time, LAPD officers in 1965 virtually resembled the white Southern segregationists, and in fact many came from the South, as with the 77th street division of the LAPD. Officers in the “de facto” segregated South side of Los Angeles regularly roughhoused Black folks there into jail, fines, and even worse indignation.

In Set the Night on Fire, Mike Davis and Jon Wiener provide one anecdote of the latter, reporting the story of Beverly Tate, a 22 year old Black woman & mother who at some point during the morning of July 1st, 1965 was stopped in her car by police, ordered out of the passenger’s seat, taken to a discreet location, and subsequently raped by LAPD officer W.D. McCloud as another LAPD officer stood watch. Tate’s story was given a brief mention as a “rumor” on the Los Angeles Times on July 31st of that year, and was also reported in Jet magazine on August 12th, 1965.

While McCloud was fired from the LAPD the next day, he was never charged for a crime. Yet the Black community in Los Angeles at the time was well aware of the account as an example of the LAPD’s blatant disregard for Black life throughout the city. In October of 1965, Tate, who was five months pregnant, died mysteriously of “unknown causes,” to be survived by her two children.

Together, each of these factors and more converged when a group of 77th street officers decided to jail an entire Black family following an unnecessary traffic stop outside their home near the Watts area. When a crowd gathered in shock at the LAPD’s manhandling of the family members, the officers responded aggressively in an effort to intimidate the crowd back. But after a few women jeered at the police officers, the officers grabbed several of the women from the crowd in an attempt to drag them into their patrol cars on “battery” charges. That’s when the bystanders erupted, throwing soda cans at the LAPD and chasing them out of the vicinity.

What followed over the next six days was a bloodbath that treated Black Los Angeles like the Viet Cong guerilla force in South Vietnam. Along with M14-toting National Guard troops, the LAPD, armed with shotguns, shot to kill and jail Black citizens in Watts and along South Central in an effort to subdue the community’s outrage at the inequities of joblessness and over-policed Black bodies. In less than a week, LAPD and National Guard troops would kill 26 civilians, and injure and arrest thousands more, overwhelmingly Black bodies, but also Latino. All 26 civilian deaths would be deemed by the LAPD and subsequent commissions as justifiable homicides, while Mayor Yorty backed these findings, to the satisfaction of then police chief Parker.

For its part, the L.A. Times during this period would center and reinforce the narrative of white victimization in predominantly Black Watts, publishing headlines such as”‘Get Whitey,’ Scream Blood-Hungry Mobs’” and “Negro Unrest Laid to Negro Family Failure.” Such coverage, along with media reels of disorder in the community, only stoked further white resentment of Blacks all across Los Angeles. More than a few groups of white caravans from places such as the valley and other white strongholds would arrive to attack Blacks in Watts, to be turned away by the LAPD, but not arrested.

Fifty five years later, Watts remains one of the most dangerous and impoverished areas in all of Los Angeles, with the vast majority of the conditions that fueled Black outrage at inequities in their community, including joblessness and scant access to a college education, adequate health-care and home ownership, still stubbornly in place. Or, as the Reverend Marcus Murchinson tells it:

“Multiple generations of the same families continue to live in public housing projects and only a small percentage get off government assistance and achieve the dream of owning a home.”


It has been said that change is the only constant. Yet in places like Watts, those are but words in contrast to a stark reality on the ground. To turn such conditions into conditions that support the quality of life in this part of Los Angeles will thus take more than activism, but a rain of support like the reign of fire that engulfed this community into generations of second-class citizenship fifty-five summers ago. Yorty, for his part, has been dead for more than two decades now, but the federal moneys he and his political allies held away from support of Black employment, education, and home ownership remain missing in action.

J.T.

EPISODE 20 – LOS CUENTOS SUMMER BOOK CLUB WITH J.T.

In our twentieth episode, listeners are treated to the special final meeting for our first ever Los Cuentos Summer Book club this 2020, featuring Randy Jurado Ertll, the author of LA SIGUANABA AND THE MAGICAL LOROCO. We discuss Latin-American history with Ertll, inspiration for his work from places like Spain and South Central Los Angeles, his challenges writing and making books for the Central-American community, and more. A truly extraordinary session for listeners, with major thanks also to the InsideOUT Writers for hosting our club’s meeting over Zoom.

J.T.

You Can Now Support J.T. The L.A. Storyteller on Patreon

It’s true! After six years with JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller as a free and open source for all, yours truly is now prepared to offer exclusive deals and content to subscribers via PATREON. Hop on over to see the first major giveaway!

J.T.

The official flyer for the first ever Los Cuentos Summer Book Club

Our Fourth and Final Meeting For The New Los Cuentos Summer Book Club with J.T. Takes Place this Wednesday, August 5th

Save the date and time, Los Angeles: This Wednesday, August 5th from 6:00 – 7:30 PM via Zoom.

The fourth and final Wednesday for the new Los Cuentos Summer Book Club is upon us! Our last meeting will see our community conclude discussions of LA SIGUANABA‘s incredible journey through Ertll’s novel, and will also feature Ertll himself to give our book club members a chance to chat with the author. To make our final meeting all the more special, any and all Los Cuentos supporters are welcome to attend. Our meeting will also feature a raffle, giving away four free copies of LA SIGUANABA AND THE MAGICAL LOROCO to four lucky attendees. Find the login info for our meeting posted on the @jimbotimes Instagram page this Wednesday morning at 11:00 AM, and follow J.T. on Twitter for live updates.

J.T.

EPISODE 19 – PONTE LAS PILAS PRESS

In our nineteenth episode, we hop on a call with Viva Padilla, the founder and editor-in-chief of Ponte Las Pilas Press, a publishing house from South Central Los Angeles. We talk about Viva’s funding and design process making literary journals, challenges and opportunities after five years of doing the work, motherhood, the future of the literati & open mic scene in L.A., and more. A truly fun session for listeners.

J.T.

To subscribe to jimbotimes.com, add yourself to the list HERE.

The book cover for Mike the Poet's Letters to My City, published in 2019

Letters To My City (2019)

Through a tremendous last couple of weeks between the Los Angeles Review of Books workshop, the new Los Cuentos Book Club, and more for your truly, I just finished Mike the Poet’s L.A.’s Letters to My City. By the turn of the final page, I both see it and hear it. Sonsken’s ‘letters’ are not just prose, but also songs from the heart to all comers. Most of all, they’re a tribute to those who’ve been here, as Sonsken shows no fear celebrating L.A.’s Black, Indigenous, Asian, Native & Latinx roots. His book can thus be though of as an invitation for all poets, writers, and anyone interested in uplifting this city and keeping its history sacred to tag along for the ride.

Sonsken’s writing also consistently understands that he’s not the guiding hand, but that his is one led by the voices of others, those around him to uncover or pay heed to the roots. Sonsken’s work therefore comes off as a round-table discussion, a gathering of minds from across L.A., but abundant especially with folks from the South and East sides, as well as with folks from less discussed “L.A.” like Long Beach, Oxnard and even Cerritos and the OC. It is a call for Los Angeles’s artists and all creators to come together with major respect to the city, to the communities, for the stories, which form the heartbeat of this sometimes totally cruel, sometimes surreal town. Los Cuentos sees this, and I look forward to passing Mike’s book along to the next generation of historians with major visions for our city.

Towards the end the book also leads to more questions. For one, I found myself reflecting on reparations awarded to Japanese-Americans in Los Angeles who faced internment. In a closing vignette on Little Tokyo’s history and a Buddhist temple in the area Mike writes:

A key component of Japanese religion and culture is the idea of ancestor veneration, essentially the idea of gratitude to your family and specifically appreciating one’s ancestors.

I thought then of the enslaved, and those whose lives were uprooted and taken by genocide and U.S. imperialism. I seriously wondered: where is the discussion in L.A. on reparations for African-American, Native, and also Mexican bodies? These are our ancestors, and there are more, in and even beyond America. I believe Sonsken would agree for a need to come together and discuss it, and that, at least in L.A., his book is certainly one way to start.

J.T.

The official flyer for the first ever Los Cuentos Summer Book Club

Our Third Meeting For The New Los Cuentos Summer Book Club with J.T. Takes Place Tonight

For the third week in a row our team reconnects to discuss our latest reflections on LA SIGUANABA and The Magical Loroco. Discussion items will include the way literature acts as a form of escapism, how popular culture might influence policy decisions, and the transactional nature of politics as seen in Ertll’s SIGUANABA. Follow JIMBO TIMES on Twitter for live updates from our chat.

J.T.

A protester holds a sign in front of L.A. City Hall

The Future of the LA Times Depends on Disowning White Supremacy

In November 2016, the world found itself reeling in shock and disappointment that an anti-intellectual, openly racist talk-show host could clinch the hearts and minds of a decisive portion of the electorate to seize the White House. From New York to Los Angeles, newsrooms and editorial chiefs-of-staff across the U.S. conceded they largely failed to take seriously the power of race-baiting among the U.S.’s predominantly white “swing” voters, and promised to be more comprehensive in their political coverage going forward. But four years later, with the threat of a second Trump term on the horizon, in Los Angeles, a clear unwillingness to condemn white supremacy from the L.A. Times shows just how much our intelligentsia still has to learn.

At the height of unrest in Minneapolis and later Los Angeles, when businesses shuttered and police sirens shrieked through nights of “curfew,” the L.A. Times published headlines decrying broken shop-windows and damaged property, with photos of mostly Black and Brown Americans under arrest and awash in turmoil. Meanwhile, on all of the “big five” social media platforms, many saw a different story playing out: window-breakers and vandals were not simply random Black or Brown people, but more often masked, white agitators, so-called “anarchists” with professional training, and Trump supporters exploiting police forces spread too thin attacking unarmed protesters. From L.A. City Hall, Mayor Garcetti responded with armed forces to the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, and once again exposed “democracy” in our city as little more than a poster-board term for government and police organization more ready to defend racial hegemony here than to supply local hospital workers with protective personal equipment in the fight against a global pandemic.

When it came to coverage of these events, or their retelling, scores of people ‘on the ground’ relied on Twitter updates from citizen journalists such as the team at L.A. Taco and StreetWatch L.A., and not on the L.A. Times reporting staff. The biggest reason for this is simply because of the Times’s reputation as an “objective” source, which most experts today agree is just a stand-in term for “coverage without reference to race.” Such coverage by default is not objective reporting for racialized groups, who consistently bear the brunt of police and state violence, but it also plays a major part to obfuscate officials’ roles in acts of violence against such groups.

Consider that Eric Garcetti was originally elected to office in 2013 by only 12.4% percent of L.A. county’s registered voters. Despite such a weak show of support, when protests in L.A. were blamed for damaged property, Garcetti became the commander of an LAPD force that arrested more than 2,700 unarmed protesters in three days, and which at one point jammed those protesters into crowded buses at the height of the worst uncontained respiratory pandemic in over a century.

Garcetti’s mass arrests were an offense against the democratic ideals of free speech and the right to assembly in Los Angeles. But along with Michel Moore and Alex Villanueva, respectively official “chiefs” of the LAPD and the L.A. County sheriff’s department–and backed by Governor Newsom’s National Guard–Garcetti re-branded military law as “curfew.” As the city entered an otherwise undefined legislative realm during the unrest, this euphemization rather easily undermined any notion of democracy in the second largest city in America. Yet the curfew acted not just as a terror for youth, elderly and disabled citizens everywhere who had nothing to do with BLM protests, but also as a restriction on all residents in L.A. County, whether in the city proper or in its suburban respites. The L.A. Times board needed to call this “curfew” out as unacceptable, but instead chose to mostly just “retell” the story, offering virtually no commentary on the larger implications of a military-police state abetted by a “curfew.” Similarly, during coverage of the unrest, the paper relied heavily on officials’ accounts and narratives over the events of the day, even as everyday citizens had far more evidence of aggressive tactics by the LAPD against them than vice versa regarding the danger posed.

Garcetti’s decision to disperse protesters in Los Angeles with SWAT teams and the National Guard also placed him in the same ideological camp of the president despite any “liberal” status. The L.A. Times would thus not have been wrong to juxtapose the way in which whether officials wear red or blue ties, during civic unrest, the vast majority of them side with the state, and by extension, the state’s enforcement of white supremacy. Consider that just a few weeks before the civic unrest the same L.A. Times board published a strong statement lambasting L.A. City Hall’s dirty corruption schemes as exposed by the FBI. Yet smothering protesters’ rights to free speech and assembly with batons and smokescreens was also a dirty corruption of every one of our constitutional rights. Is the editorial board waiting on the FBI for the green-light a statement on this?

In any case, renouncing police brutality and white supremacy is not as hard as the editorial rooms may believe. Remember that the very phrase of “white supremacy” itself is not an attack on white people, just as “police brutality” is not an assault on individual police officers. These phrases are observed facts of the structural realities that continually marginalize and criminalize non-white communities in Los Angeles and cities across America. The numbers and stories and data on this have been relayed ad naseum. Yet they still need to be referenced so long as they’re facts on the ground, including from L.A.’s largest paper.

It’s true that calling out such facts ‘on the ground’ should prove difficult for a historically white-owned and white-led paper, especially considering that ownership for decades rested on the Chandler family, an anti-union and pro-white elite dynasty. But it’s for this same reason that acknowledgement of the facts on the ground will be even more fruitful for the paper’s future.

During the height of protests in Washington D.C., when the lights of the White House went dim, Trump and his allies tucked into a bunker, presumably hiding from the “thugs and rapists”–as the administration is fond to label non-white communities–too close to the gates of the White House. In fact they were Black, white and more protesters assembled en masse for Black Lives Matter, and against policies that see mostly white men at both the lowest and highest levels of government consistently face almost no accountability for crimes against the public. In Los Angeles, a similarly multi-ethnic mass has spent the last few months organizing and pleading with officials, looking to have their concerns and proposals meaningfully addressed, only to find at nearly each turn elected officials who are unwilling to meaningfully commit to anti-racist policies and anti-racist budgets. This leaves only the “the fourth estate” to show leadership.

If newsrooms and editorial boards like those of the L.A. Times are serious about an informed populace for a democratic republic, they need to take an active position against the power structures threatening these ideals, including white supremacy. They must do so through consistent anti-racism, including anti-racist stances in their coverage, in their opinion section, and in scrutiny of elected officials’ decisions when they support policies that reinforce racial hegemony. This is not just a matter of what’s been trending on Twitter, but the proven way to hold some of the most powerful actors in our cities and states accountable for their actions.

Taking a stance will not be entirely new or completely innovative, either. In Burlington, Vermont, for example, where the population is more than 85% white, the city recently declared racism a public health concern, which is a good starting point for policy. In turn, continuing to do the opposite, or to remain “objective,” has damaging effects, and only keeps the paper’s credibility and readership low, particularly with non-white communities, a grave concern given the majority non-white demographics of L.A. County. But the fact is that the paper’s low readership has well to do with the impoverishment faced by Black and Brown communities in Los Angeles; it’s not easy for a single mother, for example, to subscribe to the daily news when her first concern is food for the family and keeping a roof overhead. Yet she lives here, and the city depends enormously on her labor. Our paper needs to show it truly grasps this.

It’s also true that actively addressing white supremacy each time it rears its head, including in the actions of our local and national officials, is challenging, and likely to turn some people away. But leaving this battle for scholars and communities of color to keep waging by themselves ‘on the ground’ reeks of the indifference and elitism of the Chandler paper. Moreover, the distinction between ‘just policy’ and policy in defense of racialized hegemony is as important in this election cycle as the distinction between “rebels” and the treasonous, pro-slavery armies they actually were during the civil war.

Less than a century before that war, a small band of white men were written into the nation’s history books as courageous and impeccable ‘founding fathers’ who freed ‘us’ from tyrannic Redcoat soldiers, and who produced the laws of the land which govern millions of citizens to this day. It’s now self-evident that much was omitted from those history books, and that such omissions continue to have consequences. The L.A. Times can thus not afford to continue omitting the legacy of white supremacy from its coverage, just as it cannot afford to ignore the demands for equity made most recently by the paper’s Black and Latinx caucuses. In the same way that Biden has been beckoned to do with his campaign, the paper’s leadership has more than a responsibility to stand in defense of a progressive and inclusive agenda. It has an active interest in it; the future readership of the paper is still waiting to have its concerns meaningfully addressed. It falls on the fourth estate to fill the void. The time is now.

J.T.

EPISODE 18 – TOM LUTZ, LA REVIEW OF BOOKS

In our eighteenth episode, we sit down with none other than Tom Lutz, the founder of the LA Review of Books, whom yours truly is currently work-shopping with to take JIMBO TIMES to the next level as a publishing platform. Our discussion includes points on the working-class roots of popular literature, “the death of the book,” whiteness in America and Donald Trump, and more. Another can’t miss session for listeners.

J.T.

To subscribe to jimbotimes.com, add yourself to the list HERE.

The official flyer for the first ever Los Cuentos Summer Book Club

Today Marks the Second Meeting for Our Los Cuentos Summer Book Club with J.T.

It’s true. Our second meeting for LA SIGUANABA and The Magical Loroco is taking place this evening at 6 PM. Our club will discuss the book’s consideration of Latinx-American history in the diaspora from places like Central America, issues of masculinity in Latinx-American culture, and the sometimes fraught, resentful relationships that transpire between families through these and more circumstances. It promises to be another meaningful evening over Zoom. Follow JIMBO TIMES on Twitter for live updates for the community’s reference.

J.T.