If you’ve lived in or visited LA for any amount of time, you already know that you need to check the traffic report before you leave the house. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, there is a reasonable chance that you’ll be stuck in some unexplainable calamity on one of our roads. Now I’ve only lived in LA for about 23 years, so you’d think I would commit this lesson to practice all the time. NOPE. And that is why the other day I found myself caught directly in the middle of the Trayvon Martin rally/riot that broke out on Crenshaw Blvd.
Let me set the scene a little bit. It’s Monday night and I’m on my way to Maverick’s Flat, the Apollo Theater of the West, to play Michael Colyar‘s comedy show. I’m cruising down Slauson Ave. when all of a sudden I see about a dozen cops in riot gear. My immediate thought: it’s Monday night on Slauson; looks normal to me. Something inside me said that it should be no problem turning down Crenshaw. (I now realize that something was bad weed). Fast forward three minutes and I am one of two cars surrounded by hundreds of angry black people holding signs, chanting, and lighting firecrackers. At one point someone tapped on my windshield and made the black power sign. I did the only thing that came to mind — flashed that same sign, honked the horn, and put up the hood on the hoodie I just happened to be wearing.
Finding it impossible to drive all the way to the show, I pulled over as soon as I could and walked the rest of the way. When I finally arrived I was late even for a show starting on CPTime. (If you don’t know, ask your one black friend). I spent the better part of my time at the show somewhere lost in a revolving door of thoughts ranging from what the hell am I going to talk about tonight? to I can’t believe that they found George Zimmerman not guilty on all counts to what are the chances that my car will still be there in one piece once this shit is over?
Obviously it ended up fine. This would be a very different post if it hadn’t. But the incident definitely left a mark on me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Trayvon Martin — or, specifically, the public response to the Zimmerman verdict. On the one hand I’m not even surprised that George was acquitted. I’m not surprised that some people thought that racism was over. I’m not even surprised that some people thought it would be a good idea to tear up their own neighborhood to show their “support.” What surprised me actually was how not surprised by any of it I am.
Granted, this wasn’t my first experience with people rioting in LA (and compared to when Rodney King got his ass whooped, this was only about as bad as a Lakers playoff victory celebration). I’d just like to think that it will be my last. And yet I know that we have so far to go as a society before incidents like the one that led to an unarmed boy getting killed stop happening.
I call my blog Token’s Tokens in part because I recognize that I’m kind of rare bird that doesn’t fit in everywhere. Still though, like basically every black man who has every lived in America, I know what it feels like to be profiled, watched, followed, etc. I’m well aware of how threatening I can appear just by existing.
The next time I go out for a show I will first check the traffic report. Then I’ll check to make sure that I don’t accidentally look like a target. And if anything should pop off while I’m out, I’ll quickly walk back to my car that will not ever again be parked on Crenshaw Blvd.
Hoodies up everyone.