Twenty Years Later: Reflections on the Civil Unrest

The twentieth anniversary of the civil unrest has prompted thought and reflection on our city, our neighborhoods and our home. There’s been a lot written about what’s changed since April 1992 and what’s the same. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this anniversary means for SCOPE’s vision for change and the future of our neighborhoods, economy and country.

SCOPE was founded in the aftermath of the uprising as residents of South LA grappled with the reality of police brutality, decades of disinvestment and the loss of thousands of middle-class jobs. The uprising was not about one incidence of police brutality. Ask any of our community leaders – black or brown – who lived through the civil unrest and they’ll tell you that it was caused not by racial tension but rather by years of neglect and abuse by the police, yes, but also by corporations who shipped thousands of middle-class jobs overseas. Come to any of our membership meetings and you’ll hear that dignity and respect start with the struggle for a good-paying job.


SCOPE is a multi-racial organization, led by and for people of color. South LA is rich with difference – the languages we speak, the histories of our families and the cultures we live. But we have so much more in common. Black and brown kids go to the same schools, our families shop at the same grocery stores and SCOPE’s African-American and Latino member leaders believe that every person should have access to a good, family-supporting job. Over the last three years, we’ve worked to educate and inspire black and brown residents to vote regularly for real, lasting reform in LA and throughout California. We are creating a politically conscious bloc of voters who have the power to influence California’s political landscape. So far we’ve identified 37,000 voters who support a more progressive tax system, where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.

SCOPE works to create long-term change while still living up to our responsibility to families in South LA. To that end, I think it’s critical that we deepen and strengthen our bonds with the labor movement, particularly as attacks on workers’ rights have reached a fever pitch in recent years.  Organized labor has been a pillar of the social justice movement in LA and SCOPE has a long history of building alliances with our union partners. Every day we hear about cuts to the services our members care about, reinforcing the need for community-based solutions that reinvigorate the safety net, create jobs and build a healthy public sector.  To reach these goals, it’s also critical that we expand the movement by engaging and creating new partnerships with social service organizations that work with low-income families day in and out.

From my time at SCOPE, I know that all of our members have a vision for what they want South LA to look like. This means a healthy neighborhood, where our children can go to good schools, where our air and water is clean and where everybody has access to a good job. By building a sustained mass-base institution with real power and creating principled alliances with organizations across the social justice spectrum, together we can make this vision a reality.

Gloria Walton is the Executive Director of SCOPE.