The Unrelenting Fight For Black Lives 25 Years After The LA Riots

Alicia Garza was just 11 years old when riots erupted in the streets of Los Angeles 25 years ago ― but her memories of the events that unfolded are vivid.

Garza, who is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland, California. She credits the rebellion as one of the reasons why she has since committed her life’s work to the fight for justice for black Americans.

She remembers the video that captured four police officers violently beating Rodney King, a black man who was pulled over after a high-speed chase; the trial and the ultimate acquittal of all officers involved that prompted immediate outrage; the videos that showed L.A. in flames, stores set on fire and “shit hitting the fan”; the tensions between the city’s communities of color following the killing of Latasha Harlins, a black teen who was fatally shot by a Korean store owner just months before the riot; the images both of people helping each other and pushing back against the police; and, most distinctly, she remembers how black protesters were demonized for the anger they expressed in the aftermath of such a gross act of racial injustice.

“I remember all of the stories,” she told HuffPost in an interview this week. “I remember this went on for days; it changed the course of history.”

Saturday marks 25 years since one of the most profound and violent acts of protest in modern American history, which involved days of rebellion largely led by L.A.’s black residents. Fights broke out, buildings were burned, more than 50 people were killed, over 2,000 were injured and the city suffered $1 billion in property damages. The overarching narrative of the unrest is complex, with some people who say it was useless and destructive, while others believe the demonstration was to be expected considering the oppressive conditions black people lived under. 

Decades later, the conditions have not changed much: Police brutality against black Americans is rampant, and the relationship between cops and communities of color requires much more work. Cameras and social media have helped to rapidly amplify news of the police killings of black men and women and revolutionize the ways in which residents respond ― much of which is a result of efforts by Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who collectively birthed the Black Lives Matter movement.

“[Let’s] figure out together how to … build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”
Alicia Garza

As someone who has stood on the front lines of countless black-led protests, Garza understands the significance of the L.A. riot. But she also strongly believes that in order to understand the anger and rage that was displayed at the time, it is important that we unpack the circumstances that led to such levels of outrage ― as seen in L.A. and cases around the country ― and continue to identify ways to channel that outrage into more impactful and productive outcomes.

“We should be pissed off about people getting shot down in the street, we should be pissed off that police officers are abusing their power and raping poor black women, we should be pissed off that the murders of black trans women go completely unnoticed, unrecognized and uncared for ― and if we’re not pissed about that then we’re not human,” she said. “And at the same time, rage and anger is not sustainable, it is not a sustainable way to fuel a movement. Rage and anger can actually just burn you out and make you not able to keep fighting and that’s a larger consequence for our movement.”

“What’s important is that we are able to figure out how to channel the rage and anger ― not to get rid of it, but instead how to channel it into sustained resistance and really clear and sharp strategies that allow us to actually change our conditions,” Garza added. “I’m really an advocate of letting that anger and that rage fuel you into action and we then figure out together how to transform that into a vision for the world that we actually wanna live in and build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”

BLM has made promoting peace a central part of its mission while still acknowledging the pain, anger and frustration that comes with being black in America. The organization was founded in 2012 following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Since then, countless black men and women have died at the hands of police, and BLM has grown in prominence and expanded its efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

King’s beating was unprecedented at the time in that it was one of the first instances where police brutality was captured on camera and shared publicly. Now, people anywhere can instantly access video footage of the police killings of black Americans like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

But the fight for justice and liberation for black lives also requires an understanding that the experience of black people in America is not monolithic. L.A. itself has one of the highest populations of black immigrants, which includes a diverse community of Nigerians, Ethiopians, Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Latinx people and black Central Americans who identify as Garifuna, as well as people from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Haiti, says Tia Oso, the national organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. There are more than 2.1 million African immigrants in America alone (that number is steadily climbing), and BAJI ― where Tometi is the executive director ― fights for the racial, social and economic justice of all black immigrants.

“Just as African Americans, black immigrants face issues of racial discrimination and state violence,” Oso told HuffPost, noting the recent police killing of Zelalem Eshetu Ewnetu, who migrated from Ethiopia just eight years ago. “Systemic oppression hits black immigrants and African Americans at the same pressure points.”

Organizations like BLM and BAJI embrace the diversity among blackness and, now more than ever, deliberately seek to amplify the intersecting struggles people of color face in America. In doing so, these organizations are part of a long history of black-led liberation movements, and have learned valuable lessons from past activists ― and historic moments like the L.A. riots ― to apply in the future.

“The L.A. riots impacted black activism in a way that keeps the movement honest and accountable to the plight of people who are living on the margins, living in poverty, living under the most violent oppression,” Oso said, noting that California is home to the country’s deadliest police force. “The uprising in L.A., similar to the Black Panther shootout with LAPD in the ‘60s, shows us that, though we champion policy remedies and reforms to solve our issues, that sometimes conditions in our communities reach a boiling point. It reminds us that reforms are not enough, and that the system must be transformed.”

Transforming the system requires focusing on much more than just police brutality, and both BLM and BAJI have identified ways to better holistically combat several forms of injustice against black lives. Both organizations elevate the experiences of black people ― including those who identify as queer, women, immigrant, trans and disabled ― and help to tackle issues that disproportionately affect these communities, such as deportation, poverty and incarceration.

“We’ve always said Black Lives Matter is in a long tradition of resistance to violence against black people. In essence Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come,” Garza said.

And the timing could not be more pressing. With Donald Trump as president and a Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions, the stakes are higher and the consequences more dire for communities of color. 

“When you look at Jeff Sessions’ record and what he’s done in the last 100 days, what you see is that he’s moving an aggressive agenda, really quietly … to give police more power, more secrecy and more leniency, and we haven’t yet seen the impact of what that will do but we will soon,” she added. “My plea to all of us would be: We have to move quickly to stop that from happening because at the end of the day, when the police are allowed to be judge, jury and executioner, everybody loses.”

“Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come.”
Alicia Garza

Time and again, America has witnessed racial outrage.

“Whether it’s the Rodney King trials, the L.A. uprising or Hurricane Katrina, we have these flash points where the inner workings of America get laid bare for everyone to see,” Garza said. “That’s why I emphasize that anger and rage are important, [but] how do we channel that anger and rage into resilience and vision and strategy so that we don’t have to spend our lives being angry?”

Speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean doing it through street protests ― Garza said it can also mean using your resources, voice, power and position of privilege to denounce the treatment of marginalized groups and address racial issues before they fester and lead to unfavorable consequences. If there is a collective push to transform the way America functions, then there is greater potential for the progress we all hope to achieve.

“I’m somebody who believes protest is important, and I’m somebody who believes protest is not enough,” Garza said. “It’s also important to change culture, to change the way we understand what’s happening around us, to change social norms, to change our values ― and there’s a role for everybody to play in that.”

“Let’s explore what we can do to spend our lives changing the world and moving towards the world we actually want to live in,” she said, “as a resilience strategy, as a way to come back to ourselves, to be present in our bodies, to be present in our relationships with other people and to be present in the vision that we have for what the world can look like.”

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Rowan Blanchard’s Solid Advice For Anyone Who’s Figuring Out Their Sexuality

We’re still not over the cancellation of “Girl Meets World,” so when we got the chance to interview Riley Matthews herself, we knew we couldn’t pass it up. Rowan Blanchard played Riley for three seasons on the show and is set to co-star in the feature film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Blanchard also happens to be an outspoken feminist, ardent human rights activist and teen icon.  

We caught up with Blanchard before she took the stage at WE Day, an event that encourages students to create positive social change and make a difference in their communities. She chatted about her favorite part about “Girl Meets World,” her queer identity and her go-to midnight snack. 

What made you want to get involved with WE Day?

I was able to speak at WE Day two times before this. I spoke at the Minnesota one and the LA one. I just think that event is so special, especially for me, because I’m so used to having to talk to adults all the time. It’s so awesome to be able to talk to thousands of children about getting involved in the future. I obviously do that a lot on social media, but I can’t physically see their faces. So it’s really gratifying and amazing for me to be able to see them in person.

What was your favorite part about being in “Girl Meets World”?

My favorite part about being in “Girl Meets World” was having this amazing camp that I got to go to for four years, where I learned basically 75 percent of the stuff I know in general. I was allowed to explore and experiment with so many acting choices and so many identities, and that was a really safe space. I don’t think of that as work, I guess what I picture it as is high school.

What are some upcoming projects your fans can look forward to?

I just finished the first edit of a cool art book that I’m doing with Random House, so I’m really excited about that. It’s basically one shared diary between a bunch of young artists. I think a lot of the things that are aimed toward young people are made by adults, and have a voice that may seem a little patronizing, and I wanted to make something that seemed like it was inclusive and real. I’ve been working on it for two and a half years so it felt really good to turn something in! I’ve also been working on “A Wrinkle In Time,” which comes out April next year. That entire project was really special.

You tweeted last year that you’re open to liking any gender and identify as queer. What advice do you have for other teens your age who may be struggling with their sexuality?

There’s this weird pressure that you’re either gay or you’re straight. I guess queer is a term that has been reclaimed by this generation, it’s this umbrella term for anything under a large spectrum. But my advice to other kids is: You don’t have to pick an identity. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay one day, bisexual one day, straight another day. You don’t have to pick one word. You don’t even have to pick a word at all. You can just do whatever you like. That’s something I was taught by these Tumblr kids who were like, “You guys don’t have to pick something, you can be anything you want!”

Do you see yourself ever getting more involved with a singing career, like a lot of other Disney stars often have?

I don’t necessarily see myself making music, but I really love musical theater and Broadway. Getting involved with that would be so cool.

What’s the last show you binge watched? 

“Big Little Lies.”

What’s your favorite song? 

“Humble” by Kendrick Lamar.

What’s your go-to midnight snack? 

Probably chocolate, or pretzels if I’m in the mood for something salty.

Who’s your celebrity crush? ️

Kendrick Lamar. Who else? I mean, Rihanna I would marry on any given day.

If you could have any superpower what would it be? 

To be invisible. Because then I could sneak into museums.


Check out more exclusive celebrity interviews with Lauren JaureguiSkai JacksonKeke PalmerNoah Cyrus and Justin Prentice.

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Today’s Feminist Horror Owes A Lot To This Overlooked 20th-Century Artist

Warning: This article features artworks depicting nudity and other explicit scenes. You’ve been warned. 

When Carol Rama was 12 years old, her father committed suicide. Three years later, her mother was committed to a psychiatric clinic. Without any formal training, Rama turned to art as a form of therapy. She continued to make work, with limited recognition, until her death in 2015 at 97 years old. 

The words “art therapy” call certain images to mind: smiling flowers and gentle trees, pointy-roofed houses and birds like lowercase m’s. You know, Bob Ross–type stuff. Rama, however, was interested in more unorthodox subject matter: tongues and teeth, prosthetic limbs and animal pelts, masturbation and puddles of shit. 

The first New York museum survey of Rama’s work, titled “Carol Rama: Antibodies,” is now on view at the New Museum in Manhattan. Featuring 150 of Rama’s works, it is a stunning overview of an artist who followed no one and learned nothing, making work in her 80s the same way she did at 18, by following her gut. Despite the fact that Rama was born in 1918 and raised under Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule, her work feels current, frighteningly so. In a variety of media and styles, Rama visualizes the ecstatic horror of existing in a female body ― sexual, deranged and unbound.

Today, women are creating the most visceral and compelling material in the horror genre, whose borders are bleeding out at an ever increasing pace. There is Julia Ducournau’s “Raw,” described in Rolling Stone as a “cannibal coming-of-age” movie ― a film so grotesque some theaters stocked up on barf bags for queasy viewers. There is also “XX,” an anthology of short horror films directed by and starring women, which made waves at the film festival circuit earlier this year. 

Horror has crept outside the confines of film as well. Musicians including Jenny Hval, Bat for Lashes and even Beyoncé have incorporated the genre’s tropes and aesthetic into their mangled and monstrous music videos. And on TV, there’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a thriller that verges on horrific, based off Margaret Atwood’s haunting 1985 dystopian novel, visualized with a “radical feminist aesthetic.” 

There are two interrelated ideas lurking at the core of most works of feminine horror. Firstly, the experience of being a woman can be a horrific one, plagued by restrictive standards, a persistent fear of violence, a sense of enforced silence and ― if you think about it all too much ― subsequent madness. The other key of feminist horror is, however, to subvert these terms, to take ownership of femininity and all the monstrosity it possesses. “I desire, I bleed, I make, I bite,” says the monstrous female, feeding off her own suffering and even taking pleasure from it. 

Rama herself made a conscious decision to confront the unfathomable suffering she endured at such a young age, turning pain into power. “Private circumstances put me in a state of psychological amputation and loss,” she said in 1986. “I understood that I was obeying a mechanism of repetition of pain. And that when I turned it on its head, it became a sort of devotion to pain, to joy, to death.” 

Rama was inspired after visiting her mother in a psychiatric clinic and observing the other patients housed there. People, she described, “with their tongues sticking out, their legs apart or crouching down in some other position.” This blatant disregard for societal norms enthralled young Rama, who found in women with mental illness something stimulating and even hopeful. “The sticking-out tongue is the object of desire,” she said in 1995. “The desire that we have too, except that etiquette enables us to swallow our tongues.”

In the 1930s, Rama began creating delicate watercolors of undressed women, desirous and deranged. She often returned to the image of “Dorina,” a nude woman reclining blissfully as a snake writhes from between her legs. Her labia is blood red, as is her tongue, which dangles from her lips like a slab of raw meat. 

“Sin is my master,” Rama once said, when asked about artists who influenced her. The snake, a symbol of sin in Christianity, often manifests in her work, though its presence often seems more pleasurable than agonizing.

During the time Rama was creating her early work, Fascism labelled deviant bodies of any kind as wicked ― whether they be physically disabled or sexually unorthodox in any way. Rama made such persons her subjects, rendering women in wheelchairs and strapped into hospital beds, men touching themselves while admiring dead horses and a lady mid-squat, producing a watery pile of poop. Through her work she bestowed the de-humanized deviants persecuted by a Fascist regime with subjectivity, and this, humanity. 

“I believe there is no freedom without derangement,” Rama said in 1997. “But then, we are all pretty deranged.”

When Rama first exhibited her work in 1945 at Turin’s Faber Gallery, the show was abruptly shut down by the police for public indecency. Over 25 works were lost or destroyed as a result. This incident prompted Rama to explore more abstract avenues for exploring similar subject matter. Moving from figuration to expressionist collage, she continued to create works that growled and licked and scratched, never aligning herself with any particular movement, tradition or man. 

Rama’s abstract works, it turned out, were even more ghastly than her figurative depictions, the kind of nonsensical scary most of us only encounter in a dream state. Her canvasses are first covered with oozing globs of black, red and brown, then sprinkled with objects like doll eyeballs, fingernails or dirty syringes. The paintings resemble botched autopsies, glimpses inside bodies that refuse to remain silent any longer, their bloody insides at long last coming out to play.

With her 1950s and ‘60s work, which she called bricolages, Rama took the unbound body one step further, exorcising all unnecessary parts like hair and skin. This is body horror at its finest, inspiring a mix of terror and fascination in the viewer. Rama threw the unknowability of our own bodies back at us, illuminating that few real-life monstrosities can compare to the excrescence of our own blood and guts. 

Rama went on to fold themes into her work that inspire feminist horror of all genres to this day. For example, one series titled “Omens of Birnam” is based on the Three Witches in “Macbeth,” who use their powers to control the fates of men. Rama was enthralled with mythical, occult women, a subject which was recently explored in 2016’s “The Witch.” 

For another series, Rama worked with textiles to transfigure the traditional bridal gown, eschewing traditional white for black frocks accentuated with red gashes and welts. Blood-splattered wedding dresses, symbolizing the perversion of purity, have become a horror flick mainstay, most memorably appearing in prom dress form in “Carrie.” 

In the 1990s, Rama became fixated, along with much of the world, on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a deadly illness also known as mad cow disease. Research revealed that an epizootic in the U.K. was a result of cattle being fed a cattle meat-based product, therefore unwittingly committing cannibalism time and time again. Infected beasts would convulse wildly as their brains deteriorated, a visceral physical manifestation of their mental anguish. 

In this bizarre tale of cannibalism and madness, Rama glimpsed her own story, and the story of womankind. She connected human’s hunger for cow meat with men’s hunger for women’s flesh, thereby aligning pornography with cannibalism. “The feminine body is meat and animal meat is a body that has been sexualized by the normative heterosexual gaze,” Beatriz Preciado writes in The Passion According to Carol Rama. 

The madness that results from this cannibalistic chain of bodies consuming bodies, Rama believes, has been cast over time as “female hysteria.” The artist summed up her conclusions by stating, “The mad cow is me and that has given me joy, an extraordinary joy.” Her mad-cow-centric works take the shape of large-scale collages featuring pieces of rubber cut in the shapes of breasts, testicles and meaty sacs. It’s hard to decipher which parts are food and which are not. 

In the film “Raw,” eating meat serves as a metaphor for self-discovery and self-empowerment, feasting off others to strengthen oneself. The taboo act of eating meat generates a chain of rule-breaking discoveries ― some sexual, others psychological, some straight-up cannibalistic. The film offers an empowering alternative to Rama’s mad cow premonition ― finally a woman gets to do the consuming, for once. 

Today, it still qualifies as news when a “unlikable woman” appears on television. Yet decades ago, in the 1940s, Rama was pushing boundaries by depicting, in dainty watercolor, a woman sticking out her tongue while spreading her cheeks and taking a shit. 

Throughout her life, Rama followed no “masters,” accepted no instruction and adhered to no tradition. Her oeuvre is as loose and leaky as the innards of a dead animal. She preferred to work untrained and untethered, which she believed “belonged to everybody,” because “madness is close to everybody” ― male or female, man or beast. Sadly, she did not receive widespread acknowledgment for her work until she was in her 80s. Even now, she remains largely unknown and underappreciated, especially given the unorthodox and insurgent nature of her work. 

In subject matter and style, Rama’s work most closely resembles work made decades after her ― by artists working in film, music and television. A true pioneer of the monstrous feminine, Rama realized the brutality inflicted on women’s bodies and minds and the seed of pleasure buried within that brutality. Embrace the depravity, she teaches, embrace the lunacy, embrace everything. When there is desire, even amidst unbearable suffering, there is joy. 

“Carol Rama: Antibodies” runs until September 10, 2017 at New Museum. 

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‘Get Out’ Is The Year’s First Oscar Contender

It feels like Oscar season just ended, but “Get Out” is already getting into next year’s contest. 

Oscar campaigns typically rev up around Labor Day with the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals, where many of the hopeful contenders premiere. That doesn’t prevent studios from planting awards-season seeds early, especially for movies that open in the first half of the year. With that in mind, it appears we have our first bid for the 2018 Oscars.

Universal Pictures will host a conversation with director Jordan Peele and a “garden party” at the studio lot to celebrate the May 9 release of “Get Out” on iTunes and Amazon, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sources “insist” it’s not an awards ploy, but the guest list suggests otherwise: Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which oversees the Golden Globes, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which puts on the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, are invited to the event, among others. 

Whether or not Universal intends it as such, this is a signature campaign move. A Q&A with a filmmaker in front of a hotshot voting body? Food and/or cocktails and/or whatever else this garden party will entail? These are the kinds of things that occur almost daily throughout November, December and January, when studios are actively chasing nominations. The only difference is that the “Get Out” shindig is divorced from the common awards-season calendar. 

But that, too, makes sense: It’s hard for films from the first quarter to make a splash nearly a year later when Academy voters are completing their ballots. The most recent Best Picture winner released before May was “The Silence of the Lambs,” which opened in January 1991. Conveniently, that’s also the last horror movie to garner the prize, which could leave Peele following in the prestigious footsteps of “Lambs” director Jonathan Demme, who died Wednesday

HuffPost reached out to two Universal reps to ask about the studio’s awards strategy, but we haven’t heard back. No matter what, there’s proof that Universal wants “Get Out” in the awards game: The studio rented out a Los Angeles theater in March to host two screenings ― one for Academy members and another for BAFTA folks. A week later, New York-based Academy members got a screening of their own at the Museum of Modern Art.

With fawning reviews, layered topicality and an unexpected $171 million in domestic grosses to its name, “Get Out” seems to have a keen chance of being remembered when Oscar season begins in earnest. Considering it doesn’t read as conventional awards fare, we did make an early argument that it’s the type of movie that should be feted. Onward!

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13 Comics About Life In Your Late 20s That Tell It Like It Is

Teenage angst has nothing on “oh, crap, I’m almost 30 and I need to get my life together” angst. 

In her comics, Los Angeles-based illustrator Mo Welch depicts the struggle to “adult” and balance your work life with your personal life (or lack thereof): 

Me. #Blair #happystpattys

A post shared by Mo Welch (@momowelch) on

In an interview with HuffPost, Welch said she likes to explore how challenging it can be to follow your dreams while also knocking out traditional “adult” things, like buying a house or having kids.

“For instance, millennials are getting married later or not at all, having kids later or not at all, so we have the luxury of spending our time with ourselves ― but maybe luxury isn’t the right word considering I had cereal for dinner three nights in a row,” she joked. 

Check out more of Welch’s hilarious illustrations below and follow her on Instagram for new comics.

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50 Of The Best Indie Bookstores In America

“Indie Bookstores are Back,” The New York Times proclaimed early last year. “People Are Still Buying Books At Indie Bookstores,” Forbes announced a few months later, somewhat incredulously. A quick piece from The New York Post on the “indie-bookstore boomlet” this month seems to seal the deal: independent bookshops are definitely not dying. 

Those who tolled the death knell too early are probably just as happy as everyone else. No one wants to see a neighborhood bookshop suffer. Who can resist the pungent smell of old novels, the shadowy intimacy of packed aisles, or the incredibly satisfying feel of a heavy tote bag filled with staff picks? If anything, we’re buying more books that we can actually read, which is hardly a problem for the brick-and-mortar booksellers still threatened by behemoths like Amazon.

If the mere mention of book odor makes you want to sprint into the shop around the corner, your timing couldn’t be better. April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day, and in honor of the occasion, we asked people across the HuffPost newsroom to nominate a few stores they’ve grown to love over the years. After a days of waxing poetic, we came up with a mega-list of incredible indie bookstores that are alive, well and deserving of your patronage on this most holy of literary holidays. 

Behold, 50 of the best indie bookstores in America:

1. John K. King Used & Rare Books (Detroit, Michigan)

”One of the most unique bookstores in the Midwest, John K. King is one of the hidden jewels of Detroit. The shelves are filled with books you can’t find anywhere else. The bookstore holds around 1 million books in stock.” ― Philip Lewis, Front Page Editor

Check out John K. King here.

2. Taylor Books (Charleston, West Virginia)

“Taylor Books is a beloved spot on a quaint street in West Virginia’s capital city that offers a good read, beautiful art, a solid cup of coffee and a quiet place to enjoy it all. Taylor doesn’t just have a great selection of books ― the store hosts live musicians, holds book signings with notable authors and even serves as a place for creative types, like creative writing and improv groups, to meet. I love that they make sure to feature authors, artists and publications based in and around West Virginia and work to promote other arts-related businesses in the community.” ― Paige Lavender, Senior Politics Editor

Check out Taylor Books here.

3. Literati (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

”A great bookstore for a great college town, Literati sits right in the middle of Ann Arbor’s downtown shopping district. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour ― or two or three ― browsing the staff recommendations, which are reliably excellent.” ― Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent

Check out Literati here.

4. The Strand (New York, New York)

“I worked at The Strand when I first moved to New York City and it truly embodies so much about what makes this global city so amazing. Not only have numerous influential creatives worked here at some point in their careers, but the space itself is a defining part of the history of New York City. The last remaining staple of the historic ‘Book Row’ ― a massive area of 48 different bookstores dating back to the late 1800s ― The Strand is now the second-biggest used bookstore in the entire country. Go get lost in the literal miles of books while you discover some of the rich history of the store itself.” ― James Michael Nichols, Deputy Queer Voices Editor

Check out the Strand here.

5. Left Bank Books (St. Louis, Missouri)

”When I was going to college in St. Louis, Left Bank Books was a short bike ride from my apartment. The shop has incredible new and used book selections, ingeniously themed reading groups, impressive author events, and just a generally inclusive vibe that makes it seem like a neighborhood spot for anyone and everyone.” ― Katherine Brooks, Senior Arts & Culture Editor

Check out Left Bank Books here.

6. Old Tampa Book Company (Tampa, Florida)

“Old Tampa Book Company is this little store in downtown that usually gets overlooked, but the second you step in it’s the best place you’ve ever been. All the shelves are filled to the brim and you can find so many out-of-print or unique editions of books. And the entire place just smells like books ― overwhelmingly so.” ― Doha Madani, Associate Trends Reporter

Check out Old Tampa Book Company here.

7. Women & Children First Bookstore (Chicago, Illinois)

”Women & Children First is the kind of indie bookstore that belies an easy, convenient characterization. Sure, it’s a feminist bookstore with a name eerily similar to a certain Portlandia sketch. But it’s not some caricature. This place has a real heart and cares about their neighborhood and city, hosting regular community events spotlighting both emerging local and established international names. And their handwritten book recommendations throughout the store have never led me astray. It’s the real deal.” ― Joseph Erbentraut, Senior What’s Working Editor

Check out Women & Children First here.

8. Dickson Street Bookshop (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

“Dickson Street Bookshop is located just a short, lovely walk from the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, so it’s a huge draw for college students and bibliophiles alike. Its towering, overstocked bookshelves wind in and out of rooms, almost as if they go on for miles. As an undergraduate, I needed a copy of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death Of A Salesman’ for a theater class I was taking that semester, and the shop owner knew exactly which room, which shelf and which precise stack of books was home to the one I needed, leading me right to it. I still have the tattered, out-of-print copy to this day.” ― Brittany Nims, RYOT Studio Editor

Check out Dickson Street Bookshop here.

9. Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon)

“If there’s a list of great wonders of the literary world, Powell’s sits at the top. They call it ‘Powell City of Books’ for a reason ― it occupies a full city block and supposedly contains more than a million volumes.” ― Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent 

Check out Powell’s here. 

10. Farley’s Bookshop (New Hope, Pennsylvania)

”Farley’s is nestled on the Delaware River in the historic and queer enclave of New Hope, Pennsylvania. There’s always an angelic cat that greets you (and every good independent bookstore should have that). It feels like a quintessential Americana place that could’ve easily been in a scene in ‘Hocus Pocus’ or something.” ― Melissa Radzimski, Social Media Editor

Check out Farley’s here.

11. The Book Barn (Niantic, Connecticut) 

“I never miss a chance to visit the Book Barn when I’m up in Connecticut. I could spend hours perusing the shop’s collection, which is actually spread out over four small locations in the coastal town of Niantic, which is worthy of exploring in its own right. Every visit is an adventure!” ― Curtis Wong, Senior Queer Voices Editor

Check out the Book Barn here.

12. The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, California)

”Part bookstore, part art collective and sculpture, this shop has a solid selection of indie new stuff plus an extensive user collection that is worth checking out. A beautiful place.” ― Robb Monn, Head of Engineering

Check out the Last Bookstore.

13. Prairie Lights (Iowa City, Iowa)

”It’s everything you could want in a bookstore. A staff that knows their stuff? Check. A kids section that feels like a secret hideaway? Check. Coffee, cookies, and booze upstairs? Check. A secondhand books section so you can splurge? CHECK.” ― Chloe Angyal, Senior Front Page Editor

Check out Prairie Lights here.

14. The Children’s Bookstore (Baltimore, Maryland)

“This little bookstore is tucked away on a side street in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore, and it’s so great. The staff is super knowledgeable, and they have a great selection of books for all different ages. Back when Harry Potter books were still coming out, The Children’s Bookstore would host a huge celebration leading up to the midnight release. They’d close off the street and have tons of activities for all of the dressed-up wizards and witches. You could get your book there at midnight, or they had a delivery service that would drop books off to the houses in the neighborhood (starting at midnight). It’s a great bookstore and community.” ― Hollis Miller, Associate Voices Social Editor

Check out the Children’s Bookstore here.

15. Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, Washington)

”I love reading staff recommendations, and this enormous bookstore had way more than I could skim in one visit. There’s a comfy coffee shop inside, so it’s the perfect zen stop, whether you’re working in the city or visiting from out of town. Grab a book, relax and people-watch.” ― Katherine Brooks

Check out Elliott Bay here.

16. Books Galore (Eerie, Pennsylvania) 

“Independently owned and operated, I’ve frequented the place since I was a kid and continued to do so until I moved to Louisiana last year. When I was a kid, I liked going there every week to get my favorite comics. As I got older, they were a great resource for old books ― especially rare and hard-to-find books. They are great people and always friendly. They also do a lot of things for kids in the community, such as hosting games, having folks dress up as superheroes and hosting a free comic book day.” ― David Lohr, Senior Crime Reporter

Check out Books Galore here.

17. J. Michaels Books (Eugene, Oregon)

“A cozy and colorful fixture of one of Americas most colorful small cities. The owner is usually behind the counter, obscured by his curated selection of new releases. His arrangements never fail to compel even this most casual of bookworms to purchase. On your way out, take a peek at first editions and antique copies of many of Americas greatest writers. My wife and I once drove a Penguin Books–branded Mini Cooper across America, visiting indie bookshops all along the way. There is none quite like J Michaels.” ― Isaac Schmidt, Software Engineer

Check out J. Michaels here.

18. Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc. (New York, New York) 

“If there were a car air freshener called ‘Used Bookstore’ they would go to Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc.” ― Marc Janks, Multimedia Platforms Manager

Check out Westsider Rare & Used Books here.

19. The Iliad Bookshop (North Hollywood, California)

”Iliad Bookshop is a place you can get lost in ― and if you’re a book lover like me, you might suddenly discover that hours have elapsed while you were blissfully exploring that rabbit hole. They specialize in literature and the arts and have an impressive collection of rare books, in particular. If you somehow tire of the endless maze of books, you can take a break to play with the shop cats (yes, literal cats, not just cool people) or chat with the very friendly staff.” ― Antonia Bloomberg, Religion Reporter

Check out the Iliad here.

20. The Montague Bookmill (Montague, Massachusetts)

“You know those bookstores where you can spend a whole afternoon? The Bookmill is like that, but more like days, or weeks ― I’d rent a room there if I could. The 1800s gristmill is home to thousands of used books, thoughtfully organized and sprawled out in room after room designed for wandering and hiding out among the shelves. If you somehow get bored of book buying, you can take a picturesque stroll by the Sawmill River or bring your finds to the Lady Killigrew Cafe, order a local beer and start reading.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz, National Reporter

Check out the Montague here.

21. Green Apple Books (San Francisco, California)

“Green Apple is the kind of bookstore that reminds you what an otherworldly escape reading is and makes you wonder why you spend so much time watching Netflix. It’s sizable but divided up into smaller rooms and alcoves you’ll want to hole up in for hours. It was named Publisher’s Weekly bookstore of the year in 2014, but it’s remained a humble neighborhood spot exactly as I remember it as a little kid growing up around the corner.” ― Lydia O’Connor, Reporter

Check out Green Apple here.

22. Maxwell’s House of Books (La Mesa, California)

“Maxwell’s has a lot of rare academic and scholarly titles as well as other hard-to-find titles. The owners are happy to engage in deep conversations about the books. It’s in a cozy neighborhood in a San Diego suburb and I feel like everyone is stopping by to say, ‘Hi.’” ― David Moye, Reporter

Check out Maxwell’s here.

23. Chamblin Book Mine (Jacksonville, Florida)

“I used to get lost in this place when I was a nerdy high school kid in Jacksonville. The aisles go on forever, and it’s basically impossible to leave empty-handed. It’s a great place to sell your old books, too. Highly recommended.” ― Kate Palmer, Lifestyle Editorial Director

Check out Chamblin Book Mine here.

24. Book Culture (New York, New York)

“This is everything a modern bookstore should be. It has something for everyone. Best Part: They have mystery books wrapped up so you can have a blind date with a book.” ― Marc Janks

Check out Book Culture here.

25. Books and Books (Coral Gables, Florida)

“Every author who’s done a tour knows about Books and Books, because it’s practically a South Florida institution. Worth visiting for the architecture alone, but it’s the reading that will keep you coming back.” ― Jonathan Cohn

Check out Books and Books here.

26. William Caxton Ltd Books (Ellison Bay, Wisconsin)

”This is one of the finest book stores I’ve ever been too, made even more incredible due to its location, completely off the beaten path on the Wisconsin peninsula. The owner is a retired professor and collector of rare books. This is a place you go to find books you’ve never seen before.” ― Andy McDonald, Comedy Editor

Check out William Caxton Ltd here.

27. Relay Bookhouse (Bethel, Connecticut) 

“It literally has tunnels of books from floor to ceiling — it’s like a maze. Books are piled up on the floor, you can hit dead ends and you can spend hours in it. I didn’t know bookstores like this still existed. Whenever I’m in the area I always stop in and walk around for a bit.” ― Samantha Tomaszewski, Associate Social Media Editor

Check out Relay here.

28. Inquiring Minds Bookstore (Saugerties, New York)

“In upstate New York, nestled in the quaint town of Saugerties, lies Inquiring Minds Bookstore. During a recent weekend stay in the area, I stumbled upon this cozy independent shop, filled to the brim with both new and used books. There’s a coffee shop inside, and you can get lost wandering around and browsing the journals, CDs and toys, which are also for sale. Inquiring Minds has a sister shop in New Paltz, New York.” ― Lauren Moraski, Entertainment Editorial Director

Check out Inquiring Minds here.

29. Skylight Books + Art Annex (Los Angeles, California)

”The most solid new bookstore for fiction and art books. Great staff picks and great staff. I’ve found many gems here that I’d never have known existed.” ― Rob Monn, Head of Engineering 

Check out Skylight here.

30. McNally Jackson (New York, New York)

“This is my favorite bookstore in the city ― it’s really well-organized and I love all of the recommendations from the staff. They also have a great magazine section, and they even have a little cafe where you can grab a coffee and read your newest purchase.” ― Hollis Miller, Voices Associate Social Media Editor

Check out McNally Jackson here.

31. Book Revue (Huntington, New York) 

“Growing up on Long Island surrounded by lacrosse bros and meatheads, Book Revue served as an oasis of art and literature. Big-name authors came to town for talks there. The 17,500-square-foot space is flanked by book shelves in nearly every possible space, a café with Korean candies and decent loose-leaf tea and a used book section where I bought my first W.H. Auden book for just $1. It’s always amazed me that, even as the record stores and other shops I loved folded, this place remained open. Thank God for that.” ― Alexander Kaufman, Business & Environment Reporter

“I usually force whichever family member I’m visiting on Long Island to make a stop at Book Revue, located in the picturesque, walkable downtown of Huntington. The store is expansive enough to easily kill an hour or two browsing, and they have a nice selection of inexpensive literary remainders — useful for anyone wishing to build up their classics library. With ample readings and events, they’re a good resource for the bookish who don’t want to travel all the way into Manhattan.” ― Jillian Capewell, Entertainment News Editor

Check out Book Revue here.

32. Little City Books (Hoboken, New Jersey)

”It’s a super-friendly atmosphere with welcoming staff, and carries a diverse range of novels and nonfiction. It’s also has a vast children’s section. It frequently holds readings and Q&As with authors and hosts a variety of book clubs focussing on different genres and writers.” ― Will Tooke, Producer

Check out Little City here.

33. Main Street Books (Saint Helena, California)

“Tucked between pricey boutiques and wine shops, this tiny gem of a bookstore was a saving grace for me growing up in a small Napa Valley town when I was too young to enjoy the tasting rooms and vineyard tours the region is famous for. I’d spend hours in this little shop (roughly the size of a small bedroom), picking up dozens of used novels (better for my babysitting-fund budget) while always eyeing the new titles with envy. I still make a point of dropping in when I’m home for a visit, particularly to check out the latest additions to the well-curated cooking section or ask for a recommendation. And if they don’t have a book in the shop, the owner will happily order it for you. I’ll forever be grateful for when she pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix for me and let me pick it up before the store opened for the day.” ― Mollie Reilly, Deputy Politics Editor

Check out Main Street here.

34. Prospero’s Bookstore (Kansas City, Missouri)

“As a high school kid in Overland Park, Kansas, Prospero’s was an oasis. Its basement smells like centuries-old book pulp ― it’s where I found one of the strangest used Cold War history books I’ve ever read and will never get rid of. On the main floor, you can find more precariously stacked books, plus work from students at the Kansas City Art Institute, or see performances from local musicians and poets. It’s much more than a bookstore, as it should be.” ― Katherine Brooks

Check out Prospero’s here.

35. Book Beat (Oak Park, Michigan)

“A short drive outside of Detroit, Book Beat was one of my favorite destinations as a kid. From the inconspicuous storefront ― they’re located in an outdated suburban strip mall ― you’d never guess that inside it’s warm and lively, with thousands of books are crammed into every inch of available space, stacked up to the ceiling. Friendly staff members are always happy to help you locate a title in the piles, or recommend a book you didn’t know you wanted. They carry a wide range of subjects, but their children’s book collection is truly unbeatable.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Check out Book Beat here.

36. Karma (Amagansett, New York)

”Karma (with locations in NYC and Amagansett) is both a gallery and a bookseller. They boast a beautiful collection of contemporary art books, many of which they publish themselves.” ― Willa Frej, Reporter

Check out Karma here.

37. Faulkner House Books (New Orleans, Louisiana)

”This teeny, tiny bookstore is housed in a building that was constructed in 1840. William Faulkner lived there in the early 20th century — hence the name — and wrote his first novel Soldiers Play. The space is as charming and mythic as any bookstore lover would hope, with low-slung chandeliers and books lining the walls, ‘Beauty and the Beast’-style. It has a great selection of New Orleans-centric books, from history to cookbooks, for people from out of town.” ― Priscilla Frank, Arts & Culture Writer

Check out Faulkner House here. 

38. Book Thug Nation (Brooklyn, New York)

“So intimate, so cozy and so friendly. I don’t know how they get by selling books for $2.50, but I try to always check out their selection first before I go anywhere else. And Book Thug gets new books every day, so there’s always something to discover.” ― Allison Fox, Lifestyle Trends Editor

Check out Book Thug Nation here.

39. Linden Tree Children’s Books (Los Altos, California)

”You won’t find the children’s books tucked away in a corner here. It’s the entire store. Linden Tree has a friendly and helpful staff, great selection and plenty of in-store events.” ― Ed Mazza, Reporter

Check out Linden Tree here.

40. Half Price Books (Dallas, Texas)

”Half Price Books might be a chain, but it’s family-owned, and, more importantly to some readers, it lives up to its name. Like any used bookstore, visiting comes with the wonder of discovery, a sensation absent from, say, shopping on Amazon. But the flagship store in Dallas is essentially a vast warehouse of books, and getting lost in its aisles is half the fun.” ― Maddie Crum, Books & Culture Writer

Check out Half Price Books here.

41. Haslam’s Book Store Inc (St. Petersburg, Florida)

“Finding refuge in stacks of books from the humidity of Florida and losing track of time was a common occurrence for me at Haslam’s, a massive new and used bookstore established in 1933. I’d take short vacations to St. Petersburg while studying in university to visit friends and wander through the expansive bookshelves, read excerpts on the back of book covers and then flip through pages upon pages of poetry, fiction, memoirs and essays. The science collection in Haslam’s is astounding, and this bookstore helped nurture my love of science out of the classroom. It has an unassuming facade but, as with most good bookstores, once you step inside you are transported into another place and time, lost in your own thoughts, to a place just waiting to be explored.” ― Madeline Wahl, Associate Editor

Check out Haslam’s here.

42. Book Woman (Austin, Texas) 

“In its annual collection of book review and book reviewer data, VIDA has shown that gender parity still hasn’t been achieved when it comes to literature. Women are less likely to get reviewed in several major outlets than men, and they’re less likely to win awards, too. Which is why the concept of the simply named BookWoman is so great. The store showcases women writers, and particularly women writers working in Austin — and it hosts intersectional reading events, too.” ― Maddie Crum

Check out Book Woman here.

43. Off the Beaten Path (Steamboat, Colorado)

”I’ve approached the staff at Off the Beaten Path with as little info as: ‘I’m looking for a really good book. Like, really, really good.’ And I always walk out with something I can’t put down and that I insist pretty much every friend and family member read. The people who work here are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about books and will keep pulling titles until they find something you’re excited sit down with. They support local authors, and the ‘staff picks’ are the best way to find out about little-known writers and remember why you should go back and read the classics from high school. And the coffee … OMG, amazing.” ― Eleanor Goldberg, Impact Editor

Check out Off the Beaten Path here.

44. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (New York, New York)

“Housing Works, a smallish yet well-stocked two-story shop in Manhattan, is more than a bookstore. The organization takes seriously its role as an advocacy group for people with HIV/AIDS, and raises funds through events to that end. This alone makes it a worthwhile place to buy books, but the spot itself is charming, too, with winding stairways and high ceilings and timely author readings.” ― Maddie Crum

Check out Housing Works here.

45. Stone Soup Books (Camden, Maine)

“Stone Soup is a tiny used bookstore that sits at the top of a creaking staircase in an almost comically narrow building in Camden, Maine’s downtown area. Inside, it feels like the kind of place where the protagonist of a children’s movie would find a long-lost book that unlocked a portal to some sort of fairy tale world. It’s packed with books, most of them well-loved, extremely affordable paperbacks, lining every available inch of wall space and occupying numerous other shelves and piles throughout the store. Every time I’ve been there, one of the owners has been there behind the desk reading, and is exactly the kind of of older gentleman you’d hope to presiding over a charming secondhand bookstore.” ― Hilary Hanson, Reporter

Check out Stone Soup here.

46. Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

“I stopped into Parnassus Books during a trip to Nashville a few years ago, and, like many of the city’s other small businesses I visited with friends, it felt like a place that really serves the local readers, both in terms of book recommendations and community space. Fun fact: The store is co-owned by author Ann Patchett.” ― Katherine Brooks

Check out Parnassus here.

47. Source Booksellers (Detroit, Michigan)

“Source Booksellers opened just a few years ago, but it’s thriving, with tons of readings and events ― probably because owner Janet Jones has been collecting and selling books since 1989. Her compact but extensively curated selection of nonfiction books ― with great titles on local subjects, history, culture, art and spirituality, are chosen with an eye toward educating people and enhancing their lives.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Check out Source Booksellers here.

48. 2nd Edition Books (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina) 

“An independent bookstore in an airport? Yup. You’ll find 2nd Edition in the terminal at Raleigh-Durham International, past security near the gates. They sell only previously used books, but they have a wide selection (and many are barely used). They’ll even ship to your destination if you want.” ― Jonathon Cohn

Check out 2nd Edition here.

49. Books on the Square (Providence, Rhode Island)

“As a college student in Providence, I had the opportunity to explore some great local spots, and Books on the Square was a true highlight. Located in Wayland Square, it’s welcoming neighborhood shop with a cozy atmosphere and loyal customer base. The staff is very friendly and they often host events and speakers.” — Caroline Bologna, Parents Editor

Check out Books on the Square here. 

50. Politics & Prose (Washington, D.C.)

”No roundup of indie bookstores would be complete without mentioning Politics & Prose, the D.C. institution that, beyond selling books, hosts open mics, nerdy trivia, teach-ins and conversations with politicians, authors, filmmakers and more. When I first visited D.C., I knew enough to add this shop to my itinerary, squeezing it in between tourist spots. And it was worth it.” ― Katherine Brooks

Check out Politics & Prose here.

There are many other indie bookstores that we didn’t write about, but are excellent destinations you should probably check out. Including…

  • Myopic Books in Chicago, Illinois
  • Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
  • Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado
  • Bluestockings in New York, New York

Share this post, tag us on Facebook, and we’ll add more indie bookstores to the bonus list!

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

John Ridley’s New Film Revisits The LA Riots At An ‘Exceptionally Important’ Time

The Rodney King Riots” didn’t start with Rodney King, at least according to John Ridley’s new film “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992.”

Written and directed by Ridley, the ABC News docu-flick includes both archival footage and original interviews with local LA residents and officials chronicling their experiences in what became an uprising in L.A. county on April 29, 1992.

It’s been 25 years since the 1992 acquittal of four police officers involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King, which sparked the week-long civil disturbance, injuring over 2,000, killed more than 50, and estimated over $1 billion in damages to buildings in the area. The film traces back a decade before the massive unrest and examines the deep-rooted effects of racial tensions in the city.

In an interview with HuffPost, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker said that it’s “exceptionally important” to showcase a methodical case study of the social-political issues that plagued Los Angeles in the 80s and early 90s, especially now.  

“We find ourselves in very similar circumstances. And it becomes more and more clearly every day that there’s systemic issues that are pervasive and continued in many cities and many places,” he said. “I do think it’s very important as well for people not to walk away from this documentary assuming that they have the answers for things that are happening in places like Ferguson or Baltimore, or elsewhere. All of these spaces and people deserve a very particular examination.”

“Obviously there’s similarities, obviously there’s systemic issues, but our solutions, our engagement really need to be tailored for each individual community,” he continued. “So I hope that in watching this film people will become more aware of issues, but within that I hope they have a renewed desire to engage their own communities and their own spaces individually.”

Beginning with the 1982 chokehold death of 20-year-old African-American James Mincey Jr., the film delves into the various policies instituted by former LAPD police chief Darrell Gates. During the length of his 14-year tenure as police chief, Gates was often criticized by black and Hispanic residents for his aggressive tactics to combating crime in Los Angeles. 

What we want to express to individuals is that this was not one moment, not one event, not one incident that happened to one person. This was something that built up over time.”
John Ridley

Ridley’s film explores a direct correlation between the implementation of LAPD’s chokehold submission tactic, the violence birthed from the city’s crack-cocaine era and the militarization of the police force as contributing factors that eventually provoked the ‘92 riots.

“People may not see the connectivity, but when we line up these events, with the benefit of hindsight as subject in the documentary says it’s lining up dominoes and sometimes at some point you tip one and they’re all gonna fall,” Ridley said.

“And that goes to the title itself. What we want to express to individuals is that this was not one moment, not one event, not one incident that happened to one person. This was something that built up over time. It was cascade effect. It was very important to see how these incidents seemingly unconnected were hyper connected,” he added.

Of course, Ridley’s film is just one of many events and projects ― including those by Spike Lee and John Singleton ― that are scheduled to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the acquittal.

And in addition to the 92-minute abbreviated ABC network broadcast of “Let It Fall,” the film has also received a bi-coastal theatrical release of a two and a half-hour extended version, making it ABC News’ first theatrical production and release.

While Ridley admits showcasing two versions of the project is “a storyteller’s dream,” he said each film will offer a uniquely personal and urgent perspective on the ’92 LA Riots. 

“This is really about creating a space where people can recollect with very personal memories, very personal experiences,” he said. “The rawness of their emotions across the board was really surprising. It’s 25 years later. It’s a quarter of the century, but so many of the individuals that shared their stories, we’re telling these stories as if these events had happened just yesterday.”

“So in that regard, I think that’s how we tried to differentiate ourselves,” he continued. “This is a very, very personalized narrative of these events from people who lived through them, were intimately involved in them, and have chosen to share them with us, and by extension share them with an audience.

“Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992” airs April 28 on ABC at 9pm/est.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

What Photographers Of The LA Riots Really Saw Behind The Lens

Few people in their right minds would have stayed outside the night the verdicts came down.

On April 29, 1992, a Los Angeles court found four police officers not guilty in the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King. Within hours, the city was on fire, and it burned for days, becoming a defining moment for black resistance and the long, dark history of race in America.

Los Angeles was primed to erupt. The video of King’s beating compounded months of tension between the police and Angelenos — and it sparked a nationwide uproar about racial bias and police brutality that made the story of the riots much more complex than black versus white, looters versus shop owners, or police versus the people.

The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the riots, and for good reason: The reporters and photographers it sent to cover them literally dodged bullets to offer a small window into the chaos.

Twenty-five years later, those journalists have plenty more to tell.

We interviewed three former and current LA Times photographers who braved those violent nights to bring back some of the images that defined a broken city.

Jesus, what did I just live through?
– Steve Dykes, former Los Angeles Times photographer

Kirk McKoy

The first few hours after the verdicts, Kirk McKoy almost died a few times.

McKoy, who is black, was standing near the intersection of Florence and Normandie ― which the LA Times dubbed “ground zero of the unrest” ― and he didn’t feel safe. While the rest of the world was watching white truck driver Reginald Denny get beaten by black men on TV, he was witnessing a free-for-all.

In fact, McKoy has a hard time labeling what he saw as a race riot, or civil disobedience, or an uprising. Within the first two hours, he says, he saw all three. It was “mayhem,” he said, and nobody was spared.

He saw a fellow photographer ― a white woman in “a very rough African-American” neighborhood, McKoy said ― lying bloodied on the ground after taking a rock to the head. He traded swings in a fistfight with two guys who were trying to steal his camera.

Then he gave up his first canister of film because a man holding a gun to his head didn’t like that he was taking photos of the looting.

McKoy described the experience to HuffPost:

A guy pulls out a .45 and puts it to my temple and says, “If you take my picture, I’ll blow your head off.”

He’s got the gun, he’s shaking it at me, and I’m saying, “I didn’t take your picture!” And he says, “Yeah you did, I oughta waste you right now!”

And at that point, I just opened up the back of the camera and gave him the film and said, “Here, whatever I just shot, take it.”

It wasn’t worth it. Wasn’t worth arguing with this guy over it. He pulled the film all the way out and went on about his business. At that point, I’m scared out of my mind, hands trembling. I’m trying to figure what I’m going to do.

When he was finally able to get his bearings, McKoy got ahold of his editors back at the office to tell them it wasn’t safe to send other photographers out there.

It’s hard to imagine keeping your wits about you when the city around you is on fire.

McKoy kept his cool and captured moments that helped define the lawlessness that overtook Los Angeles over the course of several days. But he admits that he made plenty of mistakes ― several on that first day:

At some point, around 11 o’clock at night, [Times photographer Mike Meadows and I] were both exhausted, figuring out what’s next … we’re back on Florence and we’re sitting in the car, buildings are burning on both sides of us, and we stop for a traffic light.

We’re sitting there obeying traffic signals ― and buildings are burning on both sides of us, people are running around ― and we’re sitting there calmly trying to figure out where to go. And then some guy runs up and sticks a gun in the car [and tells] us, “You’re both about to die.”

We both duck, and Mike hits the accelerator with his hand and just shot through the intersection and hoped no one was in front of us. We were not about to wait to find out if that guy was serious.

Later, McKoy recalled standing in front of a crowd photographing some looters outside a store when someone pointed a gun at him and started firing in his direction. He hopped back in Meadows’ car and they got out of there.

“So that was my first day,” he said.

Hyungwon Kang

From the start, Hyungwon Kang was looking to capture context. He saw a inner-city Korean-American community that society had abandoned long before the riots started. And over those few days, he saw it standing on its last legs, getting the rug pulled out from under it.

“In real time, [Korean-Americans] had to decide whether to take this lying down or whether they were gonna stand up for their basic rights,” he said. “Not everybody survived that process.” 

Koreatown was an epicenter of looting and violence during the riots, and Korean-Americans owned many of the businesses in South Central Los Angeles. Korean-owned businesses suffered half of the $1 billion total in damage across the city, and the people there had to fend for themselves when the looting began, Kang said.

They were standing up for their own survival. They were merely trying to protect what was rightfully their own,” he said. “For most immigrant businesses, all of your savings and assets are in the inventory of the stores, and most of those stores don’t have insurance. When their stores went up in flames, they lost life savings; they lost everything.”

Kang, who is Korean-American, captured that fear and upheaval in two sobering photos. The first, a photo of two men carrying pistols and defending shops, reveals how people were left to defend their livelihoods with no expectation that the cops or anyone else would come to help them.

In another photo, Kang captured the killing of 18-year-old Edward Song Lee. Lee was responding to calls over the radio asking for help protecting Koreatown businesses, Kang says, when the car he was riding in came under fire.

“In the absence of police protection, people were calling into Radio Korea asking, ‘Can someone come and help guard our store? We’re being broken into,’” he said. “Koreatown volunteers ― these college students, most without any guns ― went to provide protection to the shops. This group of four kids in one car was one of them. It was unfortunate that they got shot at on the way over there.”

Kang said he arrived to see Lee being pulled out of the car.

Twenty-five years later, Kang says the Korean-American community in Los Angeles is still struggling. Many immigrant families couldn’t get banks to bail them out after the riots; businesses and families were torn apart.

Kang said he hopes his photos tell the story of the “silent victims” of the riots and shed more light on racial conflict and violence that he says is often mischaracterized:

These immigrant families made great sacrifices to build what they have; to be able to educate their children in America, and they were victimized at the expense of the mainstream community turning this into a black vs. Asian fight. It was not. This was a mainstream issue that has been in American history for many generations.

The generations now are expressing that through Black Lives Matter and other movements ― and I hope they’ll study the LA riots and learn from them and the greater society’s mistakes, so we don’t repeat them.

Steve Dykes

The gravity of the story you’re working on doesn’t always hit you right away. All three of the photographers we spoke to noted that their training taught them to be cautious, but also obligated them to keep shooting.

Steve Dykes was driving alongside a fellow journalist with the Oregonian to shoot the Lakers/Trail Blazers playoff game, when the pair got their first taste of what was to come.

I looked in the rearview mirror and I could see two African-American men pointing to where my car was at a stop light,” Dykes said. “I went up over the grass near a library, between a telephone pole and a guideline, and got away. I never heard the gunshots but I found a bullet hole in the tailgate of my company car.”

He remembers looking up at the Lakers game and watching video of Reginald Denny getting beaten half to death. He remembers radioing his desk at the LA Times for assignments, and then realizing that the Times building itself was under siege. In particular, he remembers one of his best shots from the riots, because it was the one that humbled him.

When Dykes captured a photo of an officer collapsing as he chased a bloodied looter, he said he wasn’t thinking about the riots or the implications or the danger popping off all around him. He was in full photographer mode; he was thinking of his shot.

While you’re in it, you never really think about it,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘That picture, if it was on any other corner, the background would have been a burning building.’ It was a park fence. But I remember thinking, ‘If it was on any other corner, it would have been a more impactful photo.’”

But whatever switch kept his emotions at bay on the job eventually got flipped:

I remember driving home the second day and driving over the Hollywood freeway, and down past the Capitol Records Building, and the radio was playing a blurb of a Martin Luther King speech, and then right after, they played “Under The Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

When I hear that song, it still gives me chills, because I was looking south and just remember seeing 20 fires at least, scattered everywhere … and then it was just like, “Jesus, what did I just live through?”

That moment still makes the hairs on his neck stand on end.

“I was going home to see my family, I mean, I was alive,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, shit, this will go down in history.’”

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This Overweight Teen Dancer Went Viral. Now Comes The Aftermath.

NEW YORK ― It was a late January evening, and Lizzy Howell’s iPhone would not stop buzzing. The 15-year-old from Milford, Delaware, watched in bewilderment as notification after notification flashed on her screen until her battery died.

Quite by accident, a video she’d posted of herself on Instagram a few months before had gone viral.

In the 10-second clip, Lizzy, wearing a maroon leotard and footless tights, is spinning on her toes, practicing a classical ballet move called fouetté turns. Eleven times she twirls, gracefully extending her leg and whipping it around. Behind her, several young dancers watch in appreciation.

Fouetté turns take a great deal of skill and years of practice to master. But it was not only her impressive execution that resonated with the public ― it was her size. Lizzy is overweight. When asked why she thought people were going crazy over her video, she shrugged.

“I guess it’s because I don’t have the typical dancer body?” she said in a recent interview at HuffPost’s New York office. Lizzy talked slowly, mulling her words before answering. Dressed in yoga pants and an Adidas sweatshirt, with her hair pulled into a half-ponytail, she looked like a typical teen.

“I’m still not sure,” she continued. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal what I’m doing, but everyone else seems to think so.”

There is no magic formula for viral videos, but certain tropes are common. Many of them feature adorable animals or kids. Many contain an element of surprise. They’re humorous. They tell a story. And they elicit a strong emotional reaction. In Lizzy’s case, the message that people took from it was a body-positive, feminist one: Women can be or do anything, regardless of their weight. They don’t have to be thin to dance.

As the video racked up views (as of this writing, it’s been played more than 380,000 times), thousands of people left comments praising Lizzy for her bravery. “I was honestly too scared to go into dancing because I was worried people would judge how I looked,” one commenter wrote. “This gave me the courage to at least try.”

“Oh my god I wish I could’ve had YOU spinning around inside the ballerina music box I had as a little girl instead of the ballerina figurine that it came with,” wrote another.

News organizations, drawn to the story of an inspiring teen breaking stereotypes, started calling. Lizzy was featured in BuzzFeed, People magazine, “Inside Edition,” Teen Vogue and more (including HuffPost’s Canadian edition). Overnight, she went from everyday teen to minor internet celebrity, joining a growing cadre of private citizens who are thrust into the national spotlight for a brief moment, then leave behind a digital footprint ― in Lizzy’s case, almost literally ― that can last a lifetime.  

It’s been three months since the clip went viral, and Lizzy is still adjusting to the change. She is grateful for the attention to her dancing ― it’s everything to her ― but the fame has had a personal cost.

While many comments have been positive, there’s also a current of hostility that would be hard for any teenager to withstand. Trolls post spiteful messages about her weight and looks. The worst thing she saw about herself online, she said, was a cruel joke comparing her to meat. Someone spliced footage of her dancing with video of a rotisserie chicken turning on a spit. She cried when she saw it.

Meanwhile, in offline life, relationships have deteriorated ― a loss that cuts deep.

Lizzy, who is home-schooled and gets most of her social interaction at her dance studio, has seen friendships falter, some of them with kids she’s been dancing with since she was 5. They’ve stopped being friends with her, she said. She assumes they’re jealous that she became famous and they didn’t.

“I’ve heard them say that it should have been them and not me, and I’m like, ‘I don’t understand it,’” she said. “They talk by themselves in the corner.”

turning monday¿ #ballet#turn#balletdancer#dancer#foutte

A post shared by Lizzy (@lizzy.dances) on

But Lizzy is strong. Maybe stronger than other teens her age. Her mother died when she was 5. She is being raised by her legal guardian, her great-aunt Linda Grabowski. The year her mom died, she started to dance, and she hasn’t stopped since. She practices at least four nights a week, taking classes in ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary.

“Dance is her outlet for all her emotions, good and bad,” Grabowski said. “She persevered. She wanted to drop out many many times.”

Over the years, Lizzy said, she was bullied because of her weight. She also struggles with pseudotumor cerebri, a medical condition caused by excess swelling in the brain. Last year, she underwent four spinal taps. Still, she keeps dancing. It brings her joy and comforts her when she feels low.

After she was diagnosed in 2016, she started home-schooling. Her medical condition, which can cause debilitating headaches and vision loss, requires frequent trips to the doctor. She is academically ambitious, with aspirations of becoming a forensic psychologist if she doesn’t make it as a professional dancer.

Still, Lizzy’s great-aunt does worry about her, and not without reason. Online fame can be disruptive to teens, according to Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. In the real world, their peers may be jealous or competitive, leading to friction at school or in social settings ― exactly the scenario playing out in Lizzy’s life.

“Our kids are already growing up more public than we were, and few of us are really equipped to guide our kids through that experience,” Heitner said.

Once kids experience a certain level of internet celebrity, they may obsess over their number of followers or likes as a way of quantifying their importance in the world.

Lizzy said she pays pretty close attention to her follower count, checking every day. She went from fewer than a thousand followers on Instagram to more than 92,000, but nowadays, the number has leveled off. The notifications have slowed down. That’s fine with her, she said, though she would still like to break the 100,000 mark.

Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, a pediatrician and digital media expert, said social media fame does not necessarily have a negative impact as long as kids are able to balance their time online and offline. “The goal is not to be famous in a virtual world, but just to live your life as an authentic teenager,” she said. “Remember that some parts of your life you can keep private.”

On Saturday, Lizzy stood in the back of a fitness studio in the basement of Athleta, a sportswear store in Manhattan. She wore Adidas sneakers and a royal blue dress, and she was nervous. The Camaraderie NYC, a social and empowerment group for women, had paid for her to travel to the city to tell her inspirational story, and now there were about 45 women eagerly waiting for her to talk.

Jane Taylor, founder of The Camaraderie, said she’d invited Lizzy to speak after being moved by her fearlessness. Her group is always looking for “extraordinary people who do extraordinary things, and they may not even know it,” she said.

Lizzy began talking, and the women sat on the floor and listened. She talked about her favorite dancers, her trouble finding cute and good-quality leotards in her size, and the amazing letter she got from Misty Copeland, in which the prima ballerina told Lizzy never to let others define her. Then, she opened up about the jealousy and bullying she had experienced. The worst part of her new internet fame was losing friends in real life, she admitted.

“I have like two friends left,” she said. “Everyone else dropped me.”

Taylor asked if anyone in the room had any advice on how to deal with jealousy.

One woman said you only really need one friend. Another reminded her how temporary the high school years are. Monica Parikh, a 45-year-old attorney, told Lizzy that she’d also been bullied as a kid for being different.

“You are building a ton of strength and character by going through this at such an early age,” she said. “My guess is that all those people who are bullying you one day are going to look back, and they are going to be in the same spot they are today ― and you will have just shot up like a meteor.”

The crowd murmured in agreement and Lizzy smiled. It was just what she needed to hear.

So far, Lizzy told HuffPost, her newfound fame has had more upsides than down. Even though she’s struggled with kids in her hometown, she is hopeful about the opportunities opening up to her. She will be appearing in an ad campaign for a clothing company soon, though she wasn’t at liberty to reveal the brand’s name.

All she really wants is for people to stop assuming things about her, she said. Don’t assume she isn’t trying to lose weight (she is), or that she wants to be a ballerina (she prefers contemporary and tap).

Like all teens, she hates being misunderstood.

“You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me,” she said. “You just saw a video of me dancing and you are making all these assumptions about my life.”


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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‘A River Below’ Shows The Media’s True Influence On Environmental Activism

You would think showcasing the violent killing of an Amazon pink river dolphin on national television would help put at end to the pain inflicted on this endangered species. But using the media in an age where truth is a relative term is not always wise for environmental activists. 

The new documentary by Mark Grieco, “A River Below,” which debuted at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, explores that concept while shining a light on these dolphins that are being hunted to extinction. Because they are docile and easy to catch, pink river dolphins are being killed and used as bait for scavenger fish, which is how earn local fisherman much of their money. But as “A River Below” presents, activists are trying everything they can to stop the cruelty ― although it’s never that simple. 

The film follows two men in particular: Richard Rasmussen, a reality TV star in Brazil known as the “Brazilian Steve Irwin,” and Dr. Fernando Trujillo, the world’s most noted expert on river dolphins and a preeminent environmental scientist. Can they truly help to prevent the extinction of this animal when there’s so much more going on under those murky waters of the Amazon River? 

Below, director Grieco talks to HuffPost about his poignant documentary and how we, as human beings, are making matters worse for the environment around us. 

What made you want to uncover what’s going on with the pink river dolphins in the Amazon? 
When I was first approached with the idea of making a film about the dolphins in
danger, I felt apprehensive about it becoming a “Save the Dolphin!”
documentary. But after meeting Fernando Trujillo, one of the film’s main
characters and an incredibly dedicated scientist and conservationist, I was
hooked and began to dig deeper to find more to the story. I found that many
indigenous groups in the Amazon have a similar myth about the dolphin as a
shape-shifting, trickster figure that breaches the water’s surface dressed as a
man to seduce a young woman. This is what the film is about: nothing is what it
seems and when faced with the desperation to save this creature, our characters transform and do the unexpected.

Was this topic always of interest to you? How did you discover what was
I’ve traveled to the Amazon several times before this project and always wanted
to capture its grandeur and complexity in a film. I had no idea the dolphin was
threatened to the point of near extinction before meeting Fernando. He really was my guide to understanding the problem in a nuanced and comprehensive way. The larger issue of animal extinction and our role in it is something important to me. One of the most pressing issues of our time is that human activity is causing another great mass species extinction on Earth — that we live in the so-called “Anthropocene Extinction Era” — a time when the rate of extinction is somewhere between 100 to 1000 times the historically typical or “base” rate. Much of this is caused by deforestation, pollution, and the depletion of plant and animal resources for human consumption. In the Amazon basin and rainforest, one of the planet’s most biodiverse regions, the problem is potentially disastrous.

How did you go about getting the two activists, Fernando Trujillo and
Richard Rasmussen, involved? 
Fernando, like I said, was really the way into the story so he was there from the
beginning. When we started filming however, we discovered that so much of the
story was in Brazil. After digging around, we uncovered this brutal dolphin killing
video and its overnight success to change the law in Brazil. My immediate
reaction was to question how it was captured, where, and by whom. All roads led to Richard.

We are at a crossroads, which is said ad nauseam, but it obviously cannot be said enough because our leaders are not paying attention or perhaps are being paid to not pay attention. How else could a woefully ignorant message be perpetuated?
Mark Grieco, director of “A River Below”

What did you learn from the experience of directing this film?
My previous film, “Marmato,” changed my life, but also taught me one important
rule for documentary filmmaking: forget what film you want to make and listen to the voices whispering off-camera. I started with that same approach and it
steered us towards one of the most unbelievable stories and characters I’ve had
the chance to tell. It is also dovetailed perfectly with my own concerns with the
truth in images, media influence and distortion, performance for the camera, and my role in all of this as a documentary filmmaker. For me, every film is, in some way, a deeply personal yet momentary reflection of your self. You’ll never know exactly what you’re doing, so just commit relentlessly.

Does it make you nervous that some leaders of the world are not giving
notice to the environment, animals and climate change? 
It doesn’t make me nervous, it makes me angry. This is why I can completely
identify with the conviction of our main characters. Their actions are questionable and extreme because nothing substantial is being done. We are at a crossroads, which is said ad nauseam, but it obviously cannot be said enough because our leaders are not paying attention or perhaps are being paid to not pay attention. How else could a woefully ignorant message be perpetuated? My hope is not to give an answer to this one specific problem, but rather for the audience to recognize the messiness of it all, reflect on themselves, and question what we’re willing to do in the face of such immediate problems.

How can we impact change and protect these dolphins from future
I don’t have the answers, but after all this, it seems clear to me that the simple
answer is that it’s a very difficult solution. We have created systemic destruction, so we need systemic repair — a holistic approach. For me, environmental and ecological conservation is ultimately an act to save ourselves.

What inspires you as a documentary filmmaker? What’s your goal? 
To find the unexpected angle and story without ever preaching to the choir. My
hope is always to challenge the viewer because that is what I’m doing to myself
in the process of making my films.

“A River Below” screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. 

Welcome to Battleground, where art and activism meet.

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