Now the bus riders, including U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral and South African Education Minister Cameron Muir Dugmore, saw that troops have been replaced by salespeople from Home Depot, Radio Shack, Walgreens, Ralphs, Starbucks and other nationally recognized name-brand businesses that have given South L.A. the appearance, if not the complete reality, of having overcome its darkest days. “John, I think you said it best money is green,” said tour moderator D’Ann Morris of the Urban League, referring to one of Bryant’s earlier comments. “So when these investors started coming into these communities, they recognized that. They did their studies, studied density levels, the good incomes, and knew that people would come and shop in these stores, and they are reaping significant benefits.” The story repeated itself in neighborhood after neighborhood where damage had been inflicted during the riots, so much so that when the buses reached Inglewood, which suffered nowhere near the damage of South L.A, some of the riders had grown cabin-weary. Young, the former congressman-turned United Nations ambassador, was among them, with Bryant noticing that he had lost the attention of the keynoter of his event, who serves as Operation Hope’s global spokesman. “The ambassador is saying, `Look at that barbecue pit!”‘ Bryant joked about a visible fast-food restaurant. “And Louisiana Fried Chicken,” said Young, who turned 75 last month. “I’m just hungry.” He wasn’t kidding. Minutes later, as Bryant addressed the riders during a stop in a shopping mall parking lot, Young disappeared with followers into a Mexican food restaurant for tacos with the U.S. treasurer and the South African education minister. Young talked about the great tacos his wife makes. Universal tacos “How do you like yours?” asked Cabral, a second-generation Mexican-American from San Bernardino who was named treasurer in 2004. “I like mine soft. She likes hers crispy.” “Well, if you come visit us in South Africa,” said Dugmore, “we’ll try to make South African tacos for you.” For Bryant, the tour was a crowning achievement to date for what has been one of the post-riot success stories – marshaling a coalition of support for his nonprofit organization among clergy, school, business, civic and political leaders. He calls his group’s mission of educating people to financial literacy and empowerment a “silver rights movement.” “The Bankers Bus Tour,” Bryant said, “is not only a memorial for the riots that took place in South Central Los Angeles 15 years ago; it is a call to action for leaders around the world to take notice and take responsibility for the communities and people around them and to institute change through education.” Ultimately, however, the tour could not take away from the fact that the facades of rebuilt areas are not the entire story of the riots 15 years later – and that deep social issues remain unsolved in South L.A. “We live in a paradox,” City Council President Eric Garcetti told the welcoming crowd before the ride. “We have the lowest crime rate in 15 years, but our youth homicide rate has never fallen. We live in a paradox, with the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years in Los Angeles County, but South L.A. has fewer jobs today than it did 15 years ago. “But … we are more than the sum of our problems here in Los Angeles. We are the sum of our hope. We are the sum of our creativity, and we are the sum of the vision we embody 15 years after the riots.” [email protected] (818) 713-3761 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! With Andrew Young riding shotgun in the front seat of the lead bus, the caravan cutting swaths through South Los Angeles on Monday had the aura of a civil-rights march – and, in a sense, it was. Young, one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s principal lieutenants who was with King in Memphis when he was assassinated in 1968, was calling it the future phase of American civil rights. “We’re building a new vision – a new vision for Los Angeles and a new vision for America,” he told the busload getting a glimpse of parts of South L.A. burned in the 1992 riots and now risen dramatically from those ashes. “It’s all good. It’s all good.” But this was no caravan of buses carrying civil-rights activists. They were busloads of bankers in navy and gray business suits, civic leaders and financial wizards – many of them and their financial institutions responsible for the hundreds of millions of dollars invested into South Los Angeles renaissance. They were part of the annual Operation Hope Bankers Bus Tour, whose riders since 1992 have personally witnessed the aftermath, starting with devastation, after the April 29 acquittal that year of four white police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King. By the time the rioting and looting ended May 3, 1992, some 10,000 businesses had been destroyed by fire, 55 people were dead, and damage was estimated at more than $1 billion. “All this was devastated and rebuilt,” Operation Hope’s founder and chairman, John Bryant, told riders as they passed areas including the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, Slauson and Western avenues, Slauson and Vermont avenues and up and down Crenshaw. Once like war zones In the days after the violence began, those were parts of the city in which L.A. resembled a bombed-out war zone patrolled by the National Guard, the Army and the Marines.
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