The violence escalated and spread through downtown as footage of the Denny beating was broadcast by TV news helicopter crews hovering overhead. Over the next four days, 55 people were killed, more then 2,300 injured and an estimated $1 billion in property looted or destroyed. “Rodney King,” says longtime African-American activist Danny Bakewell, “was merely really the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Bakewell and others say King was the symbol of the two cultures that had historically co-existed in Los Angeles and of the increasingly noticeable inequalities in virtually every aspect of life – inequalities that suddenly could be documented on videotape and evoke human rage when shown over and over again in the new age of the technological revolution. “The biggest problem we had,” says Bakewell, who today is the publisher and editor of The Sentinel, the city’s largest African-American newspaper, “was how do you lock down the rage so that the community is not completely annihilated in terms of all the burning and the looting?” The answers did not come easily. The immediate solutions proved wrong. As Montana Daniels rolls out of his tricked-out, cherry-red Chevy pickup watching a hypnotic Flii Stylz hip-hop video on his laptop, it is his white T-shirt that grabs the eye as he arrives at his uncle’s South Los Angeles home. A large photograph of the street sign of Los Angeles’ notorious Florence and Normandie intersection unfurls on his shirt front, along with a line asking, “Where U At?” “I’m here,” says Daniels, a production assistant for Michael Kahn, the director of the music video that celebrates the post-riot African-American life, which has become synonymous in pop culture with Florence and Normandie. Kahn’s video was shot on West 71st Street, just a block from the intersection that became known as the flash point of the Los Angeles Riots. There, on April 29, 1992, white trucker Reginald Denny was attacked and beaten by a mob of African-Americans angered by the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. Corporations pledged $500 million to Rebuild L.A., which was created to help the riot-torn areas recover but which actually spent much of the money elsewhere, according to records archived at Loyola Marymount University. The Los Angeles Community Development Bank, the other major public-private partnership formed to resurrect riot-torn South Los Angeles, is also history – mired by bad or questionable loans and, according to one report, having seen only 11 percent of the jobs it created going to the people it was supposed to serve. “All those well-intentioned programs were doomed from the start,” says John Bryant, founder and board chairman of Operation Hope, the nation’s first nonprofit investment banking organization, which was born within days of the riots. What has resurrected South Los Angeles, say Bakewell, Bryant and other business leaders of the area, has been good old-fashion capitalism. Last Monday, Operation Hope unveiled the rebuilt South L.A. to a half-dozen busloads of bankers and other businessmen. Their caravan of buses, with former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young aboard, toured parts of the city – the intersections of Slauson and Crenshaw, Slauson and Western, Slauson and Vermont and up and down Crenshaw – streets that in the aftermath of the riots resembled bombed-out war zones patrolled by the National Guard, the Army and the Marines. “Billions of dollars have been invested in our community,” Bryant says. “You look on Crenshaw Boulevard, not one implosion of an investment. “These investments haven’t been just black, or Latino, or white or Asian because the color of money isn’t black or white or brown. The color of money is green. “The real success story here, 15 years later, is the state of mind of the community has changed: Being a victim is so yesterday. Someone finally realized: economics. When we see something we don’t like, we used to picket it. Now we buy it.” Indeed, more than 80 percent of the buildings that burned in the riots have been replaced with supermarkets, pharmacies, auto parts stores and fast-food restaurants – but poverty and crime persist. Today, the average annual paycheck for residents in South L.A. is less than $30,000, compared with more than $40,000 countywide, a larger gap than existed just before the riots. Unemployment in South L.A. is at 25 percent, more than three times the statewide average, and South L.A. has seen the number of jobs drop 45 percent since 1992. “We live in a paradox,” says City Council President Eric Garcetti. “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.” Fifteen years after the fact, it may be that the legacy of the 1992 riots – the worst in U.S. history – has been that South Los Angeles is forever changed, its role as an African-American bastion evaporating much as Boyle Heights on the city’s Eastside once had been the focal point of Jewish social and community life. Ironically, Florence and Normandie, the flash point of black wrath in the riots, has become a microcosm of what amounts to black flight from the area, which has become increasingly Latino – with Daniels, 26, among the few who have stayed. “My grandmother has been here since ’69. This here is home,” says Daniels, who has lived his entire life in the house on West 71st Street. “Stability is the best thing. Nothing could tear me away.” But even Daniels and his family acknowledge that the neighborhood around Florence and Normandie is undergoing a Latino gentrification, with the single-family homes being bought up by middle- and upper-middle-class Latinos. Across the street from the Tate home on 71st Street, a remodeled four-bedroom house is on the market for $490,000. On 69th Street, the two-bedroom house recently sold for close to that price. “I would say that all the families moving in on the street, buying homes, are all Hispanics,” said Locke High School music instructor Joshua Jimenez, who lives on 71st Street in the home that his father, producer Benito Jimenez, bought five years ago. The Florence-Normandie neighborhood was more than 90 percent African-American in 1992 but just 29 percent black by the 2000 Census – and is projected as less than 25 percent today. Hispanics represented 68 percent of the neighborhood’s population in 2000 and today are believed to be more than 75 percent. The surrounding 8th Council District was only a fraction over 50 percent African-American in 2000, when two of three South Los Angeles council districts – which have been black strongholds for almost half a century – were already overwhelmingly Latino. In 2003, the City Council, hoping to blur collective memories of violence and blight, changed the area’s official name from South Central to South Los Angeles. Meanwhile, African-Americans have been making their own migration to nearby Inglewood or, like Bobby Green – the black trucker who with three others rescued Denny from the mob – to the newer, eastern suburbs of Southern California. “It’s a new South Los Angeles,” says Jimenez, whose family occasionally throws block parties where his family’s band plays salsa and the air is filled with the distinct smells of spicy Mexican food. “The Florence-Normandie area has a history of violence and racial strife, but that’s changing, too. “And it’s not just Hispanics who are changing it. There are still African-Americans who live here, and we have a white family or two that you’ll be surprised to find. “We’re all getting along.” Dollars welcome Black flight South Central gone firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3761160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!