Latasha Harlins

18 Nov

I think I’m just doomed to swim around the topic of the LA riots until I’m old and sick of thinking about it, then I’ll think about it some more.

Today I’m stuck reading about Latasha Harlin’s murder by Soon Ja Du. The short of it is Latasha tried to buy some juice but store owner Soon Ja interpreted this as an attempted robbery. Soon Ja attacked Latasha then shot her. A court tried Soon Ja, found her guilty, but gave her no jail time. This all happened when I was nine-years-old so I was pretty clueless as to why the subsequent riots included destroying stores owned by Koreans, or why all my local businesses suddenly had big signs reading “Black Owned.”

Cluelessness a running theme in Los Angeles at the time. Most of my friends were Chicanos who didn’t know much about their heritage. Many of them listened to the local Power 106 radio station, they embraced a mixture of old world and new world machismo, but were clueless of the more queer aspects of Mexican culture (it took white people to teach me about Frida Kahlo, and her face contextualized the painted faces of cholas).

I mention Power 106 as a very central cultural thing. They played hip-hop non-stop, Tupac in particular. California Love was on repeat when I was a kid, but Power 106 lacked nuance. It was itself steeped in pop culture, only interested in pushing the image of hyper black and brown masculinity, only interested in selling that image to white suburbs. I don’t remember them playing this song by Tupac – Keep Ya Head Up

As you can see, it is dedicated to Latasha Harlin. It is an almost overly sensitive painful and emotional rap ballad. It doesn’t parse well with the image of the gangsta rapper. And I never really listened to it until today.

After the riots were over, Soon Ja’s store was burned to the ground.

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