Building Together: On Black & Asian Organizing in LA

In 2022, So Yun Um, a Korean American filmmaker, released her documentary Liquor Store Dreams. The film is an intimate portrait of two Korean American children of liquor store owners who set out to bridge generational divides with their immigrant parents and reckon with the legacy of the LA Uprisings.

The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising was a series of civil disturbances that occurred in LA in April and May 1992 after a jury acquitted four LAPD off icers charged with use of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King. The incident was caught on video and shown widely on TV broadcasts. South Central LA and Koreatown sitting just north of it were significantly damaged, with many Korean businesses affected by widespread theft, arson, and assault.

Although police violence and an unjust verdict were the catalysts of the uprisings, tension had already been growing from years of systematically stripping Black communities of resources, investment, and economic opportunity.

2022 marked the 30 year anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings. Thirty years later, and three years after the 2020 uprisings for Black lives, protests against racial violence and police brutality are ongoing.

At 18MR, we know how important it is for Asian Americans to do the internal work to reflect on our own complicity in economic and racial violence, while fighting for a world without prisons, policing and capitalism. We were able to sit with some brilliant organizers and people doing the work in LA. 18 Million Rising partnered with Liquor Store Dreams to host a discussion panel and created a resource guide. Our panel moderated by our own Organizing Director Sharmin Hossain included panelists Danny Park founder of Skid Row People’s Market’s, Church Without Walls’ Pastor Cue, and Liquor Store Dreams Director So Yun Um.

The ’92 LA Uprising brought issues of anti-Black racism, police brutality, and economic violence to light. Media attention during that time pitted Black and Korean communities against each other, playing up tensions. As we continue to fight for a world without prisons, policing, and capitalism, we’re also taking the time to reflect on our own complicity in racial and economic violence. In our resource guide we explore the 1992 LA Uprisings, some of the driving factors behind it, and the connected histories of Korean and Black Americans in Los Angeles. Click through here for a free digital download.

So Yun Um and Danny Park, owner of Skid Row People’s Market, are taking Liquor Store Dreams to private screenings, community events, and speaking engagements to change minds, heal from our histories, and build community. Their goals are to hold discussions on topics like combating anti-Blackness in Asian American communities, tackle difficult intergenerational conversations, and address generational divides between first and second generation immigrants.

Danny Park is a Korean community organizer running Skid Row People’s Market, a community based grocery store providing products and services that nourish the mind, body and soul, while uplifting the creative spirit. Their focuses are (1) healthy food access (2) equitable jobs and (3) strengthening community through co-creating safe and supportive environments.

Pastor Cue (Stephen Cue Jn-Marie) founded The Row LA – also called “The Church Without Walls” 13 years ago. The former Virgin Records rapper turned evangelist, activist and organizer, left the music business in 1994 to follow a religious calling. The Row congregation gathers every Friday night on the corner of 5th St and Wall in Downtown LA’s Skid Row, feeding people both spiritually and physically. Pastor Cue is also affiliated with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), The Black Jewish Alliance (BBJA) and the “We Will Live” coalition. Cue’s work includes helping to address unjust public policy issues in Los Angeles, as well as advocating for the rights of homeless people, immigrants, Muslims and countless other groups.

So Yun Um is a Korean American Director and Producer born and based in Los Angeles. Her directorial debut documentary feature film, LIQUOR STORE DREAMS, which is about second generation Korean American children of Liquor Store owners in the LA area, which made its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. Her work has screened at Tribeca Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, BFI London and more.

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