August 144 Hours

(Hail the 50th Anniversary of The Heroic L.A. Uprising!)

1. Looting

“I’m gonna loot ‘til the midnight hour
That’s when the gates come tumblin’ down
I’m gonna loot ‘til the midnight hour
When there’s no guardsmen around…”

I kicked off that martial law, off-the-dome
version of ‘Wicked’ Pickett’s dance floor-
filler and Son-Hawk, Ches-Schu, Ron Shaw,
‘Pookie,’ Jimmy and Jerome came in, Right
On Time, as though we’d rehearsed it, all of
our lives…

Our greeting to hoarse engines, huge tires,
of giant army green trucks bristling with
rifles, loaded with blue eyes and itchy trigger
fingers. Rumbling east, it headed down 79th Street,
toward Central Avenue—“The Stem,” as Bunchy
Carter used to call it.

Sitting on wooden milk crates, snacking on cup
cakes, chocolate milk and chips, holding court
as we usually did, we weren’t gonna “loot‘til
the midnight hour…” Brothers had jobs, working
There at the Chinese-owned Family Market.

But belly fires set by the Frye Bros. and their
Mother on the 1-1-6 and Avalon wouldn’t let
us sit silently, saying nothing— if we did nothing
but taunt the pale, alien army occupying our streets,
Disturbing our peace!

Really, we felt like Original Guardsman of ‘The City
of Angels—’ Chumash, Tataviam, Tongva, Serrano—
felt about marauding mass murderers, looters, disguised
Disturbing their peace!

The ‘City of Angels’ first inhabitants didn’t
believe in devils and evil spirits, until Spanish
missionaries and settlers arrived with ‘thug life.’
Natives didn’t connect murder and manhood.
Endurance trials, fasting, teaching legends of
the world’s origin, hallucinogenic rituals, were
ways elders built boyz to

Medicine people, spiritual people, gathering in
Circles making decisions, saw sacredness in sweet
Air, crystalline water; knew the penalty for taking
too many deer, sheep, fish, mountain goat and rabbit.
They knew nothing of incest, murder, robbery and rape
and had no chiefs named Parker, Davis, Gates, Bratton,

There’s no psychic statue of limitation for looting land,
Lives, lineage of Serrano, Tongva, Tataviam, Chumash
‘Thug life’ missionaries of expropriation, assimilation,
relocation, reservation and extermination, wiped out 90%
of First peoples. Show us mass graves, where the bodies

2. Shooting

Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop Thew-thew-thew-thew-
thew-thew-thew Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud
Coming quickly after trigger-happy, young occupiers’ English
Checkpoint, curfew commands…Mexican drivers, habla Espanol;
volley after volley at volley after volley, at volley, anything moving
Bees piercing walls, farting clouds of fine white dust; buzzing
Lethal lead lullabies to my six-year-old sister and mom, trapped
all day, all night, on their dentist’s floor off 103rd St., the Heart of

Down on the ground, Mom and Penny saw much, heard all…
The 8-year-old Watts veteran visited aunts, uncles, cousins for
Summer vacation—two years later. Entering their city from
Metro Airport, Uncle James, pre-Marvin, posed the question:
“What’s Goin’ On?” Penny explained: Motown was “Dancing
In The Streets,” like she’d seen L.A. dance, two years earlier….

While Mom and Penny dodged lead fillings from National Guards,
Dad and I bonded, “Come on, boy,” gruff style, grunting, motioning,
We hiked from the front yard of 730 East 81st Street, pink stucco three-
bedroom we called home. Heading northeast for the 70s, we hit 77th and
Central Avenue—White Front—Wal-Mart-Costco cross of the times

festive energy flowing from the crowd like black pepper, garlic, onion
smells telegraphing good cooking. Mostly reminded me of when Ali
Stood his ground whipping Liston in Florida—maybe, even a wee bit like
when enslaved Africans heard about the Emancipation Proclamation!

steel gates and doors shimmied, wrenched, buckled and broke. Families
emerged elated! Carrying couches, stoves, washing machines, pushing
vacuum cleaners— no money down, no money ever— for overpriced
furniture and appliances, Liberation Shopping— based on need—not
‘Black’ Friday frenzies of overnight camper-zombies, lusting for latest
slave labor products
We sampled soulful, savory democracy, sweet hints of collectivity,
watching organized young men slip like specters through steel gates
and doors liberating guns, before exiting, making way for the masses

Peoples joy chiseled smiles in my dad’s heart, unmasking contours I’d
Never noticed. Truly a crazy glue moment bonding us for the rest of our
Lives… I was proud of him, like I was proud of his work:
Like men on 81st, my dad worked. Worked hard. Outside hammering,
Sawing, sanding cabinets; inside small hours, listening to 105.1 FM Jazz,
Magi birthing blueprints, running the drafting table like a
pool shark on Green felt for new jobs; Bel-Air bar, Beverly Hills office,
Hollywood kitchen…
scribbling my lil’ sloppy thoughts in ragged notebooks, I’d sometimes join
Him, nights I couldn’t sleep

“Burn, baby, burn,” came crescendo cries, unifying calls and responses, from
the white van—a van we’d see speeding around several times that night!
Magnificent Montague’s lick, he’d shouted it for years over KGFJ airwaves at
Hot music of The Ice Man, Curtis, comin’ out of Chitown; The Funk Brothers,
Stevie, Smokey out of Motown; Booker T & The MGs, Sam & Dave, The Big O
out of Memphis— a time when Great Black Music justified: “Burn, baby, burn!”

That night “Burn, baby, burn” locked rhythms of resistance with harmonies of
Heading back to 81st Street, Daddy decided we’d walk west to Avalon.
Gus’s burger/pastrami stand: OK; Virgil & Atkins’ state of the art Tonsorial:
OK; but, a crowd ballooned ‘round the Stein Brothers—Ted and Alan’s—
Liquor store. a navy blue valiant roared up from hell. Four, white- helmeted,
shotgun-toting, devils leaped out barking epithets and jacking rounds into WMD.

corralling bystanders, one snarling thug slammed my schoolmate, Eddie Rose,
AKA ‘Bulldog,’ through T & A’s Ponderosa plate glass window. Candy cane-
Thick shards of glass smashed into ‘Bulldog’s’ head like a guillotine, slicing
the Nile in his neck…

3. ”Just the facts, man”

We all know the facts, *34 dead, murdered mostly
by police and National Guard
1032 injured, mostly by police and National Guard
**3438 arrested,
$40 million property damage.
We all know the chain of events—the event of chains 1619—1965:
August 11, 1965 21-year-old Marquette Frye was DUI.
And here’s where beauty’s in the eye of the beholder:
Black angels with wide wings gathered in tens of thousands,
spitting out rot gut of 2nd class citizenship—
Speaking fluent Fanny Lou, in actions, “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired—“
of all the ‘routine’ bullshit harassment traffic stops, dumb-ass degrading, humiliating,
Three Stooges questions, corny B- Movie “you fit the description…” “A car like
yours…” throwaway lines, perverted frisks, planting dope and weapons, gratuitous
violence, stream of conscious ‘testi-lying,’ puttin’ cases on folks…

Not this Wednesday; not this 11th day of August; not this 65th year of the 20th century
This hump day will be the tipping point, critical mass
We control the horizontal, we control the vertical for 46 square miles

Not this Wednesday; not this 11th day of August; not this 65th year of the 20th century
We mount the world stage, sons of Malcolm, Mama Harriet’s daughters—not Slausons,
Businessmen, Gladiators, Farmers, ‘spooks,’ not niggers, or “monkeys in the zoo…”
mushroom clouds of Watts will never fit back in the bottle… Rivers of blood, oceans of tears have
Cleansed scales/washed sleep
from a
Generation of L.A. eyes…if only for 144 hours…

* 34 people were killed in the L.A. August 1965 rebellion; 5 were killed in 7 1964 uprisings in Rochester, Paterson, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Chicago, Philadelphia and NYC.
** 3,438 were arrested in L.A. August 1965. There were 1,116 arrests in the 7 rebellions of 1964.

Former forklift driver/warehouse worker/janitor, Raymond Nat Turner is a NYC poet; BAR's Poet-in-Residence; and founder/co-leader of the jazz-poetry ensemble UpSurge!NYC. Read other articles by Raymond Nat, or visit Raymond Nat's website.