For the tens of thousands of Los Angeles residents physically, emotionally or economically crippled by the 1992 riots, the scars may never fully heal. But if the turnout at a second anniversary church service was any indication, life, for better or worse, has begun to return to normal.
Fifteen African American and Korean American pastors, 10 journalists and nine members of the public showed up at the First Bible Church of Los Angeles Friday for a riot commemoration service sponsored by the African American/Korean American Christian Alliance.
On April 29 last year, about 200 people attended a first anniversary service held by the same group of church leaders, who have distributed college scholarships and made joint trips to Seoul with the assistance of a $100,000 grant from the Council of Korean Christian Leaders in South Korea.
“People are starting to put the unrest behind them,” said Rev. Robert Habersham of Wesley United Methodist Church after the noon prayer meeting. “Although, unfortunately, it’s not the people in church who are the problem. It’s the people in the streets that we need to reach.”
During the one-hour service, in which hymns were sung in Korean and English, pastors commenting on the impact of the riots invoked the statements and actions of world leaders ranging from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela to Richard Nixon.
King and Mandela, the head of South Africa’s African National Congress, have proved that an individual’s vision can have a profound impact, said Pastor Peter Kim of the Young Nak Presbyterian Church. “One man can change the face of the Earth,” he said in his sermon. “Each one of us can make Los Angeles a different place.”
Nixon was cited for his reflections on hatred. Paraphrasing the farewell address the late President gave upon resigning from office in 1974, Pastor Paul Kang said: “We need to always remember that those who hate us don’t win, unless we hate them--and then we destroy themselves.”
The service, at a small Korean American church in South-Central Los Angeles, was one of several events scheduled to commemorate the second anniversary of the riots. Others included the opening of a wholesale grocery to serve inner-city mom-and-pop convenience stores and an appearance by Deputy Police Chief Mark Kroeker before the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.
Also Friday, businessman Peter V. Ueberroth, who served as the first head of the riot recovery agency Rebuild L.A. before resigning last year, was honored at a luncheon sponsored by business leaders of another ethnic group: the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce.