25 Years Later: Race, Riots and Reform, Gallery 38, Los Angeles, 2017
I originally created this piece in 2012, when poor beleaguered Rodney King, the Everyman who never wanted notoriety or fame, just a little reckless fun with his buddies and a whole lot of quiet, finally, arguably, found peace at the bottom of his swimming pool. I’ve reworked this piece for this exhibition looking at causes, ramifications, and lingering debts and doubts from the events surrounding that sour-tasting Simi Valley courthouse where it was decided Rodney was too dangerous to be treated like a human being. We lived with Rodney for the intervening twenty years, those of us who never actually knew him – from the day the Zapruder film of his torture by nightstick made its grainy way onto the public stage, until the morning – a Father’s Day – that the news of his death reminded us that he was, or had been, still, uneasily around. He had the face of an Everyman: It’s easy to picture him as the UPS guy in shorts and shirtsleeves, the security guard nodding a silent greeting outside the 7-11, or the sports fan sharing grief or joy at Staples or the stadium. That Everyman quality only underscored the lawless brutality of Koon’s’ and Powell’s and Wind’s 56 baton blows. And every black and brown male, and everyone who could claim a black or brown male as a loved one, understood the message – a message underscored in the most face-slapping way by their Simi Valley jury. A lot of ugly and a lot of pain and a lot, but not enough, of listening has come and gone since those days. But Rodney’s quote carries wise weight: We should all be fools who believe in Peace.
About J. Michael Walker
American, Little Rock, AR, United States, based in Los Angeles, CA, United States