Like most people, I have been watching incredulously at the police brutality in the USA, the ensuing justified protests from Black Lives Matter, and all kinds of splinter groups, and orchestrated attacks from both right and left. I have no answers or real clear thoughts, just disbelief, but also an understanding and of course a feeling of inevitability. I have always believed in actions and energy, cause and effect. A few days before it started, about two days before, I sensed there was a tipping point about to come. Somehow a knowing that if you keep people suppressed, that the pot will boil over. It was more in relation to lockdown and the feeling of repression I was getting and knowing it was not just me; that it was worldwide.
I used to live in Los Angeles. I was privileged. I used my white privilege, which I didn’t even think about back then and moved there to work for a start-up magazine, which I then left and started up my own small business as a muralist and specialist decorator. In London I had been in a beautiful relationship with a Mauritian man. In London mixed heritage relationships were very common, and unremarkable even. Reza and I were obsessed with soul music. Even though we had parted, it was amicable and loving, and when I got to L.A. I found a soul station on the radio and listened to it every day. Pretty soon, someone asked me why I was listening to a ‘black music station’. I used to smoke menthol cigarettes. Someone told me they were ‘black cigarettes’. Where I had been living in London, between Camberwell and Brixton, on Coldharbour Lane, was a very mixed black, Asian and white neighbourhood. In L.A. I was living in West Hollywood, which was almost exclusively white. My social life was a hipster bohemian mix of musicians, artists, actors, and people in the film industry. It was exclusively ethnically white. In London I had had a mixture of friends of different races. I soon learned that in L.A. races didn’t mix. I worked as a specialist decorator in the building and film industry in L.A. and Las Vegas and often I would work with Hispanic people and occasionally people of colour. I had one friend Emy Sol, a Mexican former beauty queen who looked like Bianca Jagger and lots of New York Jewish friends.
In ’92 there were the Rodney King riots. They happened because someone had filmed Rodney King being beaten by LAPD and then the cops were acquitted. I was returning from a couple of weeks working in Las Vegas. I was driving through the desert, and nearing L.A. after a very long drive I got out of the car at a 7 11 to call my boyfriend from a payphone. I sensed an air of unease and people were milling about outside and there was a menacing air. I called Todd and he said, ‘Where are you? Right, put the phone down, get back into the car and drive home now.’ I didn’t wait for an explanation, but did as I was told. As I drove into L.A. there were fires burning on either side of the freeway, the freeway was above the fires, so I drove over and above them. I turned on the radio and found out what was going on. I had been listening to music tapes the whole time. I got home. We smoked cigarettes on the porch and went to bed. The next day a curfew was imposed. We stayed at home. We lived in Venice beach and it was quite a multicultural area. We only lived a few blocks from ‘crack Venice’ and would often hear gun shots at night. After a few days of the curfew, we went to the cash point to take out some cash, and we were the only people walking. A black man was standing in the middle of the road and said to my boyfriend ‘It’s doomsday for you, brother’. We decided to leave L.A. and drive to northern California, (white privilege in action.) From the car rental place I could see many plumes of smoke rising from the horizon of the cityscape.
We drove up to Pismo Beach. I don’t remember much about it, but just this surreal feeling of sitting on the beach eating ice cream while in L.A. fires were burning.
I have been listening to Leonard Cohen’s album ‘The Future’. He must have been a prophet. Anthem forever astounds me, and is kind of cathartic, dark and light, hopeful and hopeless at the same time. But the optimist in me, believes the inner knowing within this song, that the light is still there, and the anger is righteous. ‘Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’.