I was at a Florida Avenue bus stop in 1991, leaving Howard Universityâ€™s gospel choir rehearsal when the Mt.Pleasant riots broke out.Â Buses were being rerouted.Â Crowds could be heard collectively rumbling like the beginning of an avalanche. I knew we had to get out of there.Â Later I found out that a Black police officer had shot a drunk El Salvadoran man after a Cinco de Mayo celebration.Â Both the police and the Latino community offered stories and renditions ofÂ what happened and why.Â
London, Thursday, August 4th, Mark Duggan is shot and killed by Scotland Yard officers. Duggan was known by the officers to have dealings with gangs and other illegal activities, but Mr. Duggan had no history of violence.Â Buildings have burned, high-end stores and restaurants have closed down, and what started as a peaceful demonstration in the Tottenham neighborhood has diffused into a full blown riot.
In both these instances of riot, as with the riots that proceeded the assassination of Dr. M.L. King, the nationâ€™s youth were an integral component.Â Other pieces of the riot equation include high unemployment rates, increased expectations coupled with frustrated efforts, displacement, disintegration by way of gentrification, and last but not least: a trigger.Â Black cop shoots Latino.Â White man assassinates Dr. King.Â Scotland Yard officer guns down member of Black community.Â
Could we be heading towards a riot?Â The variables that conspired to ignite the fiery, out of control rioting going on in London and the surrounding area are comparable to what is happening in the DMV area.Â
According to the 1968 Manpower Report of the PresidentÂ issued by the Dept. of Labor, unemployment at that time for non-whites was twice that of whites and nonwhite teenage joblessness was called an â€œextremely serious problem.â€Â
Thanks to the Keating Five and the Savings and Loan Crisis, the year 1991, was also a time of recession and higher unemployment.
British austerity measures enacted in 2010,Â call for drastic spending cuts in public education, youth/social welfare programs, increases to sales tax and a pay freeze for public employees.Â
Any of this stuff sounding familiar?Â What happens if this area is â€œtriggeredâ€?Â Are we the new breading ground for a riot or have the senses of our youth been dulled by IPods, BET and MTV?Â Is there a riot in us anymore or are we just too preoccupied with making payments on time and remaining in good standing with whatever master weâ€™re serving that day?Â
Crime is happening further and further away from the home of the perpetrators.Â Frightened people in pretty neighborhoods are buying guns.Â Â Unemployment rates for Black youth is 39.2%; for Latino youth 36.2%; White youth 23%.Â This area faces impending federal and state government employee furloughs, government contractor layoffs, teacher layoffs, socio-economic gentrification, and high foreclosure rates.Â Our government representatives are driven by agendas and lobbyists; they squired away our countryâ€™s credibility.Â We have a Black President that raised our hopes and a country that has dashed them.
Iâ€™m sounding an alarm because I hear one going off.Â I feel a riot of some sort coming.Â We might need one.