As a 22-year-old white kid from New Jersey fresh out of college, Mark Ford encountered the Los Angeles riots of April 1992 the way most Americans did — through journalist Bob Turr’s striking helicopter footage of the violence at Florence and Normandie avenues.
Turr’s impromptu narration as a white outsider literally looking down on South Central Los Angeles (“Terrible, terrible pictures!” and “Nobody’s helping him!”) shaped how many Americans initially viewed the searing images: A group of angry black residents pulled white truck driver Reginald Denny from his cab and beat him severely. Earlier that day, four white Los Angeles Police Department officers had been acquitted of all charges in the brutal 1991 beating of black motorist Rodney King.
Almost 20 years later, Ford has had the chance to answer that question in a new documentary he directed, “Uprising: Hip Hop and the L.A. Riots.” Narrated by rapper Snoop Dogg, the film premiering on VH1 on May 1 shows that hip-hop music in the 1980s had been sounding the alarm about poverty and police violence in South Central Los Angeles long before mainstream media outlets began taking notice.
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