Cornerstone Theater Company


Jordan Downs Transformation by the Decade-1990’s

Tomorrow is the big day! A Jordan Downs Illumination opens for previews tomorrow at 8pm. Opening night is Saturday and is already sold out, but other performance dates are still available. Check them out on here.

When people think about the 90’s in Los Angeles, several significant moments come to mind.

In 1991, Rodney King was pulled over and brutally beat by 4 police officers. The incident was recorded and sent to the local news station. A year later, a jury acquitted the police officers. When the verdict was announced, people took to the streets in outrage. In a pre-social media world, people were shocked that police could get away with violence that they had seen with their own eyes. The 1992 uprising was widely reported. Images of violence and unrest flashed across televisions screens all across America.

This event dominated the news cycle.

Initially, city officials and the media blamed gangs for the chaos. But they didn’t realize that something monumental had happened the day before the riots broke out.

During the 80s, the economy was in a downturn. Unemployment was extremely high and the federal government had gutted funding for public housing. Gangs and drugs had flooded the streets of South LA.

In 1992, the community, once again, decided to take matters into their own hands.

Edward James Olmos helps clean up.

Black and Latino gang members from Jordan Downs, Imperial Courts and Nickerson Gardens came together and agreed on a ceasefire. Anthony Perry dug up the 1949 Armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel and hand copied it, translating diplomatic terms into street terms. Former gang member and Jordan Downs resident Aqeela Sherrills helped coordinate the efforts along with his brother Daude.

Aqeela Sherrills

Hip-hop stars like Ice-T and athlete Jim Brown worked with gang members, negotiating and holding people accountable.

The terms of the agreement were negotiated at Masjid Al Rasul. Imam Mujahid Abdul-Karim provided a neutral ground, hosting the rival gangs and offering guidance.

The mosque where the treaty was signed.

It was a pivotal moment for Jordan Downs, Watts and the City of Los Angeles. When gang members brought the treaty to LAPD, they were skeptical about the attempt. But it didn’t matter. The community was committed to change.

The Peace Treaty lasted for over a decade. The crime rate in Watts dropped 44% in the first two years.

The residents of Jordan Downs felt safe in their own neighborhood once again.

The LA uprising of 1992 caused almost a billion dollars in damage. Sick of being disenfranchised, Black families began to migrate outside of the city limits, making room for yet another change in the demographics of Jordan Downs.

There are neighborhoods like Jordan Downs all over the country. Sites of change, resistance, persistence and love. Like many places in America, Jordan Downs is on the precipice of one the greatest changes in its long history. In the spirit of commemorating Americas changing neighborhoods, tell us about a place you remember that has changed, or maybe isn’t even there anymore.

This blog series was created by Lindsay “LJ” Jenkins, A Jordan Downs Illumination Producing Associate. The material within these blogs was collected during the creation of A Jordan Downs Illumination premiering May 17-26, 2019 at the Jordan Downs Recreation Center in Watts. CLICK HERE to find out more and purchase tickets.