Voices from an uprising

Portraits from Los Angeles’ Black Lives Matter demonstrations.


“I came because it’s a bigger purpose, especially for this generation now. I’m an older person. … This has been going on for a long time, and it’s about time to change. The only way that change can be brought forth is not through violence, but uniting and coming together to stand for a purpose.” Edward, Lubbock, Texas


“It’s really horrible how African American people are treated. And as a white woman, it’s kind of awful that I can come to things like this and not be worried that something’s going to happen to me, and I can be pulled over, and not worry that something’s going to happen to me.”  Kim, Los Feliz


“As I was walking with the crowd, people were smiling, saying I was playing the right music. I felt good. I stayed there the whole night.” Wilkens, Echo Park


“I’m supporting Black Lives Matter and here with union leaders and supporting the cause. I’m glad I did.” Yancy, Downtown LA


“The goal isn’t to live forever, but to create something that will.” Soulaire, Hollywood


“I’m here for my siblings, my family, other Black men, our future generation and my children — if I ever have children — you know, people in general.” Layah, Willowbrook


“I’ve been a revolutionary singer-songwriter for over 20 years now, and this is everything that I’ve been speaking about forever.”  Jhavoice, Sherman Oaks


“Seeing all the police brutality … I see a lot of abuse of authority, you know. And I feel like everyone has a voice, and when we all come together, it makes a stronger community … a louder voice.”  
Mandi, Rosemead


“I’ve been a victim of it. I’ve been a victim of police harassment just because of my skin color. I feel him (George Floyd). I might not feel as much pain as he did, but I feel him on his level.”  Tim, Gardena


“I have a son, and African American men are targets.”  Nandi and Christopher, Rancho Cucamonga


“I’m here to fight for justice. We’re better in numbers; we’re more powerful in numbers. And we ain’t got nothing but time, so we’re here to fight for justice for the many people that have been lost at the hands of police brutality and violence.”  Kristen, Mid City


“When I seen that officer had his knee in his back and would not release him … I’m not going to lie, I cried. That was hurtful to see any human being with an officer with his knee on his neck! So that’s why I’m here … to protest. And because Black lives matter.” Joyce, South Central


“I’ve been choked to the point where I passed out. I started an organization called ‘I Can’t Breathe’ after I was choked by a security officer — for nothing.”  Brother Wayne, Altadena


“Anguish. I didn’t really want to come out, and then I felt guilty as the days proceeded on, and I watched on television. And I felt like my voice needs to be heard, even though for many years my voice never counted, never meant anything. My tears never counted.” Sherry (Cocoa), Downtown LA


“I’ve been going to protests a lot to learn. I want to contribute to the community.”  Eddie, Downtown LA


“Women of my generation raised those millennials, and we raised them to do this. We’re so happy they’re finally out here.” Bonnie, Mid Wilshire


“Equality. I want equality.” Dom, North Hollywood


“I was one of the first people who went to an establishment in Memphis in 1968 to integrate. It was a Thursday. I came to protest because it was beating on my heart so strongly. Being involved in the 1960s, and now in 2020.” Percy, South LA


“I am a Black woman, and we need to stand for justice and Black lives.”  Carlyn, Los Angeles


“I was there when Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis. Yeah, I was there. The times are changing, and this is a sign that people are sick of this racism. People are created equal, and this is about time for people who want to be superior, they have to come down to earth and realize the time for that is over.”  Charles, Downtown LA


“It’s about time. It’s about time.”  Bryan, Marina Del Rey


“I’m here for the protest, because being a descendant from the African American community, we have to fight for our Black civil and constitutional rights here in the city and the county of Los Angeles.”  Gerald, Century City


“I saw videos online on Instagram and wanted to see in real life what it was like.”  Armani, Lynwood


I am here fighting for my life and future children.  Skye, Los Angeles


Stephanie Mei-Ling is a Taiwanese/Black American documentary photographer based between Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Through her work she explores such layered issues as the complexity of intersectional identity; elevating the narrative of invisible communities; society’s fetishization of marginalized subcultures; the universality of otherness through a global lens; and the appropriation, re-appropriation and reclaiming of cultural narratives. Follow her on Instagram. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

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