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June 20 2012

Operation HOPE Founder Memorializes the Passing of Rodney King


Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant expressed his sincerest and deepest regrets on the passing of embattered icon of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots,  Rodney King.

King, the black man who came to symbolize racial tensions in the United States, was found dead at his home on Sunday, June 16, 2012.  

The Rodney King riots and civil unrest unlocked a moment in history. Not only for one of America's most important cities, but for the nation as we whole.  It was a moment heard, seen and even felt all around the world.  What Rodney King chose to do with that moment, and that energy, could have changed everything in the days, weeks and even years that followed this tragic event. Worse still, when it appeared that justice would not be served following the first trial of the officers in question.

Fortunately for our world, Rodney King stepped forward and into the light, rather than backwards into the darkness that surrounded all of us at that time.  Luckily, for all of us, Rodney King publicly counseled calm for all in our city, and asked a question which would be etched in a nation's consciousness; "can we all just get along?"  That question opened the door to a future conversation, rather than past accusations.  That question helped to change everything.
Rainbows, after storms.  

In the years following the Rodney King Riots, a police department which was overwhelmingly mainstream in its composition, is today an active experiment in diversity.  Even its leadership has been transformed in the years since that day.  From former LAPD Chief Willie Williams and former Chief Bernard Parks, to former LAPD Commission President John Mack, who today still serves as vice president of the Commission, to Earl Paysinger, who today serves as assistant chief of police and is in charge of all police officers in the field, all represent a new sensitivity to the diverse and underserved communities they are sworn to protect and serve.

In a strange way, Rodney King also changed my life as well.  Because of what happened to him, the city changed, the Los Angeles Police Department changed, a community became actively engaged in its own redemption, and the now global organization I founded, Operation HOPE, was born.  

I am convinced that I would have never founded Operation HOPE, in its unique form, structure and approach, if it had not been for the unfortunate events of April 29th, 1992.

Rainbows after storms. You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.  May Rodney King's soul finally rest in peace.  He has done his individual part to advance our world. He will not be forgotten.