Were The ‘90s L.A.’S Golden Age?

by Essence Moseley

On the 24th anniversary of the Rodney King Riots, we consider this through the lens of MOCA’S Don’t Look Back exhibition
Would the turmoil of ’90s—riots, earthquakes, and lack of diversity—be called L.A.’s “Golden Age?” Last night at the MOCA Museum, speaker Gregory Rodriguez introduced curator Helen Molesworth and four other professors and doctors to give a personal insight on this subject.

Pontificating on how rapidly the city had changed, it was agreed that L.A. had endured what most thought as impossible hardship, but as the years went by—towards the late ‘90s—there was a redeemable improvement. Each speaker gave an optimistic view of how what didn’t kill L.A. made it stronger and that’s what makes this city one-of- a-kind.

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In the early ‘90s Los Angeles went through a very dark period that was seen as hopeless. Jobs were statistically very scarce which resulted in one out of eight Los Angeles residents being unemployed during the late ‘80s to ’94. This resulted in a desperate boost of homelessness. In addition, horrific fires and the infamous ’94 Northridge earthquake had an enormous impact on the environment. Lastly—not to mention the racial tension from the Rodney King incident—with a series of unfortunate events taking place one after the other, many Los Angeles residents didn’t embrace hopefulness.

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L.A. was facing a crisis that needed imperative resolution. This was the beginning of a change for the city economically, culturally, and politically. New ideas for the economy were now discussed and have an instant and later benefit. This included better unions and new initiatives towards racial and ethnic diversity. L.A.’s transition was certainly shown through the city’s culture such as music, art, and general behavior. It seemed as if there would be light at the end of the tunnel. Musical lyrics, diverse artistry, and optimistic behavior wouldn’t have been more tangible and influential if it wasn’t for the hardship of L.A during the ‘90s. It has molded the city into a substantial cultural landmark. From L.A. with love, Helen Molesworth ended the lecture with a warm-hearted statement, “L.A. [through the] ‘90s has culture that no other city can ever possess."