South Los Angeles Park To Be Named After Latasha Harlins 30 Years After She Was Gunned Down By Store Owner
A Netflix documentary covering the life of the teenager was recently nominated for an Oscar.
March 18, 2021 at 3:36 am
A community in South Los Angeles is renaming a local playground in honor of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl who was gunned down during an altercation at a liquor store in 1991.
The playground where Harlins spent most of her time as a teenager will be renamed the Latasha Harlins Playground next month, according to news station KTLA.
"First thing in the morning when she would come to my door, early in the morning she's like, 'You ready to go to the park?' This is where we would be," Tybie O'Bard, the slain teen’s childhood best friend, said.
David Bryant, Harlins’ uncle, added, "This is something that's long overdue and I think could be somewhat of a healing to the community."
On March 16, 1991, Harlins was fatally shot by a liquor store owner who alleged that the teen was stealing a bottle of orange juice, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a scuffle, store owner Soon Ja Du grabbed Latasha’s sweater. The girl then defended herself by punching Du, who retaliated by picking up a handgun and firing it at the 15-year-old’s head as she walked away.
The Times reported that surveillance video from the store captured the shooting, and police later confirmed that the teenager had not shoplifted.
Du did not receive jail time in connection to Harlins' death. Following the altercation, a jury found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter, but Judge Joyce A. Karlin gave the woman probation instead of ordering that she serve up to 16 years for the death of the young girl, according to the Times.
Following the liquor store shooting, as well as the release of the video recording of the LAPD’s attack on Rodney King just days before, the local Black community protested against the violence befalling their neighborhoods and its residents. The tensions surrounding the incidents eventually led to the infamous Los Angeles Riots, which took place following the officers' acquittal in the King case.
The announcement to rename the playground came just around the 30th anniversary of Harlins' killing. Community leaders say her death is still one of the city's darkest days.
On the 30th anniversary of her passing, we celebrate and honor the life of Latasha Harlins. pic.twitter.com/0vGQqjA2ZE
— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) March 16, 2021
“Before there was George Floyd before there was Breonna Taylor, there was Latasha Harlins,” community activist Najee Ali said during the park ceremony. “Her murder still is painful 30 years later. It was one of the most darkest days in the history of Black Los Angeles. But today is not a day of sadness, nor a day of mourning, today’s a celebration, it’s a day we remember Latasha. Say her name.”
Less than a week before the park’s unveiling, a short Netflix documentary about the teenager’s life called A Love Song to Latasha was nominated for an Oscar Award, per Yahoo! News.
The film’s director, Sophia Nahlie Allison, said the documentary represents reconciliation for Black women and the L.A. community.
"In the film, we do not use footage of her death, we're not focused on her death but really rebirthing the memory of who Latasha was," Allison revealed.
Earlier this year, a mural was dedicated to the 15-year-old at the Sutton Recreation Center, which is the same year she would have celebrated what would have been her 45th birthday. The mural features a poem written by the slain teenager, the Times reported.
"A young Black girl who had things that she wanted to accomplish. Somebody that, whether we knew it or not as children, was strong in our community," Harlins friend O'Bard said.