Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles

By Gaye Theresa Johnson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Space, Sound, and Shared
Struggles

“Get Up” is still a beautiful idea.
—Chuck D1

Articulating spatial entitlements does more than just claim particular discursive and physical spaces. It also enables disaffected groups to reveal the history and effects of long-term racial and economic discrimination on their communities. Articulating a right to visibility and mobility (in physical places) and demanding recognition and respect (in discursive spaces) addresses and redresses the injuries enacted by systemic spatial isolation and racism. Public demands for dignity and respect by people meant to be contained or invisible (such as low-income communities or undocumented immigrants) constitute more than just a demand for specific concessions and reforms. They also identify and contest spatial structures of racial exclusion. They create an alternative narrative to official histories of cities, spaces, and places by exposing and opposing the mechanisms of raced and gendered containment. They project new visions of justice and democracy that take up space, figuratively and literally. By inflecting familiar places and spaces with new meanings, these visions tap into popular memories of particular places to reconfigure them as geographies of democracy. The generation of new understandings of place and space constitutes an archive of community information encoded in popular expression.

In his prophetic speech on April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., urged striking Memphis sanitation workers to keep their focus on what

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