USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

May 3, 1992: Rev. Cecil Murray Preaches as the Fires of the L.A. Riots Burn

May 3, 1992: Rev. Cecil Murray Preaches as the Fires of the L.A. Riots Burn

May 3, 1992: Rev. Cecil Murray Preaches as the Fires of the L.A. Riots Burn

Over six days in late April and early May 1992, hundreds of fires burned in the heart of Los Angeles. The acquittal of police officers charged with using excessive force against Rodney King had sparked the L.A. Riots or L.A. Uprising, one of the most destructive episodes of urban violence in U.S. history. The unrest left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

On Sunday, May 3, 1992, the Rev. Cecil Murray addressed his congregation from the pulpit of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME). As the fires burned, the church had opened its doors to the community, media and officials, providing services and mediating between various entities.

Rev. Murray’s sermon in the midst of the civil unrest combines a brilliant critique of the structural inequalities that spawned the unrest with a humor-inflected balm for those in need of comfort and reassurance.

 

During his 27 years as the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods. After the 1992 civil unrest, FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the church, brought more than $400 million in investments to L.A.’s minority and low-income neighborhoods. Rev. Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.

The Murray Archive preserves Rev. Murray’s sermons and interviews in order to inspire the next generation of pastors, activists and scholars.

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