On Monday, Netflix will debut A Love Song For Latasha, a short film by first-time filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison that explores what life could have been like for 15 year-old Latasha Harlins had she not been fatally shot by a Korean convenience store owner in Los Angeles in 1991.
Harlins was shot in the back of the head by Soon Ja Du, then a 51-year-old Korean woman who suspected Latasha was trying to steal a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. Security footage later confirmed that Latasha had money in her hand and intended to pay for the beverage and Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Though the jury recommended a 16-year prison stint, Du was sentenced to time served, five years probation, community service, funeral expenses and $500 restitution. Harlins’ killing and the trial outcome were factors that served as a catalyst for the unrest that erupted in Los Angeles in 1992 after the police who brutalized Rodney King were acquitted.
A Love Song For Latasha explores the teenager’s life and dreams through accounts from her family and friends. Watch the trailer below:
To quote from The Grio’s interview with director Allison:
“As an LA native, I’m really interested in what it means to interrogate and conjure and excavate stories of the community and stories of Black women and Black girls,” Allison told theGrio exclusively.
“Being a young girl during the riots, Latasha wasn’t a name I often heard. It was always Rodney King. It’s still a story people don’t talk about and her name is often forgotten. She played such an important and devastating role in that shift that happened in South Central and I wanted to see her story live in its fullness.”
Tupac Shakur immortalized Latasha’s story in several of his hits, including “Keep Ya Head Up,” which he dedicated to the slain teen. He referenced her in other tracks like “Something 2 Die 4,” “Thugz Mansion,” and “I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto” and Ice Cube included a song about her on his album, Death Certificate, entitled ”Black Korea.”
“Latasha could have been a family member, or one of my friends. Latasha could have been me,” said Allison. “I wanted to make sure this archive, this story, and this memory existed for Latasha and that there was this evidence of her outside of just the trauma. Her story needed to exist beyond what we have seen.”
Director and Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) also devoted a section of his 2017 documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 to Harlins, her tragic killing and the relative lack of justice her killer faced. Let It Fall can also be found on Netflix.
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