Fidel Lopez and Bennie Newton met on the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992. The backdrop of their meeting was the eruption of the city after the acquittal of the LA police officers in the Rodney King incident. Anger boiled over into the streets. 100 fires were set as businesses and homes were looted and destroyed. Roving mobs attacked vehicles and dragged the occupants out of their cars and trucks.
That’s what happened to Fidel Lopez. His boss had given him almost $3000 to buy drywall and insulation for a project. His truck was surrounded and he was pulled into the street. As the Latino man was being pummeled, Newton, an African-American pastor of the Light of Love Church in South Central LA, pushed through the crowd. He covered Lopez with his own body and screamed at the mob, “Kill him and you have to kill me, too!”
The mob moved on. Newton tended to Lopez until he regained consciousness. Trying to summon an ambulance, the pastor realized that no emergency vehicle was going to respond. He put the injured man into his own car and drove him to the hospital.
When Lopez was released from the hospital, he met with Newton. The minister explained that members of his congregation were collecting an offering to replace the money that had been stolen from him during the beating. Lopez was overcome, “I thank you. You saved my life.” Newton told him, “Out of tragedy, good will come. The storm is over.”
I wish the storm was over. People of God, we have work to do. May we have the courage of Bennie Newton to make a difference in a world still covered with threatening clouds.