Sometimes we get so ensconced and engrossed in our own worlds that we forget there are experiences outside our orbit. I received a reminder of this at the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum of Greater Los Angeles on Friday. (That website is a bit out of date.) The topic of this month's forum was "The 15th Anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots: Lessons Learnt, and Where Do We Go From Here?" What the consensus of the speakers was that there has been too little progress in correcting the problems that led to both the unrest in Watts in 1965 Watts and in Los Angeles in 1992. The hope of many of the groups that had risen from the ashes of a black community--not so-called, as I have often referred to it, but real--had been to rebuild the neighborhoods, but not in the same way, to address the instigating issues. In many cases, the same leaders of these committees remain in place, to their own surprise. Brenda Shockley, CEO of Community BUILD, had said they expected the resources to have been plentiful enough for them to move on. Not so. In fact, Shockley said, they have been dealing with issues of class as well as race, something we don't address much in this country. Jackie DuPont of Ward Economic Development Corp. talked about the disconnect that can occur between community and community leaders: "Sometimes you can do so much so long for the people that they think you are doing it to the people." The community, she said, must be part of the process. One interesting point DuPont made was one about the role of women within this community and the larger, more nebulous "community." She said that women need to reclaim their role as nurturers and teachers, to set standards. No need to convince everyone, she said. "Our parents didn't care about convincing everybody." The riots were referred to as an economic referendum. To solve some of the issues, DuPont suggested going toward power, and power lies with corporate America--not government. One interesting point worth investigating made by Forescee Hogan Rowles of Community Financial Resource Center was that there are commercial lots burned in 1965 that remain vacant. In fact, she said there are more vacant commercial lots in South L.A. than elsewhere throughout Los Angeles. Definitely worth looking into. As far as an economic reconstruction, she said we haven't come any further in 1992 than we did in 1965. The difference? More elected black officials. She said there are the people in place to make a difference, but the financial backing is still absent. She also pointed to a document that summarizes the circumstances surrounding the riots in 2002 as something worth reviewing. There was criticism directed at the relationship the black voting populace has with its elected representatives. "Second to ministers, elected officials are like celebrities--like Jay-Z or Beyonce." Jackie Walker urged the audience to stop romanticizing the relationship with elected officials. Stop accepting that which is given, and start holding them accountable. The women all suggested calling our representatives and asking them what exactly they're doing to create jobs. One provocative comment: It's harder to navigate black interests in a Latino reality. Whether that's a reality or not, that's definitely a perception in this segment of the city. That was a fear among some pockets of blacks in Los Angeles prior to the election of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. I visited a politically interested barbershop with a colleague during that election season, and that was among the topics of discussion. Overall, the pervasive message of the morning was not nearly enough progress has been made in 15 years. More time and more black leaders aren't enough to solve this. It's going to take more green: More money invested and more commercial ventures moving in instead of moving out. It will take, they said, political will, local participation, financial investment and accountability.