Lora King was just seven years old on March 3, 1991 when her father, Rodney King, was brutally beaten by LAPD officers in Lakeview Terrace. She was 28 when he died in 2012. And one of her most vivid dad memories was when he took her skiing.
“First of all that’s, like, one of the hardest things to do,” King recalled. “Getting on that lift with no seatbelt. But my dad talked to us like we were boys. He didn’t sugarcoat things at all.”
The older King took three of his pre-teen daughters to the nearby mountains for the experience, using some of the funds he won following his lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.
“We got up at four in the morning to go,” King said. “We were terrified, but he wouldn’t let us back down.”
The children couldn’t back out, even as a line of skilled skiers waited for Rodney King’s kids to catch those moving ski lift seats and get up the mountain.
“’We can stay here all day’ he said,” Lora remembers. “’You gonna make me waste my money.’”
“It was just scary, terrifying,” she added. “And if you can’t ski you gotta fall. The next day we were all bruised up.”
“I think I went three times with him after that. That was a life changing experience.”
“He was very spontaneous and was very encouraging,” she remembers. “We went to the Black rodeo, I actually really enjoyed that, I remember vividly. We went to Black arts shows, interesting, different environments.”
“To go to a different environment to me was good,” King said. “[It’s] like a double life.”
This year, on the 29th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots which followed acquittal of the four officers who assaulted Rodney King, Lora King launched the “I Am a King” scholarship opportunity. One private tech entrepreneur recently gave $10,000 to establish the “I Am a King” scholarship fund.
The scholarship is for Black fathers, offering some of them the financial support they may need to spend quality time with their children.
“Most people don’t think it’s important, but a father’s presence is just as important as a mother’s presence,” she said. “A lot of times dads don’t have a positive image. I want them to be able to take off work, be around and do the fun stuff like some mothers do. To some dads it’s a big deal.”
The idea is that children living day-to-day in the inner cities don’t often get the opportunity to visit a different enviornment. Having their father present can make a big difference.
“I’ve been getting some big request like ‘we want a paid trip to Africa.’ Whoa,” King explained, stressing she reads each application herself, but doesn’t have those kind of funds. Then there are others [who say] ‘I don’t get to see my child.’”
“I have to read them in moderation ‘cause it’s a little sad,” Lora said of some of the applications. “Some just want to spend some quality time. It’s just that special to some. And doing things that are fun.”
Donors can contribute to the scholarship fund at www.rodneyking.org, the site of the Rodney King Foundation, an active, 501c (3) nonprofit Lora established shortly after her father’s death.
There are three members on the Board of Directors for the Rodney King Foundation. Additionally, there are five members on her financial board.
“But any amount helps, even small things,” King said, noting that some applicants ask for something as simple as an ice cream outing or other little events that can help build stronger bonds between dads and their kids.
“For some people those are a big deal, some people can’t afford to do that,” King said. “If we can do that for people, that would be great. Every donation helps.”
Applications are available on the website.
“I didn’t want to make it too hard,” King stated. “What’s your name; what’s your email; what’s your story. I think that dads are just as important as moms. I just want to do something different.”
“Our goal is to have it ongoing, depending on funding,” she added. “This is not a once-a-year thing.”
As her nonprofit grows, King’s ultimate goal is to keep her father’s memory alive.