Daughter of Rodney King, Lora King, keeps her father’s story alive with innovative AI initiative

Kicking off Black History Month at USC Annenberg, Lora King tells the stories of Black Americans while honoring her father

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In collaboration with the USC Charlotta Bass Journalism & Justice Lab, Lora King, daughter of Rodney King and founder of the Rodney King Foundation, debuted “The Second Draft Project” – an AI-driven oral history collection centering the voices of Black Americans, connected to prominent racial and social justice movements in the U.S.

The project also features a “virtual human interview” with Lora King, in which she recounts the aftermath of the LAPD’s brutal assault on Rodney King and the subsequent 1992 Los Angeles riots.

With the aim of rectifying an often skewed historical record, the initiative highlights stories affected by racial injustice at the Tuesday premiere of an ongoing series called “Voices of a Movement.’’

When asked if she thinks the country will pass a national police reform law some day, King said she’s still holding out hope.

“I hope one day we’ll be smarter, and I say ‘we’ because I still live here in America,” King said. “But I hope one day we can get to that because it doesn’t feel good watching your people get slaughtered.”

“The Second Draft Project” archives and amplifies prominent Black voices using AI and conversational video technology to conduct interactive interviews.

An individual can ask “Lora King,” or her virtual avatar, specific questions and receive a real-time response.

An Annenberg student tested out the technology by asking a series of questions to King’s avatar.

“What happened to your dad on March 31, 1991? What was the first thing your father said to you after his assault? What would your father think of the state of today’s world?” she asked.

Each question was followed with an in-depth response by the virtual Lora King.

The concept is inspired by the work of the Dimensions in Testimony exhibit, a USC Shoah Foundation project through which visitors can virtually interact with Holocaust survivors with the use of advanced recording and display technology.

In response to a lack of information and data about police brutality following the Rodney King beating, Allissa Richardson, founder of the Charlotta Bass Journalism and Justice Lab at USC, said she aimed to highlight frontline testimonies of Black social justice leaders and their families, including King and her father’s impact on propelling the Black Lives Matter movement.

While developing the project, Richardson, Myah Genung, chief program officer of the lab and members from the USC Digital Repository flew out to Florida and spoke with Lora King for more than six hours. King painstakingly recounted the traumatic day of her father’s beating on March 3, 1991, and explained how it affected her then 8-year-old self and the rest of the world.

Estella Norris, director of operations for the Black and veteran-owned nonprofit organization Inglewood 2nd Call, expressed her gratitude for the impact that can be made from events like “Voices of a Movement.”

“Awareness is everything, so this was a great opportunity,” Norris said. “And I’m sure that there’s going to be more opportunities for people to grow and understand what took place on that specific day.”

Genung pointed to the recent police beating and killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police Department officers on January 7; she said that although the LAPD beating took place over 30 years ago, racial policing and state violence persist to this day.

“[We] are not all removed from the systemic injustices that claimed the lived experiences of Black America,” Genung said.

King emphasized the importance of “The Second Draft Project” as a way to convey who her father actually was, rather than the racialized stereotype of an aggressive substance abuser the mainstream media made him out to be. King also expressed that these racialized narratives, in conjunction with increasingly common and deadly incidents of police brutality, should have been relics of a distant past.

“I’m not downplaying what happened to my dad, but to me, it’s getting worse,” King said. “We should not still be here. There’s no way we should still be here.”