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50 years of Watts: A special live broadcast with Take Two

Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 9:00am - 11:00am
Watts Labor Community Action Committee 10950 South Central Ave Los Angeles, CA 90059 Map and directions


On August 11, Take Two took its show on the road to mark the 50th anniversary of what is commonly known as the Watts Riots.

More than 200 people filled the Phoenix Room of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee on South Central Avenue, just a mile away from the intersection where a young African-American man was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving by a white officer on a hot summer’s day in 1965. 

That traffic stop of Marquette Frye at Avalon and 116th Street led to six days of civil unrest and what many in Watts call the rebellion. Thirty-four people died, hundreds more were injured, and damage to property totaled more than $40 million. 

Tim Watkins, CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee recalls one of his memories of the civil unrest:

"One of the photographs [in my mind] is Sen-Sen - a breath freshener. It was one of the only things that didn't burn up in the fire ... it was in a foil packet.  The guy in the liquor store said we could go in and get whatever we wanted, and I got Sen-Sen."

Take Two's live two-hour show from Watts — the first time the program has broadcast from a remote location — did more than look back on the '65 events.  It delved into the stories of the people who live in the 2.2-square-mile South Los Angeles neighborhood and shared how locals’ view the place they call home. 

"Watts is beautiful," said Bruce Lemon, artistic director with the Watts Village Theater Company. His colleague Devonne Bowman said she had no issues being raised in Watts. 

"I personally never had any interactions with feeling fear or violence. I just grew up thinking that my neighborhood was like any other neighborhood, until I got to high school and people would say 'Oh, girl, you live in Watts?' Then when I went to college people, would say 'You made it out,' even people from L.A. would say that. I was very surprised."

The conversation covered everything from the changing demographics in Watts and tackling gang membership to parenting through the group Project Fatherhood and the issue of community policing.

LAPD senior lead officer for Watts Robert Yanez acknowledged the area had its problems in the past, but he said things are very different today. "I walk through the housing developments with no problem because people know I'm not there to take them to jail. They say hello and ask me how I'm doing."

The live broadcast closed out with a look at the significance of the arts in Watts. It played a significant role in the healing process after the 1965 riots, represented by the work of poets such as the Watts Prophets. Original member Amde Hamilton recorded a special poem for the audience, while Johnie Scott from the Watts Writers Workshop and Shana Redmond, author of "Anthem: Sounds of Solidarity in the African Diaspora," discussed the intersection of music and poetry to round out the show.

The conversation continued long after the program ended.

For more photos, you can see the complete album here.

Watch the Livestream of the event above or listen to the full broadcast here.