Watts Happening Now: Reimagining Watts as we Commemorate its History

With the highly anticipated release of "Straight Outta Compton" this week, a lot of people have South Los Angeles on the brain. But beyond the cinematic exploration of the area's cultural history, the neighboring community of Watts is also in the news for more current happenings. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Watts Riots, an historic uprising resulting in 34 deaths and millions in property damage, which was sparked by frustration related to unemployment and police racism.

With all that's been in the news lately, one can't help but draw parallels to the past. While sometimes we may wonder how much things have really changed in the past 50 years, it is important to recognize the progress that has been made and to look to the future and the potential for positive change.

Walking through Watts today, there's no sign of the unrest of years past, and one is struck by the neighborhood's energy and sense of community, as well as its many charming homes and the lush Ted Watkins Memorial Park.

Watt Up Photo 1.png

One sign of the potential for further forward movement is the Watts Re:Imagined project, a grassroots neighborhood revitalization effort begun by Watts area organizations and community members, led by Grant Housing & Economic Development Corp., joined by NRDC and several other nonprofit organizations, city agencies and neighborhood businesses. The project builds on thoughtful redevelopment plans already created, including many designed by Watts residents, and lays out a vision for practical, forward-looking solutions on local issues from jobs and social equity to public health and natural resource conservation.

The effort envisions many physical improvements to the community, including the addition of more green space to improve flood control, stormwater management, and air quality, as well as plans to improve public transportation as well as create more economic opportunity for local residents--all while working to mitigate potential community displacement.

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Source: Watts Greenstreets Plan, Katherine Spitz Associates, Inc.

As we look back on Watts's rich history and tumultuous past, and toward its vast potential for the future, let's stay energized by the on-the-ground action that has already begun, and the movement that's building stronger each day. Watts Re:Imagined is imagining a Watts that's reflective of the place it's always had in the hearts of its residents.

About the Authors

Johanna Dyer

Attorney, Water program

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