<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Southern California News - 50Watts]]>Copyright 2019http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/localen-usFri, 22 Feb 2019 15:18:56 -0800Fri, 22 Feb 2019 15:18:56 -0800NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Lawsuit Over Failed Watts Development Can Move Forward ]]>Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:32:59 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/182*120/08.18.15_Watts-Lawsuit-Development.JPG

A judge has given the green light for neighborhood leaders in Watts to go after a transportation company they say reneged on a promise to help restore the the community.

The decision comes as part of a lawsuit filed in 2013 — now headed for trial in October — centered around a defunct plan to transform an LAUSD job training center building into a transportation hub billed as something that would bring jobs and prestige to Watts.

Now, the building stands empty, dilapidated and vandalized as a symbol of what civic leaders say is a symbol of broken promises.

“This was supposed to be a dream, a dream that was so much more than a building. This was about jobs and opportunity for the people of Watts,” said Tim Watkins, chief executive of the nonprofit Watts Labor Community Action Committee, the plaintiff in the lawsuit over the building.

Now, the place that Watkins thought could bring Watts back from the brink is covered in graffiti and holes puncture the walls. It’s filled with vehicles no longer in use.

Ten years ago, the plan was to transform it into a transportation hub, a partnership between the nonprofit and Veolia North America, the company that runs Metrolink trains. But Veolia abandoned the project and is now being sued for more than $2 million for breach of contract.

“Just like if you rent somebody’s house and you agree to stay there and maintain it and use it and you leave it wide open and it’s destroyed by partiers or whatever,” is how WLCAC’s attorney Brandon Fernald described the complaint.

Veolia contends the company paid its lease for five years and fulfilled its obligations. Watkins said it had promised to maintain the building, but an attorney for the company said it is the nonprofit that is responsible for any damage to the property.

More important, Watkins said, than the development plan, was the promise to help Watts — still struggling 50 years after riots much of the neighborhood destroyed.

“We have plummeting literacy rates, deplorable retention rates from 9th to 10th grade, we’ve got skyrocketing recidivism,” Watkins said, reciting community woes.

The neighborhood also has a 40 percent unemployment rate among young adults, with many of them coming to the nonprofit’s job center to find work. Watkins said restoring the dilapidated building could bring future business to Watts and help it become self sufficient.

“If the end is self-determination and people are given more choices to aspire to, then we’ve achieved our mission,” he said.

<![CDATA[Watts Prophets: Giving Voice to Community]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 08:46:05 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/08-12-2015-watts-prophets-+1.JPGSouthern California's 60s-era spoken-word artists chronicled the mayhem, pioneering a style many call a forerunner to today’s hip-hop. Today, the Watts Prophets are proud of their legacy, whether it's widely known or not.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Watts Icon Still Fighting For Neighborhood]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:34:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Watts_Icon_Still_Fighting_For_Neighborhood_1200x675_501803075807.jpgDecades after the devastating Watts Riots, some neighborhood leaders are still hoping for change. Robert Kovacik reports for "50Watts" Aug. 11, 2015.]]><![CDATA['Dodging Bullets': Residents Remember Watts Riots]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 13:22:04 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_watts_residents_recall_dodging_bullets_riots_1200x675_503145539655.jpg

Fifty years after the mayhem subsided, residents of Watts still remember dodging bullets and watching their community in chaos during the 1965 riots that left an area of Los Angeles in shambles.

The riots started after Marquette Frye was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving by a white California Highway Patrolman. The chaos that followed the violent incident between onlookers and police at the scene of Frye's arrest cost more than $40 million in property damage, according to the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Betty Pleasant, who was a reporter for the Los Angeles Sentinel, followed the rioters and recalled being in the line of fire while reporting. She said when the14,000  National Guard troops were sent, things became worse.

"My photographer and I were shot at by the National Guard," Pleasant said.  "They started shooting at us before they could see our press pass, but they didn't hit us. But I sure wrote about it."

Across the top of the page of her story were the words 'I dodged bullets while LA burned.' Pleasant described her experience reporting on the riots, and wrote, 'We dodged a hail of bullets when we were caught in a crossfire between police officers and hidden negroes.'

Thirty-four people died during the riots. More than 1,000 people were injured and 4,000 arrests were made during the six days of rioting, according ot the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Jarrette Fellows Jr., the editor and publisher of the Compton Herald, was 12 years old in 1965 and said he had never seen anything like the riots at the time.

"Seeing those guys in those trucks in those helmets and guns, that's something we'd never seen before, except on TV in John Wayne movies, but to see that here, it was something haunting about that because they could kill you with those weapons," Fellows said. "And they had a license to do it."

<![CDATA[A Brief History of Watts]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:31:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/A_Brief_History_of_Watts_1200x675_501820483931.jpgThe history of Watts and its turmoil. Conan Nolan reports for "50Watts" on Aug. 11, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Teacher Returns to Watts]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:03:41 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/08.11.1_Watts-Teacher-Marrieta.png

Those who grew up in Watts in the 1970s in the wake of the riots watched their community struggle to rebuild, only to be torn down again by gangs and crack cocaine in the 1980s.

Some local children turned to education to make it out of the neighborhood, where the lure of the gangs and drugs was difficult to escape.

Marrietta Scott, 45, was one of those lucky ones, only be pulled back in by her desire to help change the community that shaped her.

Scott has become one of Watts’ most influential leaders through her work at Children’s Institute. The organization helps more than 24,000 children gain access to education and mental health services, giving the next generation a real chance at a brighter future.

“So this is the area I was told where I was born,” Scott explained, walking through the Jordan Downs public housing development one recent day.

On a hot August day in 1970, Scott was born to a single mother on the floor of a bathroom in Building 86, in a complex that later became a symbol of the tough times children faced growing up in the neighborhood.

“Her water broke and I started to come immediately,” Scott recalled she was told.

Scott said her mother was neglectful due to drugs and alcohol, so she and her four brothers and sisters were sent to live with her father and his parents in another house just outside of Jordan Downs.

Despite her inauspicious birth, she remembers her early childhood in 1970s Watts as a happy time.

“It was a somewhat dangerous place to grow up, but as a child I didn’t know that, so it was fun,” Scott said. “Everyone looked out for everyone.”

All that began to change in the 1980s. By the time she was a young teenager the crack cocaine epidemic and gang violence had taken over her neighborhood.

“So I started to see my friends parents getting hooked on drugs,” Scott said. “My life changed from me and my friends sharing clothes to some of my friends stealing from me.”

Scott’s protective grandparents forbid her to walk through Jordan Downs and sent her to a school outside the community for gifted children.

“Although I loved my community and these people, I see the changes in them,” Scott said. “I loved them and it was heartbreaking. It was embarrassing to bring my friends from my school into the community.”

Scott knew that education would be her key to a better life, but she got pregnant right out of high school.

It wasn’t until the 1992 riots that she realized she had to make a change.

“At that point I made the decision I didn’t want to raise my kids here. I’d seen enough.”

Scott packed up her two young sons and moved to Long Beach, and eventually made her way through college and worked her way up to earning a master’s degree.

“I wanted (my sons) to see someone in our family graduate from college.”

Scott thought about leaving Watts behind for good, but her love for her community wouldn’t let her stay away.

“I’m hearing of my peers I grew up with -- their children are being killed and I’m hearing of constant raids in the area and how the children were affected,” Scott remembered.

“I said, ‘OK, let’s help them,” she said.

And so Scott returned, first as a teacher and now as a supervisor with Children’s Institute, a nonprofit that operates Head Start programs in South LA and Watts.

“It’s crucial to have leaders and staff like Marrietta, both because there’s already an element of built-in trust. She is of the community and she’s been through some of the same things the children and families now are going through,” said Nina Revoyr, chief operating officer of Children’s Institute.

As she walked through the neighborhood the day she visited Jordan Downs, Scott greeted residents who passed her on the street.

“I’m Marrietta, nice to meet you.”

She returns to Jordan Downs to recruit children for Head Start -- a preschool program -- hoping early intervention and education will give more kids a chance to succeed like she did.

“Looking at this building, coming into this community it makes me strive harder. It reminds me there are a lot of children coming behind me from this community and I have to do all I can while I have the opportunity to be a decision maker,” Scott explained.

She said she is returning to her roots to extend a hand to the next generation to show them by example that no matter what their circumstances might be, it’s OK to dream big.

“It’s really surreal,” Scott said. “Sometimes I just think about it and I have to know there is something bigger than myself that guided me to be here.”

“I’m here for a reason and I have to make it count.”

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Hospital Among Legacies of Watts Riots]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 23:15:37 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/08-11-2015-mlk-hospital-watts-1.jpgThe Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook is part of a $650 million medical campus that already included an outpatient and urgent care centers. Toni Guinyard reports on Tuesday Aug. 11, 2015 for Today in LA.

Photo Credit: Toni Guinyard, KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Watts Prophets Gave Voice to Community]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 22:50:41 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Watts_Prophets_Paved_Way_For_Young_Musicians_1200x675_501828163775.jpg

Any look back at the days of outrage and violence in Watts 50 years ago would be incomplete without including the Watts Prophets.

Southern California's 60s-era spoken-word artists chronicled the mayhem, pioneering a style many call a forerunner to today’s hip-hop.

Three young poets — Otis O'Solomon, Amde Hamilton and the late Richard Dedeaux — bonded in The Watts Writers Workshop and formed the group that transmitted street stories mixed with jazz into America's conscience.

Today, the Watts Prophets are proud of their legacy, whether it's widely known or not.

"Another day of trying to open an area of expression for those with no area of expression — that's where we found ourselves in the 60s — with no area of expression,” Hamilton recalled. “And that's how this form, rap music, came about. Opening that area of expression."

When people think of art and Watts, they naturally think of the Watts Towers. Simon Rodia's handcrafted masterpiece that took 33 years to build was just nine years old in 1965.

The Watts Prophets emerged from this same community after 1965 with a brand of artistic expression that influenced the world, and modern artists celebrated the group at a recent Watts 50 concert.

"I am offspring of The Watts Prophets. I am offspring of their tutelage," said the performer who goes by the name Food4Thot.

As images of Watts on fire projected overhead, NBC4 spoke backstage with the surviving members of the Watts Prophets.

"I see things that we went through many years ago, a lot of youth, the community in general continue to go through it right now," said Otis O’Solomon.

Hamilton seconded his thought.

"The past is history. The future is mystery. Now is new," he said.

Both remain observant and hopeful.

"I say the good outnumber the bad. Even with all the stuff that's going on," O’Solomon said.

He said he is trusting emerging new voices to help keep society from repeating mistakes and to call it out when it does.

"People revolt because five things,” Food4Thot said. “Five things: Poor schools, poor housing, police brutality, no health care and no jobs. That's what cause revolts."

Hamilton said he’s pleased to know that there are young artists willing to pick up the mantle.

"I'm very happy to see that the youth are listening. And some of them are trying to do something about what they see today."

<![CDATA[Neighborhood Still Battles Effects of Gangs]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 21:56:38 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/08.11.15_Bloods-Crips-Watts.JPG

Gunfire has become a regular part of Latrell Widemon’s life.

The bullet holes that pockmark the outside of her home are from earlier this summer, just about the same time her son Diante was shot.

“(The) bullet is stuck in my elbow,” her son Diante Wilkins said, pointing out where it struck his left arm.

The family lives near just a block from where the Watts Riots began 50 years ago, now a center of gang activity in Los Angeles.

“Everyday living here is hell, it’s hell,” Widemon said. “You hear gunshots every day, every night.”

Diante has to be careful about where he walks and what he wears.

“I don’t like walking around,” he said. “Walking around with blue somebody might think you’re a Crip. Walk around with red think you’re a Blood.”

He said he avoids it by wearing clothes that “ain’t blue or red.”

The most notorious rivalry in the history of gangs began on the streets of Watts, as shown in the 2008 documentary, “Crips and Bloods: Made in America.”

The fury of the riots that fed the disillusionment of a generation after an era of black activism that saw the emergence of the Black Panthers — and outrage after the assassination of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. were all ingredients for a time bomb that’s now been going off for more than four decades.

William Jackson and Cornell Ward are former Crips.

They were in the thick of it when LA exploded in gang violence in the 80s and 90s, fueled by crack cocaine.

“Been on my deathbed twice, flatlined once, and I’m still here,” said Jackson, now a devoted gang interventionist.

Coach Ward, as he’s now called, was a lieutenant in the drug empire started by notorious drug trafficker “Freeway Ricky” Ross.

That is, until the birth of his child changed his heart.

“My child was (born) as a crack baby,” Ward recalled. “She was born in the palm of my hand.”

Ward and Jackson now work with Chapter T.W.O., South LA nonprofit that tries to steer young people away from gangs.

Latrell Widemon remembers Jackson as a hard core Crip. Now he mentors her son Diante.

Jackson spends his days with Diante and his friend Diandre White, two teenagers who’ve been in and out of juvenile hall, and who face the daily pressure of joining a gang.

“(I) stay out of the way so I don’t get hit, shot, jumped,” said White.

Jackson said despite the lower visibility of some of the gang activity in the neighborhood, the gangs are still there.

“How much influence do the Bloods and Crips still have in where we’re standing?” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of influence.”

Homicides in LA have dropped dramatically since the 90s. There were more than 1,000 in 1992, the year of the LA riots, but less than 300 the past two years.

Much of the credit goes to gang interventionists like Chapter T.W.O., working together with LAPD officers like Sgt. Mark Durell.

“We can’t do it all,” Durrell said. “Everybody thinks ‘Ah, the cops got to fix,’ (but) it's the community, it’s everybody.”

Durell has had to deal with tensions between police and the black community that have risen to the surface in recent years, but said they all seem to agree on one thing: things are better in Watts than they used to be.

But a lack of resources and programs — and grinding poverty — still put too many young people at risk.

“I went to a school one time and a kid said, “Man, I’m glad they’re serving food this morning because I didn’t get any. It wasn’t my turn to eat last night.’ See how that hits you.”

On the day Latrell Widemon spoke to NBC4, candles marked the two-year anniversary where a friend was killed right in front of their home.

And the bullet holes in their home remind Widemon and her family, that 50 years after Watts fired its first shots, there’s still a war going on.

She questions what anyone gets out of the gangs.

“What are you getting out of that? What does do for you?” she asked, and scoffs at the idea that the young people who join them are looking for a family life they’re missing elsewhere. “God is your family. That’s who you’re family is. You have to have him.”

Photo Credit: KNBC Archive Photo]]>
<![CDATA[LAPD Building Relationships in Watts]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 06:34:27 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/knbc-watts-riots-special-lapd-jordan-downs-projects.jpg

Half a century ago, with its then-gleaming headquarters soon to be named for its then indomitable chief William Parker, the Los Angeles Police Department had become widely regarded as the model of modern policing.

An admiring TV show, "Dragnet," polished the department's image.

But Watts exposed shortcomings.

"You had a small police force that was doing no community policing, that was riding in patrol cars, faceless, just looking to make arrests," said Joe Domanick, an author who has probed LAPD's history in "To Protect and to Serve" and "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing."

In his first book, Domanick made the case the LAPD was oblivious to the community's needs and to what would be ignited on a hot August night in 1965 when a California Highway Patrol traffic stop of a suspected drunken driver unleashed a frustrated and growing crowd's fury, leading to the Watts riots.

"The first reaction was here's all this going on, let's just let it burn itself out and it will go away," said Bernard Parks, a rookie at the time who would later become the chief of police.

The largely white male department of the 1960s had relatively few African-American officers. As a newly minted officer, Parks was coming to grips with LAPD culture that had stopped segregating officers only four years earlier.

"There was distrust internally as well as externally," Parks said.

"I never got the feeling that we really knew how to address the problem that we (were) faced with," said David Dotson, retired LAPD Assistant Chief who was a sergeant assigned to technical services half a century ago.  

The Watts riots were the beginning of a momentous change in policing, though not all at once, says current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Focused on eliminating street-level corruption and improving efficiency, Chief Parker discouraged officers from establishing bonds with communities, Dotson and Parks recalled.  But after the 1965 uprising, Parker launched a program to expand community relations. Dotson was assigned to work with the late Jim Fiske.

"There were real attempts by Fisk to interact with the community and find out exactly how they felt and what we can do to make it more acceptable without abandoning the law enforcement role," said Dotson.

The seventies saw reforms by then Chief Ed Davis to decentralize LAPD and connect officers with the area they patrolled.

There was evolution of community relations and community policing, but also setbacks as gang violence intensified in the 80s and 90s.

"Literally all we did - I was a young cop - was race from one emergency to the next. You never had a chance to fix anything," Beck said.

However, effective were some of the responses instituted by then Chief Daryl Gates, including the "Operation Hammer" arrest sweeps and the use of mechanized battering rams, they were seen by many living in Watts and other southside neighborhoods as repressive.

The video recording of the use of force against Rodney King, and the more widespread 1992 rioting renewed commitments to reform and spurred recognition of need for a closer relationship between LAPD and communities.

The Watts Gang Task Force launched a decade ago meets every Monday. And five years ago, Sgt. Emada Tingirides got the assignment from Beck to develop and coordinate the Community Safety Partnership program made possible by funding from the city Housing Authority and focused on the public housing developments, including Jordan Downs, Nickerson Gardens, and Imperial Courts.

"I came on during a time where LAPD was still learning how to ensure the department represents the communities that they're policing," Tingirides said. "Our job is to build relationships with the people that live in the community, to broaden the communication and to make it safe so that kids can grow up and thrive."

From the get-go, Tingirides had an ally in the commander of the LAPD Southeast station that provides police services to Watts: then-captain, now Commander Phil Tingirides--her husband. He, like his wife, grew up on the southside.

CSP officers go beyond the scope of traditional policing, especially working with youth, launching girl scout troops, and a boys football team, the "Watts Bears."

"Every single one of those program has a purpose," he said. "For football, it helped up erase gang lines because we had kids from each of the developments that had been gang rivals for decades, who were now coming together to watch their kids play."

When first lady Michelle Obama invited the Tingirides as her guests to the president's State of the Union address this past January, it was a compliment to Watts as well.

"It made all the difference in the world having someone who really believes in the neighborhood, who's from the community and who understands all of the community dynamics," said Aqeela Sherrills, an entrepreneur and gang intervention advocate.

Not only have tensions eased, but crime rates plummeted. Despite a recent surge in gang violence, homicide rates remain far below the levels of a decade ago, and an order of magnitude below that of 1991, which witnessed the highest levels of violent crime in the city's history, according to Chief Beck.

But this past year, across the nation and including LA, police uses of deadly force against African-Americans have drawn renewed protest, and energized the movement known as Black Lives Matter. Its members see institutionalized racism as continuing to affect policing.

"The police abuse is really kind of just a symbolic of a larger kind of looming oppression that ties black people to the lowest rungs of society," said Melina Abdullah, PhD, a Cal State Los Angeles Professor who is active in Black Lives Matter.

And distrust does remain among many in the projects.

"As soon as you answer the question 'Are you on parole?' literally Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde," said Watts resident Cleveland Scruggs.

Nevertheless, there's a growing consensus the bonds established in recent years will help Watts and LAPD survive inevitable rough patches.

"It isn't whether or not things go wrong, it's what does the organization do about it," Beck said.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Watts Native Tyrese Talks Giving Back]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 23:03:25 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Neighborhood_Son_Tyrese_Talks_Giving_Back_to_Watts_1200x675_501830211660.jpgActor Tyrese Gibson of "Fast & Furious" fame talks about what it was like to grow up in Watts and how he works to give back to the community. Kim Baldonado reports for "50Watts" on Aug. 11, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Mayor Says Watts Has Bright Future]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 23:03:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Mayor_Says_Watts_Has_Bright_Future_1200x675_501828163578.jpgLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says that despite challenges, the Watts community has a bright future ahead. Michael Brownlee reports for "50Watts" on Aug. 11, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Rarely Seen Footage Shows Watts Riots]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 18:43:32 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rare_Footage_of_Watts_Riots_Part_V_1200x675_501596739711.jpg

Fifty years after the Watts Riots devastated the community, rarely seen video footage shot by a National Guard cameraman shows the extent of the damage.

<![CDATA[50 Watts: Riots 50 Years Later]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 20:26:19 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/236*120/wattsgraphic.JPG

It began with a routine traffic stop, blossomed into a protest with the help of a rumor and escalated into the deadliest and most destructive rioting Los Angeles had seen. The Watts riots broke out Aug. 11, 1965, and raged for most of a week.

When the smoke cleared, 34 people were dead, more than a 1,000 were injured and some 600 buildings were damaged.

<![CDATA[Woman Works to Show Teens the Right Way]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 17:33:37 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/8-11-15-Watts.JPG

On her own time and her own dime, Shanice Joseph teaches teen girls at a summer program in Compton about her journey to a college education.

"I want everybody to stand up," she says. "It's not easy."

It's so tough for girls here -- or in nearby Watts, where she grew up -- that it brings her aunt, Janice Miller, to tears.

"I really needed my peers," Miller says. "So, you guys know, you need each other."

Joseph and Miller did have each other -- the elder woman, inspiring her niece by example.

She has family. She's married.

But many do not.

In Watts, the percentage of homes where parents are unmarried is among the highest in the city.

Now, 50 years after the riots that tore this community to shreds, Watts still dwells at the bottom of LA's list for household median income: Just over $25,000 a year.

"There are no opportunities for post high school students," Joseph says.

On a tour of her neighborhood, Joseph explained what she believes is the problem.

She says her friends told her when she was thinking about dropping out of community college a couple of years ago to have a kid.

"They told me, straight out, 'have a kid and it will help you,' as opposed to going to college," Joseph says.

In her neighborhood, several agencies and centers provide everything from health care to counseling.

"There are at least three to five from this park to my house, which is, like, a 10 minute walk," she says.

She says such services focus primarily on pregnant teens or those who already have children. Even job opportunities, in her experience, are offered first to people with felony records or children.

College-bound, single people like herself?

Not so much.

"I did look at that. I did," Joseph says. "I thought, 'if I have a kid right now, under age 24, I can get more money to go to school. I can apply to live in my apartment complex.' That means I won't have to live with my grandmother."

Joseph says she doesn't "fit in" here, not because she made the wrong decisions, but because she made the right ones.

"Not to take anything away from the families that need it,"Joseph says. "I just think it shouldn't be limited to one category."

She became so frustrated that she wrote an editorial, with the headline: "In Watts, it's easier being a pregnant teen than a college student."

But as she was writing and later, when she was deluged with emails from online readers who told her to "hang in there," she realized she had a bigger responsibility.

To Watts, where she wants a new generation to see education as the answer.

"I haven't given up on Watts because I believe it has a lot of potential," Joseph says. "I'm a living example of that."

But most of all, to herself.

She smiles broadly while talking to the teenagers about how a college degree has to come first, then family, then life.

Some day, Joseph wants to become a mom like her proud aunt, who recently had her first baby at age 33.

But for now she's back in college, working to become a teacher or journalist.

One day, she wants to start an information resource center so kids will know they have better options not just easy ones.

"It's something that's needed now," Joseph says.

<![CDATA[Neighborhood Still Battles Effects of Gangs Born in Watts]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 09:46:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Bloods_Crips_Watts_1200x675_502996547831.jpgThe most notorious rivalry in the history of gangs began on the streets of Watts. Ted Chen reports for "50Watts" on Aug. 11, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Tom Brokaw Lester Holt Remember Watts Riots 50 Years Later]]>Mon, 10 Aug 2015 18:36:38 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/knbc-tom-brokaw.jpgTom Brokaw and Lester Holt look back at the Watts riots 50 years after unrest broke out in the city's streets. Carolyn Johnson reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[WEB EXTRA: Brokaw Recounts Covering Watts Riots]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 18:45:46 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Tom_Brokaw_Recounts_Covering_Watts_Riots_1200x675_501732931724.jpgVeteran news anchor Tom Brokaw recalls covering the Watts Riots 50 years ago and reflects on what has happened in the community since. Carolyn Johnson reports.]]><![CDATA[Remembering the Watts Riots]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 17:23:20 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150718-watts-riots.jpg

Residents and community leaders gathered in dance, song and prayer outside a South Los Angeles church Saturday to reflect as the 50th anniversary of the Watts riots approaches.

One of the largest rebellions of the Civil Rights period, the riots started in August 1965 after Marquette Frye was arrested in Watts on suspicion of drunk driving by a white California Highway Patrol officer. The unrest that followed caused more than $40 million in property damage.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters was one of the community leaders who attended the community block party dubbed Watts: Through the Fire at Village Missionary Baptist Church.

"We are celebrating that we have survived," she said.

Jarrette Fellows Jr., the editor and publisher of the Compton Herald, was 12 years old at the time of the riots. He recalls hearing the explosions and police helicopters overhead, but said he wasn't aware of the size and scope of the issue at the time.

"The day after, when we got to go outside and walk the streets and 103rd Street was totally burned down, that was the worst zone, something I'd never seen before," Fellows said. "And as a 12 year old, that shocked my senses. Everything was gone."

Thousands of California National Guard troops were called into the area and a curfew zone over a 45 mile area was implemented.

The riots resulted in 34 deaths, more than 1,000 injuries and nearly 4,000 arrests. An investigation launched by then-Gov. Pat Brown showed that the riots were the result of the community's dissatisfaction with unemployment rates, housing and education issues, along with racial tensions with the police.

Fellows said the Watts riots were the worst he had ever seen until the Rodney King riots in 1992.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[NewsConference New Documentary: Tom Bradley on Race and the Watts Riot]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 22:19:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_SEG_3_SONENSHEIN_080915_1200x675_500682307832.jpgRaphael Sonsenshein, Ph.D., the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State LA, talks with NBC4’s Conan Nolan about the documentary "Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race." The film was shown during a special screening at Cal State LA Aug. 10, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Watts Community Wants Riots Anniversary to Spur Change]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 17:28:43 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/195*120/07.30.15_Watts-Development-Demands.JPG

With just weeks until the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots, area residents met Thursday to address unfulfilled promises they said have been made to the community.

Community members gathered at the corner of East 103rd Street and Graham Avenue, where a vacant piece of property they said was meant to be a movie theater has sat empty for 15 years.

"There is no reason why this property should still be vacant," resident Timothy McDaniel said. "There are over 20 vacant lots within two-and-a-half square miles."

The property is controlled by Watts resident Barbara Stanton, who said construction plans for a 33,000-square-foot theater and entertainment industry job training center have been approved, but funding has fallen through twice in the past 15 years.

City officials said they now hope to take back control of the property because other parties are interested in developing it into a project that will be beneficial to the community..

"We want simple things, restaurants in the community," resident Kevin Collins said. "We want a movie theater in the community. If we get businesses in the community, there’s jobs in the community."

As community members prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots, members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment want to use the milestone to call attention to what hasn’t changed in the community in the past half century.

The six-day-long riots, which began on August 11, 1965 and resulted in 34 deaths and $40 million in damage, were fueled in part by community frustration about a lack of affordable housing, few educational and employment opportunities, and racial tensions with police.

Thursday's event was the second in a yearlong series organized by the community group to address employment opportunities, pedestrian safety, illegal trash dumping and other community improvements residents say have been promised but have gone unfulfilled.

"We want all politicians to understand, we're not standing for this," resident Tommy Beard said. "We want change, and we want it right now.”

Photo Credit: Tommy Bravo]]>