In the 50 years since the Watts Rebellion and given recent social unrest foddered by racial and socio-economic disparities, what has changed in our local and national communities?
Watts, as do other Black and Latino communities, continues to experience many of the same hardships of decades ago. Job opportunities continue to be scarce, as is access to affordable housing. And there are other scars that run deep throughout this community that continue to cause suffering. A continued lack of infrastructure and services remains in this community and those surrounding it.
At the same time, the Watts remains vital and buoyant with deeply-rooted grassroots activism and homegrown cultural and economic regeneration.
In remembering the Watts Rebellion in its 50th anniversary, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has curated an exhibit of photos and memorabilia that juxtapose the environment in Watts in 1965 with that of 2015. "Watts Then and Now", displays a carefully curated selection of vintage photos and other collected items from the school's archives and Special Collections, picked and assembled by curator, Gregory Williams.
Many of the unique objects on display are part of the Glen Anderson archive, a set of historic documents of former Lt. Governor Glen Anderson, which is part of CSUDH's Special Collections. The archival objects offer insightful glimpses into the Rebellion's most uncertain, turbulent moments as acting Governor Anderson attempted to keep peace and prevent greater catastrophe while negotiating relations between community members and authorities. In addition, the archive includes the government-generated McCone report, important for its role in assessing the aftermath of the Rebellion and for shaping public perception of the uprising as riots. "Watts Then and Now" places documents from multiple sources into dialogue with each other, offering varying perspectives on the events and its outcomes in the last 50 years, which also includes cultural resurgence rooted in activism.
This photo essay is the second of three installments that takes a reflective look at the 1965 Watts Rebellion as well as the activism and re-energized community that followed the uprising to current day.
See the first photo installment for an on-the-street look of the uprising.
Photographs courtesy of Laura Vena and California State University Dominguez Hills Archives, "Watts Then and Now".