August 14 2015

Though rioting can be an effective means of advocating for change, the end results can sometimes straddle the line between positive transformation and further destruction. The riots may go smoothly or it could potentially end in death and injuries. The reality is that oppressive social conditions often lead to social unrest, which is often painted as violent, regardless of whether or not property is damaged and lives are lost. However, it is important to remember that violent or not, riots serve a purpose. Particularly during the Watts riots, those who lived in South Los Angeles took that purpose very seriously and wanted to make sure people understood the conditions they lived under. A healthy, vibrant and safe community has low rates of violence, crimes and racial issues.

Youth out in the community taking photos for their Watts Riots photo essay.
Youth out in the community taking photos for their Watts Riots photo essay.

I would characterize my community in this way. Though I live on a street that outsiders think is dangerous, it is because they have not taken the time to come and see what we have to offer.  It is important not to judge neighborhoods in areas we define as dangerous without taking the time to understand their history and the people who live there.

Murals in the community of Watts that carry messages of healing.
Murals in the community of Watts that carry messages of healing.

Learning about the history of the Watts Riots was a powerful moment. I had a great time speaking to everyone about their experiences during this time and how they compare the conditions from the 60’s to now. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it was for them to survive each day knowing they had to fight for their own lives and constantly look out for each other. In particular, the words of elder Betty really touched me. She had such a great passion for speaking for what she believed in and how we must engage with the media.

Youth comparing photos for the Watts Riots photo essay.
Youth comparing photos for the Watts Riots photo essay.

Listening to the poets was important to think about the role of art in expressing my feelings about my community and the events happening around me. It was also a great experience to take the “Dear, Pictures” and pick up a few photography tips. I also didn’t mind giving a few smiles for the camera. There was such great energy with the team that I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “yes, of course I’ll spend a whole day with you guys again!” They taught me so much in the minimal amount of time we spent together. Overall, such a great and thoughtful experience that I was privileged to attend.

Check Out This Related Blog: #WattsRiots50 Photo Essay

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