*Los Angeles – The Board of Directors of the annual Watts Summer Festival (WSF) announced today that U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-43rd) and California State Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-64th), will chair this year’s event commemorating the 1965 Watts Revolt.
The historic revolt was sparked by the arrest of a black motorist by California Highway Patrol officer.
After nearly a week of unrest, 34 people lost their lives and more than 1,000 were injured, more than 600 buildings were damaged and businesses were burned to the ground.
Growing from the ashes of the revolt, the Watts Summer Festival was conceived in 1966 by community members. In 1972, the Festival became the first African-American organization to sponsor “Wattstax: The Living Word,” a sellout concert at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum which became an album and made into an historic documentary.
Elected in November 2012 to her twelfth term in the House of Representatives, Rep. Waters represents a large part of South Central Los Angeles including the communities of Westchester, Playa Del Rey, and Watts and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County comprised of Lennox, West Athens, West Carson, Harbor Gateway and El Camino Village.
The 43rd District also includes the diverse cities of Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita and Torrance. Rep. Waters has always been a consistent supporter of the Watts Summer Festival.
Born and raised in Watts, Mike Gipson was elected to the California State Assembly in November 2014, representing the 64th Assembly District that includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor Gateway, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, South Los Angeles, Torrance, Watts/Willowbrook and Wilmington.
The resilience of the Watts Summer Festival is a strong testament to the dedication of the late Tommy Jacquette, who served from 1968-2009. This year’s WSF observance is timely with the world showing unity with peaceful protests throughout the nation and the world.
The deeper causes were documented by the McCone Commission, which investigated the revolt. The Commission determined that the causes were poverty, inequality, racial discrimination and the passage of Proposition 14 in 1964. The initiative overturned the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which established equality of opportunity for black home buyers.
The Watts Summer Festival, Inc. will be collaborating with Assemblymember Gipson to include other elected officials, local leaders, historic and community organizations; faith-based organizations and churches under the umbrella of “Watts Phoenix 50” to plan citywide events commemorating this historic point in civil rights.
Community stakeholders and residents are invited to participate by contacting Pamela Garrett at the Watts Festival Office (213) 361-8249; Kathy Williamson or Michelle Chambers at Assemblymember
Mike Gipson’s Office (310) 223-1201; WattsPhoenix50@gmail.com or visiting the WSF Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WattsSummerFestival and website at www.WATTSFEST.ORG. to keep informed on upcoming planning, activities and events.