New Agriculture Park MudTown Farms Breaks Ground in Watts!

The Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) is a non-profit organization in Watts with more than fifty years of helping improve lives through social services, housing, arts, and community development. Led by Timothy Watkins Sr., WLCAC has sought to tackle not only immediate survival challenges in Watts but also to dismantle deeper systemic roots to allow residents to thrive. The Watts neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles faces a health crisis with high rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and infant mortality, exacerbated by limited access to healthy food and green space. Timothy and his wife Janine live in the Watts neighborhood, raising six children and now grandchildren, and this stark reality hit home.

With a family history of farming, Janine conceived of a project that would heal the neighborhood by growing not only healthy food, but healthy families. Inspired, Mr. Watkins set out to develop and implement a solution that will educate, empower, and nourish residents locally while serving as a model example nationally for living healthier in park poor neighborhoods that are food deserts.

To form the vision for MudTown Farms, WLCAC sought input from experts across the country including Michael Ableman and Eugene Cook, ultimately leading WLCAC to purchase a 2.5 acre parcel of farm land in Watts in 2005. MudTown Farms is the original name for the segregated blacks-only neighborhood where the parcel rests at the intersection of 103rd and Grape Streets in Watts. For nearly a century, the land has been used for farming or community gardens by local residents. The planned project includes time-tested farming techniques and current innovation to maximize neighborhood impact.

MudTown Farms will be an agriculture park with open space for community gardens, orchards, exercise pathways, reading gardens, and more. The park will also include a community center for teaching, training and events.

In 2012, WLCAC won a $4.9 million competitive grant award from California State Parks to build the first phase of the park. The City of Los Angeles Prop K fund also awarded $208K for construction. MudTown Farms is spearheaded by Haleemah Henderson (MPL), who has worked with WLCAC for more than a decade. Working together with Claremont Environmental Design Group for design and development, a grand opening is expected in late 2018. On Wednesday  WLCAC will break ground on MudTown Farms, sowing the seed for a remarkable future in Watts.

Join us on Wednesday February 15th, 2017 at 2051 East 103rd Street Los Angeles CA 90002 at 12 noon!

www.wlcac.org

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My Brother’s Keeper: A statement from WLCAC

The Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), a non-profit with nearly 50 years of history advocating for the nation’s most underserved, keeps our brothers every day.

WLCAC’s founder Ted Watkins lived what it meant to be a brother’s keeper.  As a thirteen year old African-American he fled a Mississippi lynch mob, settling down in the Watts neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles in 1935 and never looked back.  He worked hard at different trades, joined the United Auto Workers Union, and raised a family of six with his wife Bernice, a blonde-haired green-eyed Jewish woman whose family disowned her for marrying a black man.

His fight against poverty eventually led him to establish WLCAC in 1965.  This was just before the Watts Revolt, when young men of color flashed in violent anger over law enforcement’s failure to protect its women and children.  The lack of amenities such as transportation, health care, job training and development altogether fueled a seething frustration that cried out for real change.    Under Ted’s leadership, WLCAC brought thousands of jobs to young men of color in Watts and for the first time, many of them became self-sufficient and became life-long wage earners in the process.  New neighborhoods blossomed around single-family homes that low-income renters could buy with a long-term lease to purchase. 

When revolt erupted again in 1992, young men of color were burning with rage at the injustice of the racially driven Rodney King Verdict and WLCAC’s seven-acre headquarters site was burned to the ground.  Although 27 years of work, employment programs, records and history were destroyed in flames, Ted returned to work the morning after committed to rebuilding.    When Ted passed away in 1993, WLCAC responded to the historic violence and racial injustice in the community with a renewed commitment to cultural enrichment as a means for documenting local history and then using the truth about the cultural experience to heal souls and further human potential.  Interactive museums and exhibits help visitors explore the hatred of racial injustice and learn about constructive civil rights struggles and the promotion of healing through understanding.  WLCAC’s seven acre headquarters site now includes a  Civil Rights Tour exposing visitors to the trials of the middle passage,the darkness of the Reconstruction Eraand the light of the Civil Rights Movement with a photographic exhibit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s work throughout  America. 

With Timothy Watkins’ leadership, this cultural experience has become the catalyst for WLCAC’s Cultural Tourism initiative: A new economic development engine aimed at redeveloping the impoverished community by transforming the people who live there instead of transplanting them.   But most important to WLCAC and to its leadership of old and new, are the people who live in Watts, a community that has been neglected and overlooked for far too long. 

Along with leading WLCAC in providing social services to tens of thousands of souls every year, Tim is proud to hire ex-offenders and has held jobs for their return when recidivism claimed them.   A willingness to reach out and to champion the rights of the disenfranchised is Tim’s personal passion and WLCAC staff reflects this same quality  of care and concern towards the people we serve, particularly our  youngsters, most  of whom are young people of color.  

 

As WLCAC continues to do all we can to be our brother’s keeper, we are deeply encouraged by and excited about President Obama’s demonstration of this nation’s commitment to standing up for those who are in greatest need of support.

50 Years in 2015: An exciting future that honors our history.

As we enter the new year, all us folks here at WLCAC can’t help but grow excited for 2015: Fifty years after WLCAC was founded in 1965 by my grandpa, Ted Watkins Sr.

Ted Watkins with Cesar Chavez and Walter Reuther

Fifty years:

After the Watts riots ravaged the City of Los Angeles in historic revolt;

http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/watts-rebellion-august-1965

Black Past: 103rd Street in Watts known as Charcoal Alley after the riots.

Of service, building, success, fun, friendship and love;

Volunteers working together on an art sculpture

Of struggle, challenges, failures, setbacks and frustration;  

Demanding medical facilities for South LA

Learning;

Meet Rosby, one of the pleasant voices who answers when you call us.

(Say hi to Rosby, the woman behind one of the voices you’ll hear when calling WLCAC.)

Growth;

Our plant manager Ron, who keeps our 7-acre sanctuary in shape.

(Say hi to Ron, who keeps our seven-acre sanctuary in top shape, has an amazing singing voice, and will help make your event a success.)

Experience;

Tim.  Our tireless leader of more than decade, who you might catch him playing piano in our lobby after 5pm.

(Say hi to Tim, our tireless leader for nearly 15 years who is also a husband, father, grandfather, and plays a mean piano in the lobby after hours.)

Here at WLCAC we believe there is purpose and value to be found in every moment, in every life.

Watts Dog, the WLCAC mascot.

(Say hi to Watts Dog, our mascot who you’ll see sunbathing or defending our sanctuary on any given day.)

Today, more than ever we are so thankful to those who have supported us and walked this journey in partnership whether as a teammate, co-laborer, or critic.

"I <3 Watts" -Wood, multimedia. Unknown.

Visit our website to learn more about who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

If you enjoyed this post, please say so in the comments below, and share with others!

Until next time,

Tina Watkins

Tina, the person behind most blogs and emails you'll get from us. (That’s me, writing this blog. Hi!)

Sunrise at WLCAC

Sunrise at WLCAC

Sunrise at WLCAC


Move in to 2013 with purpose, clarity, definition and control over your life.

Begin by taking stock of the resources you have to effect change, the tools you’ve been given to achieve change, and how you are to meant use them.

Use those resources prudently. Apply and sharpen tools properly. Take meaningful action precisely.

Let your purpose be your guide, and do no harm in doing good.

WLCAC Wins $4.9 Million Prop 84 California State Parks Award!

WLCAC will build the first and only Urban Farm and community center in Watts history!

CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS AWARDS WLCAC $4.9 MILLION IN PROP 84 PARK GRANT FOR NEW URBAN FARM PARK AND COMMUNITY CENTER IN WATTS

WATTS, CA —Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) announces $4.9 million Proposition 84 Park Grant award to build the first and only Urban Farm and community center in Watts. [See more info at wlcac.org]

This is a dream realized for WLCAC and Watts residents, who have been working together for nearly a decade to build the project, which will provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy: Recreation, education, events, healthy produce and green space.  The project will include growing grounds, an orchard, fitness equipment, a community center, learning facilities and more.  The urban farm park will be named MudTown Farms.  MudTown was the historic name for the Watts neighborhood, which was renamed in 1900 after a local realtor, C.H. Watts.  This new farm and park space will bring hope, and with its new growth, a new meaning and honoring of Watts’ rich history. 

Nearly 500 applications were reviewed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and 62 were awarded.  “The outpouring of applications from the urban and rural communities involved in this competitive program clearly shows the extent of unmet recreation needs throughout California,” said Ruth Coleman, Director of California State Parks. “The benefits of these parks will be felt in the concrete-covered urban landscapes… Especially heartwarming about the applications was the participation of children, seniors and families in determining what they wanted in their local parks.”

WLCAC was one of only five private non-profits receiving nearly the maximum award amount of $5 million dollars.  “We are thrilled to see that California State Parks recognized the tremendous need in the area of Watts and saw fit to make this sizeable award,” said Tim Watkins, WLCAC President and CEO. “The beauty of the MudTown Farms project is that it will turn into much greater good for the community for a long, long time to come.”

WLCAC’s mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of Watts.  To achieve this mission WLCAC spurs community economic development; provides cultural programming and enrichment; and delivers social services to more than 30,000 residents annually.

For more information on WLCAC, please visit www.wlcac.org or contact us at 323.563.5639.

 

For a list of the selected projects for the first round of Prop 84 Park Grants visit www.parks.ca.gov/grants.

 

Trayvon Martin and the Stand Your Ground law: A flashpoint for Constitutional Amendment truly assuring Voter’s Rights

By now, most have heard of the February 26th fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida. 

People are rightly incensed and it’s showing up all over social and print media, the news and justice system, as it should be. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/20/trayvon-martin-grand-jury_n_1367491.html

When people unite behind a cause for social justice there’s potentially great power to effect change.  As the message grows, it is important to recognize where it’s important to spend our time, as with any movement.

Otherwise, as fervor waxes, focus wanes. 

Successful change movements change.  They often begin at a flashpoint, but they have to become focused on something that has a long-term impact to have lasting effect.

For example, the famous Rosa Parks bus ride was a simple moment in time that led to a national desegregation movement. 

Movements are multi-faceted, multi-layered, calling for awareness, strategy, demonstrations of civil unrest, policy change, advocacy, leadership…

As multiple petitions bearing his name swell, diluting the strength of his family’s petition… http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin … As photos circulate of hooded citizens… As newspaper articles swirl accusing local police and death threats loom for Zimmerman… 

Was his life lost for a blip on the radar of Facebook movements and swift conviction of an unstable citizen?  Or was it the flashpoint for something bigger?  Maybe it was something that speaks to the audacity of the notion that any human life is disposable.  Or, maybe it was something that speaks to the crime of the expectation that human rights can be violated by legal games. 

What will the Trayvon Martin justice movement be long term? 

Many are unaware that the reason his killer wasn’t charged is because Florida voters, along with those in many other states, passed a “Stand Your Ground Law” based on the Castle Doctrine handed down from America’s step-parents in Medieval England. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law

That vote made it possible for Zimmerman to walk free.

Who would vote for that?

America’s a diverse place.  The premise of democracy is that humans are different enough to balance out any extremes in society.  So as long as everyone’s voice is able to be considered it shouldn’t get too crazy.  The primary way American’s voice is considered when it comes to making laws is by voting.  For lawmakers, for legislation to pass, etc.

So if you wanted to remove that balance that comes with everyone having a voice, you would keep some folks from voting at all.  For awhile, women and blacks weren’t allowed to vote in the US. 

Voting is a right of all Americans though, so how could one rob you of that?

It wouldn’t be as simple as saying you couldn’t vote.    Because you can, of your own free will, register to vote.  And when you do, you will be identified and your signature captured.

So if anyone can register, how could someone exclude a certain group from voting?

The easiest way to exclude someone is to label them as other.  To label them not part of something.  That means you have to create a label.  And if that label doesn’t say what it’s supposed to, the person it belongs to gets excluded. 

What labels do we carry as Americans? 

We carry identification.  

Ok, well how do they give out I.D.s?  Are they free?  Are they distributed at work and school?  Are you able to get one no matter what?  Is it easy to get it replaced if it’s lost? Can it ever be taken from you? 

Many take it for granted that in America, you are expected to have some form of I.D. card or driver’s license.  It isn’t that easy.  And once you have it, you can lose it for a number of reasons. 

Maybe you couldn’t get to the DMV because you were working.  Maybe you couldn’t order another one because you were broke.  Maybe you hung out with the wrong people and went to jail.

All of those problems tend to plague the people who make the least money in America.  The people who make the least money are also less likely to vote for laws that put them at risk, financially, physically, or otherwise.

So voting is a big deal.

Well, maybe Florida has no voter registration laws or restrictions that make it tough for people like Trayvon Martin’s parents and their friends to vote against a Stand Your Ground law. 

Or not.  Florida is pretty infamous for voting chaos.  Florida is currently embattled with the Department of Justice because it has passed controversial laws restricting the rights of voters.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/justice-department-florida-voting-laws_n_1323940.html

Well, maybe it’s just Florida.

Or not. 

Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, Delaware, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan, Washington, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Texas all require voters to show some form of ID before being allowed to participate in an election as a registered voter. 

A state-by-state look at voter I.D. requirements: http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id-state-requirements.aspx

Twenty six out of fifty American states think it isn’t enough for an American citizen to take the voluntary steps to register to vote, prove they are who they say they are, and then show up at a polling place on election day.

They think there should be more proof.  There should be a clearer label.  And hey, if someone can’t prove they’re the registered voter they say they are…

Well.

They shouldn’t be allowed to weigh in on whether laws like the Stand Your Ground law should be passed…. They shouldn’t be allowed to vote, for whether they should be required to show I.D. to vote.
Is justice for Trayvon Martin a conviction for George Zimmerman or is it signing a petition for a Constitutional Amendment ensuring our right to vote is really protected?

So.

Voting is a big deal. 

Of the 27 Constitutional Amendments, six of them are about voting.