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

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.

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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!)