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.

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.

Human Rights? -By Tina Watkins

In 1948, the world was ravaged by the global destruction caused by World War II.  More than 70 million people lost their lives, and countless others were hurt.

The world forever changed. 

The world was in conflict and the world came together. 

One of the first steps in healing was to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): “With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.   The document they considered, and which would later become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was taken up at the first session of the General Assembly in 1946.”

The federal government is consistently choosing to sustain the military industrial complex at the expense of programs that protect the human rights of its citizens.  Meanwhile, in places like Watts the unemployment rate isn’t the 15% the United States claims to be appalled by: It is FIFTY percent. 

Our systems are succeeding at failing.

Want to learn?  Want to be safe?  Want to eat?  Want to work?  Want to practice your religion freely? To assemble in protest?  To have your privacy protected?  To have a fair trial?  To see the law applied equally? To not be enslaved?

Excerpted from the UDHR:

“Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

It is sickening to know the reality is, many of us are made to feel our human rights are in fact privileges.  We hope you’ll read the full text and feel the affirmation of those universal human rights that unite us in common dignity.

Below is the preamble.

PREAMBLE

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

The following countries adopted the UDHR in 1948:

  1. Europe
  2. Kingdom of Belgium
  3. Kingdom of Denmark
  4. French Republic
  5. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  6. Kingdom of Greece
  7. Republic of Iceland
  8. Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
  9. Kingdom of the Netherlands
  10. Kingdom of Norway
  11. Kingdom of Sweden
  12. Asia
  13. Kingdom of Afghanistan
  14. Union of Burma
  15. Republic of China
  16. Republic of Lebanon
  17. Dominion of India
  18. Empire of Iran
  19. Kingdom of Iraq
  20. Dominion of Pakistan
  21. Republic of Philippines
  22. Syrian Republic
  23. Kingdom of Thailand
  24. Republic of Turkey
  25. Africa
  26. Kingdom of Egypt
  27. Empire of Ethiopia
  28. Republic of Liberia
  29. Americas
  30. Argentine Republic
  31. Republic of Bolivia
  32. Republic of the United States of Brazil
  33. Dominion of Canada
  34. Republic of Chile
  35. Republic of Colombia
  36. Republic of Costa Rica
  37. Republic of Cuba
  38. Dominican Republic
  39. Republic of Ecuador
  40. Republic of El Salvador
  41. Republic of Guatemala
  42. Republic of Haiti
  43. United Mexican States
  44. Republic of Nicaragua
  45. Republic of Panama
  46. Republic of Paraguay
  47. Republic of Peru
  48. Republic of Venezuela
  49. United States of America
  50. Oriental Republic of Uruguay
  51. Oceania
  52. Australia
  53. New Zealand

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights)

Source of all quotations above, and full text: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a23

Flashpoint (By Tina Watkins)

Yesterday, Barack Obama condemned acts of terrorism before the United Nations in his comments about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the quest for world peace.

Yesterday, the United States executed Troy Davis, a black man convicted of killing Mark MacPhail, a white man in a case filled with reasonable doubt.

Yesterday the United States executed a Lawrence Brewer, a white man convicted of dragging James Byrd, a black man, to his death behind his truck.

Today at the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the US and others of racism, colonialism, war-mongering and causing the financial crisis.

Right now, American citizens’ right to vote is being snatched away.  A new super-committee, focused on telling the public how their taxes will be spent, has been given more power than Congress.

Nations from Japan, China, the United States, Indonesia, Turkey, and Somalia are rocked by natural disasters.

Yet…

Today’s top news is who will win the US Presidential race in 2012 and what’s wrong with Wall Street.

Change is not comfortable.  And growth without pain is limited.  ’Cause we all know we’ll never push ourselves past what we’re comfortable with willingly.

So when do we get so uncomfortable we change?

And what happens next?

Humans are born inherently good:  We love babies because they are innocent and pure along with being cute and cuddly.  We’re nearing our breaking point.  And when we break we must know the manner of our spirit.

Ours is not to murder.  It is not to hurt.  It is not to lie, steal, or cheat.

Those are the easy ways out.

It is infinitely more challenging to love your enemies: Act in mercy.  To understand your foes: Act in love.

The US, infant nation that it is, has gone through radical changes our generation forgets:  We were born of a revolution.  We have warred to split our nation over slavery.

It seems people feel pulled in all directions without any clarity: The political world is a shambles with no decisive positions to be seen, except from the extremes.  So when the tea party burns and republicans fail, what is left?

Let’s make sure it’s the best the human spirit has to offer.

Today in Georgia, execution commuted: http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/05/22/us-usa-execution-idUSN2250765020080522

Today at the UN Iran called the US racist war-mongers among other things: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/09/201192218153348760.html

Today, on Davis’ case and social media activism: www.blackenterprise.com/2011/09/22/why-twitter-couldnt-save-troy-davis/  

Posted by Tina Watkins, WLCAC General Manager of Development