WATTS (CBSLA.com) — Residents of Watts on Saturday stopped to commemorate the anniversary of the deadly riots there in 1965.
The riots shaped and defined the community.
A year after the riots, community leaders and organizers began the festival in a response to the rioting.
Saturday, the 49th annual Watts Summer Festival was held and CBS2’s Greg Mills was there.
Mills asked residents what the festival meant to them.
The tunes were playing, there was food and people dancing.
“This is awesome,” said one festival goer who was born more like 5 and not 50 years ago. The riots are something she will only know from history books.
Thirty-four people were killed in the civil unrest.
Those who are old enough to remember the week-long days of unrest and arson and shootings will never forget it.
“I was scared,” said Arvinola Smith-Neal. She told Mills she was driving from Compton to Watts with her four children and she wasn’t sure she would make it out alive.
“And the crowd was running away,” she said, “I was scared to death for my four children in the car. And I was shaking in the car.”
Smith-Neal says her four children were very successful and she noted how Watts has improved in the 50 years since the riots.
Many of her grandchildren have not been as fortunate.
She said some of her grandchildren haven’t finished school and some of them are having trouble finding work.
On Friday, CBS News reported that unemployment for black teens is at a staggering 31 percent.
The subject of racism continually comes up with the plethora of police shootings across the United States.
The cause of the rioting 50 years ago? High unemployment, police brutality and racism.
One festival goer was asked if she’s seen progress.
She shook her head and said, “No. To me? no.”