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South LA 50 Years after the Watts Riots: Community Organizations and Media on Stories of Positive Change



By Stella Chung & Minhee Son

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Riots—six days of unrest that would leave a haunting effect on the residents of South Los Angeles.

The anniversary is certain to bring media coverage to South Los Angeles.

Recently, media outlets have started reflecting on the riots and its impact on both a local and national level. CNN’s Julian Zelizer said that the “nation has never dealt with the problems that afflicted Watts.” Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks recently wrote of the need to appropriately commemorate the Watts Riots in order to learn from the lessons of the past.

What type of stories do you expect to see in the media as the 50th anniversary draws near?

What role can community-based practitioners play in telling the South LA story, 50 years after the riots?


Storytelling in South LA: Bringing together community organizations and local media 

Research conducted by the Metamorphosis Project shows the importance of both community organizations and local media working together to tell stories about the community's shared identity, common issues, and positive efforts being made to address those issues. This ongoing connection between community organizations and local media is key to mobilizing the community's diverse residents, and has consequences for levels of belonging, collective efficacy, and participation. For community organizations, it is crucial to get stories out on the geo-ethnic media that its residents are connecting to. However, partnerships between community-based practitioners and media professionals are often hard to develop and sustain over time. 

Our program, Storytelling in South LA: Community-led Social Change 50 Years after the Watts Riots, brings together community organizations and local media to produce stories exploring positive change in the community.  

The program has been developed by USC’s Metamorphosis Project, Intersections South LA, and the Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative, and includes the following partners: community organizations, Augustus Hawkins High School students, local and regional media, Investigative Reporters and Editors, USC students and researchers.


Program details 

The program includes a series of workshops and will conclude with a public forum.

The workshops will facilitate a conversation between community organizations and media partners to better develop stories about the community. Community organizations will receive training on effective outreach and engagement tools, and work with reporters to brainstorm and develop stories.

To conclude the workshops, the Metamorphosis Project will host a public forum inviting organizations, media and community members to come together to listen to and discuss the media stories.

The forum is TENTATIVELY scheduled for Thursday April 23rd, 2015. Please check back on the website for updates regarding the event. We look forward to seeing you there!



As the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) celebrates 50 years of servicethey invite you to the event This Land, a play reading about four families who have settled down in Watts. This event is hosted by Center Theatre GroupWatts Village Theater Company and The Watts Labor Community Action Committee

Visit this link to find out more.



If you have any questions about the Storytelling in South LA program, please contact Research Assistant, Minhee Son (minheeso@usc.edu) and Community Liaison, Evelyn Moreno (elmoreno@usc.edu)You can also give us a call at (213) 740-1260

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