To mark the anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) is hosting a year-long, interdisciplinary “conversation” among faculty, students and the community with events taking place both on and off campus. The “50th Anniversary Watts Rebellion Commemoration” will examine the rebellion’s impact by exploring conditions that preceded the uprising and the status of race relations, socioeconomics, education, and equality in the region and across the nation.
“The history of Cal State Dominguez Hills and the Watts Rebellion are inextricably linked. In the wake of the tragic events leading to the rebellion, the campus we today know as CSU Dominguez Hills was moved to its present location in Carson to provide access to quality higher education and help transform a community,” said Naomi Goodwin, chief of staff in the CSUDH Office of the President and co-chair of the Watts Rebellion Commemoration committee. “Today, the faculty and staff of CSU Dominguez Hills continue this remarkable legacy, reaching into the communities we serve, educating and supporting our students, and serving as catalysts for change.”
During the commemoration, a whole new generation of CSUDH students will learn about the Watts Rebellion and CSUDH’s connection to the events and destruction that took place in the summer of 1965. They will also begin to understand why some refer to the university’s close proximity to the corner where the rebellion ignited as “fate.”
In May 1965, plans to purchase land in Palos Verdes to build a new college had been abandoned due to the rising cost of land, and four promising alternative sites had been proposed, including Dominguez Hills. But as fate would have it, just three months later on August 11, 1965, the City of Watts erupted. The ensuing rebellion and fires devastated much of the largely African American community.
A week later, as the smoke began to clear, the longstanding grievances and inequalities in the community began to glow brighter than the flames that had illuminated them. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, California’s governor at the time and one of its most revered leaders, decided Dominguez Hills was the obvious choice to locate the new college. Through his prudence, an institution of higher learning would soon be built just five miles away from where the Watts Rebellion began.
CSU Dominguez Hills opened its doors as California State College, Dominguez Hills in 1966 adjacent to the current site of the university with 20 faculty and 180 students. As time passed, CSUDH would grow into the campus community it is today; a gathering place and mechanism for change intrinsically-linked to those who are underserved, yet eager to learn and dream about the upper-mobility it could bring to their lives.
From August 2015 through spring semester 2016, scholars, students, community leaders and others will come together during CSUDH’s commemoration for a variety of events and ceremonies that celebrate artistic expression and provide opportunities for voices—young and old—to be heard. Below are just a handful of the events that are being planned for the 2015-16 academic year.
This summer, the “Watts Then and Now” photography and archive exhibition will open to the public Aug. 11. The exhibit’s “Opening Reception” will take place in the University Library Cultural Art Center on Oct. 8.
The exhibition will feature artifacts collected by CSUDH Archives and Special Collection related to the Watts Rebellion, including such items as newspaper and magazine, publications from the African American perspective, and official reports and books written about or set around the rebellion.
The evening before, in partnership with CSUDH, the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles will host a screening of the film “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race” on Aug. 10 in the Luckman Theatre.
On Sept. 21, a Peace Pole Installation will take place in CSUDH’s Sculpture Garden. The peace pole will serve as a symbol for change and transformation in the region.
On Oct. 7 and 8, “Fire and the Quest for Transformation: An Academic Symposium on the Watts Rebellion,” a two-day event that will take place in the Loker Student Union, will include prominent educators who will tackle such topics as “Keys to the Watts Rebellion. Significance of the time and continuing impacts,” and “The Watts Rebellion and California State University, Dominguez Hills.”
Later this fall, the “Watts Writer’s 50th Anniversary Gathering” will take place Oct. 23 in the Loker Student Union. The gathering will feature such renowned artists and leaders as poet Raspoet Ojenke; Father Amde and Otis O’ Solomon, members of the Watts Prophets; Kamau Daaood, poet and co-founder of the World-Stage in Leimert Park; jazz musician Dee Dee McNeil, and best-selling author Micheal Datcher.
CSU Dominguez Hills will also launch the “Oral History Archive” project. The video archive will feature short interviews and remembrances from individuals from within the African American and nearby communities who witnessed the Watts Rebellion firsthand and/or are forever linked to its cause and consequences, as well as those who still work in local communities to help bring the change and prosperity that still eludes so many.
For more information or to register for an event during the “50th Anniversary Watts Rebellion Commemoration” visit here.