Thursday, September 21, 2017
Taking it to the Streets! Watts Summer Festival Celebrates 43rd Year
By Sentinel News Service
Published August 6, 2009

Carnival rides will be one of the features of the 43rd Annual Watts Summer Festival

‘Taking it to the streets!
Watts Summer Festival celebrates 43rd year

Charles Wright serves as celebrity spokesperson

Never missing a beat, the Watts Summer Festival will celebrate its 43rd year on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8-9, 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. daily. Festival-goers will be “Taking it to the streets!” on 103rd Street, between Compton Blvd. and Success Ave. in Watts, CA 90002.

Admission is always free for this historical family-friendly event. Carnival rides and a Children’s Village will delight the kids. Gospel, jazz, R&B and hip-hop concerts will provide the musical backdrop for the weekend.

The Opening Ceremony will begin at noon on Saturday, welcoming elected officials–Congressmember Maxine Waters, honorary chair; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, host; Councilmember Janice Hahn, host; sponsors and community leaders.

The Festival will close on Sunday night with a special R&B concert, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., featuring Charles Wright (Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, “Express Yourself”) with a special performance. Wright is also the celebrity spokesperson for the event.

The Watts Summer Festival is one of the oldest African American cultural festivals in the United States. It was designed to serve the ever-increasing need for cultural interaction within the African American community.

Growing from the ashes of the 1965 Watts Revolt, the festival was conceived in 1966 and incorporated in 1968 with the intent of redirecting the energies of the community into tangible, positive alternatives and solutions to develop community pride, cultural awareness, political consciousness, and memorialize the 34 people who lost their lives during the revolt.

The Watts Summer Festival was created by members of the community who united together to work toward the economic and social development of the Watts community. A partial list of the founding members include: Stan Sanders, Baltimore Scott, Wanda Tidwell O’Neal, Inola Henry, the late Claude McDonald, Coach Clarence Mackey, Sam Anderson, Charles Hill, Roger Brown, and the late Billy Tidwell.

The Watts Summer Festival has drawn worldwide attention to a small predominately African American community in the United States called Watts.IIt has attracted every artistic form to its stage, having been the showcase for community artists as well as some of America’s top African American entertainers such as the late James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, the late Harmonica Fats, WAR, the late Richard Pryor, Nancy Wilson, Gil Scott Heron, the late Barry White, the Watts Prophets, Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band, and the Staple Singers who have all donated their time and talent to this summer celebration.

The Watts Summer Festival has received special proclamations and resolutions from city, county, state, and federal elected officials. Grand Marshals have included Muhammad Ali, the late Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers, the late Dr. Betty Shabazz, Merv Dymally, the late Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones, the late Sammy Davis Jr., the Honorable Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, and the Honorable Maxine Waters.

The Watts Summer Festival is considered to be the vanguard of similar festivals now held throughout the United States. It has brought family and friends out to have a good time. Most importantly however, it has given a clear signal to the world that African American people have the business and creative expertise to produce an annual event that displays our cultural contributions and successes.

In 1972 it became the first African American organization to sponsor a sell-out concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The production “Wattstax, The Living Word” was both a recording album and a major film featuring the late Richard Pryor and viewed in theatres throughout the country.

Included in the initial concept of the Watts Summer Festival is the long-term goal to acquire land for the development of an African American cultural tourist attraction. This tourist attraction will provide a year round culturally based venue with commercial and recreational activities for local residents, as well as for visitors to the Los Angeles area. It will also serve as the site for the annual Watts Summer Festival.

At the helm of the Watts Summer Festival for 40 years, the driving force for the festival’s endurance has been its Executive Director, Tommy Jacquette. He has remained steadfast to the principle, purpose and history of the Watts Summer Festival despite obstacles and the demographic shift in the city of Watts.

The Watts Summer Festival includes exciting components: Art Exhibit, Business Exhibits, a Carnival, Children’s Village, Community Forums, Concerts, Concessions, Custom Car, Bike, and Van Show, Fashion Show, the Goodwill Ambassador Scholarship, Performing Arts Stage, Senior Citizens Pavilion, Social Service Agencies and more.

For more information, call (323) 789-7304 or visit

Categories: Local

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