Thursday, August 22, 2019
USC Forum Revisits Watts Civil Unrest
By Brian W. Carter (Staff Writer)
Published April 30, 2015

The forum explored how anniversary coverage can be an opportunity to investigate lingering structural problems while highlighting positive social change in the impacted area in South Los Angeles

L.A. journalists came together at USC Annenberg to discuss the importance on media coverage during and after the devastating uprising.

On April 23, the USC Annenberg’s Metamorphosis Project, Intersections South L.A. (USC), and the Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative held the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Watts Riots at Wallis Annenberg Hall. The initiative took an in-depth look at how media covers the aftermath of civil unrests, the impact it has on communities and the questions of what can be done to solve or alleviate the causes of future unrest.

The forum featured community organizations and various media that have been exploring solutions-oriented coverage such as the Sentinel, La Opinion, Hoy, L.A. Wave, KPCC, Intersections South L.A. and students from the journalism program at Augustus Hawkins High School. The community organization partners that participated included: All Peoples Community Center, Coalition for Responsible Community Development, Community Coalition, Community Health Councils and Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and T.R.U.S.T. South LA.

“It’s important for the media and community organizations to come together to discuss the real issues that face South L.A.,” said Amen Oyiboke, staff writer for the Sentinel. “I was drawn to this collaboration because we had the opportunity to tell stories without biases and base them on facts. South L.A. needs to be awaken with solution based information and stories that will help bring some type of progress.”

Journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan and writer Larry Aubry

The panel also included South L.A. resident and writer Larry Aubry, who shared his memories and experiences as a probation officer during the Watts riots. His daughter and journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan, who covered the 1992 Rodney King riots, also spoke about her experiences as a journalist with the L.A. Times during the riots.

Both highlighted the various events that led to uprisings, the coverage or lack thereof and the systematic misinformation, neglect and re-appropriation of the South L.A. area.

The anniversary of the Watts Riots is actually in August, but the forum’s agenda was to shed light on the actual events now to begin the conversation about the issues surrounding the unrest and the lingering effects in South L.A.

Sentinel Staff Writer Amen Oyiboke leads discussion during breakout session

The forum explored how anniversary coverage can be an opportunity to investigate lingering structural problems while highlighting positive social change in the impacted area.

The importance of media involvement and coverage of South L.A. was deemed as the most important thing discussed because of the influence media has for the general public. “The purpose of this collaboration was to talk about the issues facing South L.A. and to find out what community solutions are being done to take care of those issues. We constantly see the same story lines or labels attached to South L.A.,” said Daniela Gerson from the Metamorphosis Project. 

Among the issues examined were housing, jobs, land development and health around the South L.A. since the riots in 1965 and 1992. Consensuses from the discussions pointed that while there have been improvements in some areas there is still much work to be done.

For more information on USC’s Watts Projects visit

All Photos by Jenna Pittaway

Categories: Crenshaw & Around

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