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Watts – 50 Years Later
By Sentinel News Service
Published July 2, 2015

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Celebrity chef and motivational speaker Curtis Aikens Sr. speaks to a gathering of Watts residents about diabetes awareness during his mobile cooking session at the launch of “Watts Bridges.”

Watts community comes together for launch of “Watts Bridges,” a wellness and job clinic featuring original Food Network celebrity Chef Curtis Watkins

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More than 150 residents in the greater Watts community took part in a day long free mobile health clinic and job fair during the launch of “Watts Bridges,” a non-profit program aimed at restoring economic opportunity and promoting healthy lifestyles.

The event brought together dozens of advocates in criminal justice reform, youth mentoring and career development alongside some of Southern California’s largest health care providers at Tabernacle Faith Baptist Church in Watts.
As a health care issue, diabetes is one of the country’s fastest growing public health epidemics which afflicts Latinos and African Americans at a higher rate than any other group. To help combat the disease from a dietary approach, celebrity chef and motivational speaker Curtis Aikens entertained a capacity crowd with a Food Network style mobile cooking session.
“Even in the midst of severe economic hardship, this community is just full of love, and everyone here wants to help not just themselves but uplift the entire community when it comes to the role of healthy diets in combatting a chronic disease like diabetes,” said Aikens.
Aikens, a recent guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House for the Fall White House Kitchen Garden Harvest, is also promoting a nationwide “Kids and Chefs Move to Schools” program, as part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, teaching children the value of healthy recipes. “The power of social media has given us the kind of public awareness tools that everyone in every community across the country can apply to their daily lives in our effort to defeat diabetes and obesity,” said Aikens.
In communities of color where young men are disproportionately incarcerated, on parole or probation, “Watts Bridges” provided a one-stop center for individuals seeking legal advice about ways to expunge criminal records. Thousands of gifted, hard-working individuals who have long completed their probation terms still find themselves locked out of higher paying jobs.
Stephanie Sauter, a nationally renowned criminal justice reform advocate and founder of Law Project of Los Angeles, delivered the keynote speech on overcoming barriers to employment and education. “Not everyone here today has a conviction but they know someone in their families or in the greater Watts community who can use our legal assistance in clearing a mistake from the past that seems impossible,”said Sauter.
Stephanie Sauter, a nationally renowned criminal justice reform advocate and founder of Law Project of Los Angeles, delivered the keynote speech on overcoming barriers to employment and education. “Not everyone here today has a conviction but they know someone in their families or in the greater Watts community who can use our legal assistance in clearing a mistake from the past that seems impossible,”said Sauter.
As full size mobile trucks filled the parking lots of Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church, many residents were greeted with health care workers like Novo Nordisk USA, a leader in Diabetes Care and Education, Kaiser Permanente, Angels for Sight, Global Cardio Care, Children’s Health Institute, Total Care Medical Clinic, and youth mentoring organization Operation Progress LA.
Representatives of Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D) 44th District, California State Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D) 64th District and Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino (D) 15th District participated in the community outreach effort.
“As a spiritual and moral center of the community, we all share a responsibility to fulfill the mission of Watts Bridges, by improving economic, social and physical wellness for families and to enrich all lives,” said Rev. Reginald M. Leffall, III, Senior Pastor, Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church who established “Watts Bridges,” and appointed M. Candace Neely as program director, as an extension of the 50 year old Watts World Revival Non Profit Corporation.

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Left to Right: Donte Johnson, Watts Bridges advisor, Stuart Farber, Chairperson Watts World Revival, Curtis Aikens, Celebrity Chef and Motivational Speaker, M. Candace Neeley, Program Director, Watts Bridges, Jackolyn King, CFO Watts World Revival, Rev. Reginald M. Leffall, III, Senior Pastor, Tabernacle of Faith Baptist, John Bryant, James Blevins, Directors, Watts World Revival.

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