After he experienced labor discrimination, Ted Watkins founded the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) in 1965, just months before the Watts Rebellion. Watkins intended for WLCAC to improve the quality of life in Watts, and that mission still stands today.

Tim Watkins, Ted’s son and the current president and CEO of WLCAC, said his father formed the committee in the 1960s after “seeing a terrible reduction in programming in the city that attended to the needs of young people.”

What You Need To Know

  • The WLCAC works to improve the quality of life in Watts

  • WLCAC was burned down in 1992 during the L.A. Uprising

  • Tim Watkins, president and CEO of WLCAC, believes police should deal with true crime, not poverty

  • Watkins said poor public policies perpetuate poverty

“It was his sort of premonition that if we kept going in the direction that we were going, that there might be the equivalent of you know, war in our community. And sure enough in 1992, it welled up and over, and we were burned to the ground as many other locations were, and it became a Los Angeles riot in the true sense of the word. There were a lot of reasons for it, but it was a riot,” Watkins said.

After being burned down in 1992, WLCAC was rebuilt within the next year. 

Watkins said law enforcement officers need frequent mental health checks in order to improve public safety.

“If we don't see to it as a society that those people are of sound enough mind that they can make their judgment sometimes in split seconds without racial bias, without superior bias, and whatever else goes into someone putting their knee on a guy's neck for nine minutes, we're going to have to address that underlying mental illness. I think oftentimes that contributes to what sometimes appears almost as satisfaction, that law enforcement officers and others get out of taking a life,” he said.

Black Lives Matter protests have been going on for more than a month after George Floyd was died at the hands of four former Minneapolis police officers.

“People are too smart, too mobile, and now connected too closely to go for the notion that force, sheer force, can actually suppress our freedom,” Watkins said. “I'm a believer that we need police, but we need police to deal with true crime. We need a system of encouragement, inducement, and reward, that asks people that are struggling, oftentimes on empty stomachs to fight poverty, that there's something there on the other side of their struggle that is far better than whatever they might obtain or attain through violent protests.”

Watkins said poor public policies perpetuate poverty. Some social programs can be successful, but Watkins said not all of them achieve their desired outcomes.

“You can build a new housing development. You can erect a new shopping center. You can throw millions and millions of dollars at so-called anti-poverty programs, as if poverty is the cause of our anguish,” he said. “Poor public policy will allow us to feed someone, but won't quite allow us to get them to the point of self-sufficiency so they can feed themselves. It will allow us to give them a ride to a job interview and eureka, they get the job, and then they're on their own, without adequate transportation, without adequate resources, child care, and on all the other things that they need in order to actually succeed.”

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