The Watts Summer Festival is the oldest African American Cultural Festival in the United States. 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 solutions and alternatives by developing community pride, cultural awareness and political consciousness. It is also a memorial and tribute to the thirty-four community residents who lost their lives during the revolt.
The Watts Summer Festival
The Watts Summer Festival was created by members of the community to work towards the cultural, economic and social development of the Watts. Designed to serve the ever increasing need for cultural interaction within the community, the Watts Summer Festival has proven to be just as important today as it was in 1966.
There are sixteen components or programs at the Watts Summer Festival. They are: Art Exhibit, Carnival, Children's Village, Community Forum, Concerts, Concessions, Custom Car, Bike & Van Show, Fashion Show, Film Festival, Goodwill Ambassador, Parade, Performing Arts, Senior Citizens Pavilion, Social Service, Spirit of Watts Tour and the Sports Village [formally Watts Summer Olympic Games].
As the Watts Summer Festival moves into a new millennium it continues to be recognized as a major trendsetter. It is an annual event that celebrates the best of African Americans as a proud and productive people. It is the one of the few events that displays the cultural contributions and successes of African American people and most importantly provides a source of inspiration for future generations. The Watts Summer Festival has long been the vanguard of similar festivals now held throughout the United States.
The festival has drawn world-wide attention to the small African American community in the United. It has attracted many artistic forms to its stage, showcasing for community artists as well as some of America's leading African American entertainers such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, the late Harmonica Fats, WAR, Richard Pryor, Nancy Wilson, Gil Scott Heron, Barry White, the Watts Prophets, Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band and the Staple Singers. All have donated their time and talents to this annual summer event.
It has brought family and friends out to have a good time. And most importantly, 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 their cultural contributions and successes, to pioneer the concept of the vendor marketplace and to provide a platform for local talent.
The Watts Summer Festival has received special Proclamations and Resolutions from city, county, state and federal officials. Outstanding Grand Marshals have included: Muhammad Ali, Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers, Dr. Betty Shabazz. Merv Dymally, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr. the Honorable Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and the Honorable Maxine Waters.