Watts Labor Community Action Committee

Cultural Center in Exposition Park & South LA

Watts was around the epicenter of two sets of LA riots – first in 1965 and then in 1992 – when this vibrant community and cultural center was burned to the ground. The neighborhood is still teeming with large numbers of kids growing up poor and angry, but there are pockets of improvements, thanks in part to such groups as this.

Founded by Ted Watkins and run by his son, Timothy, the headquarters doubles as a cultural theme park. A huge bronze sculpture of a black woman called Mother of Humanity dominates the campus, and the Cecil Ferguson Gallery rotates exhibits of LA’s best African-American artists, such as Willie Middlebrook and Michael Massenburg.

The most powerful exhibit, though, is the Civil Rights Museum, which is only accessible on guided tours that must be booked at least a day in advance. Guides take you through the hull of the Amistad (the actual facade used in the Spielberg film), a body-filled slave ship, and along the Mississippi Delta Rd to displays about Martin Luther King, the Black Panther Party and the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

There's also a wonderful new skate park (open 8am to dusk) where South LA’s growing crew of skaters freelance and grind with incredible skill.