Bill Ray’s Watts Riot Photography: ‘Still Seething Collection’ Analyzed

The 1965 Watts riots can be analyzed from different perspectives depending on someone’s personal viewpoints. Some considered it a rebellious act inspired by systematic racism that differentiated the 60’s youth from their ‘We shall Over Come’ peaceful protest-only minded elders, while others consider it a community that caused more damage to their neighborhoods than progressive help/change. These remarkable photos are in vivid color and captured by Life photographer Bill Ray (1936-2020) one year after the bloody and tragic Watts Riots events of 1965.

I remember hearing about the Watts Riots from my parents, whom did not share the same perspective on activism as their elders. Like other baby boomers who were youth in the late 60’s & early 70’s, their ‘icons’ were outspoken young activists like Fred Hampton, Stokley Carmichael, and Malcolm X. It was a time when positive empowering songs like James Brown’s ‘Say It Loud’ was being played on stations and the youth were becoming increasingly angry by the mistreatment they were continuously experiencing.  I also recall seeing the 1993 movie Menace to Society, in which the main character Kane spoke about the infamous Watts Riots in the beginning of the movie, and how it changed the area permanently. At first I always wondered, ”why destroy the businesses and homes in your own neighborhood?” However, now I examine these unfortunate events from multiple viewpoints, and closely analyze the built-up intensity & frustration these youth were feeling leading up to the the Watts Riot.

I love these photos for several different reasons,  partly because I am a history & vintage culture enthusiast. I look at photos like these and wonder what happen to the subjects.  While analyzing the Watts Riots and the community’s transformation, I also think about the historic important neighborhoods in my native city Atlanta, like my father’s childhood on Troy Street. Before drugs like crack and crime infested the area & other  communities across America, these historic areas were filled with families that shared a positive strong connection with their neighbors. There were constant random peaceful block parties with feel-good soulful music blasting throughout the community,  neighborhood fish fry get-together’s full of laughter, kids safely riding their bikes outside and playing until the street lights came on, and just a different type of community-feel then what is present now.

Here are some interesting photos from Bill Ray’s Watts Riots Life Magazine collection.

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Molotov cocktails in Watts, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts Los Angelos,1966. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Pictures

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Molotov cocktails in Watts, 1966. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Pictures

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

The words painted on the grocery store alerted rioters that the stored was African-American owned. Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/ Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966

Watts, Los Angeles, 1966.
Bill Ray/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins: ”There Will Never Be Another You” Live in Denmark 

Saying that Sonny Rollins had a ”great” seven decade long career is an understatement. Rollins is not only one of the most significant jazz musicians in music, but he is a living inspiration and amazing composer who has received accolades such as the National Medal of Arts , Polar Music Prize, multiple Honorary Doctor of Music awards, and elected to the American Academy of Arts of Sciences. Yet, it is not just the awards that represent just how astonishing Rollins’ career has been. Even if Rollins was not as recognized or given so many awards, his music’s quality is momentous and exceptional. Whether he was a saxophonist creating music for Blue Notes Records, Okeh Records, Prestige, RCA, or any other recording company…his compositions will forever be rich jazz standards that are a part of music history since the late 1940’s. Thank you Mr. Sonny Rollins.  Here is one of my favorite performances/song from live in Denmark, 1965, ” There Will Never Be Another You.”

Image result for sonny rollins

Image result for sonny rollins

J. Edgar Hoover Deemed Them The Greatest Threat: Vintage Footage of Black Panther Party’s Youth Learning Centers *Edited*

J. Edgar Hoover once called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense ”the greatest threat to the internal security of this country”. Um,okay. At first I was looking at this quote from just one angle, but if you think about it they stood for a lot of things that many Americans with a mindset like Hoover did not want. So, they were a threat but definitely not a negative/bad one. One definition of ”internal security” means upholding the national law and defending against internal security threats. Yet when I analyze Hoover’s quote, what he really meant was ”keeping the order of things the same way”  and not acting, disturbing, or speaking out against unfair mistreatment/ racism in our society. The Black Panther Party were not about being racist or spreading a hateful message, but they believed in being revolutionary/rebellious concerning the mistreatment/societal issues in our country. In Hoover’s mind this was a great threat to our country’s internal security. Of course, just like all other organizations there were some members who were not really for the party’s cause, however the Black Panther Party were doing great things in the community like helping children learn, get healthy breakfasts, and basically following a belief that is totally fine with me and makes a lot of sense: Self Defense. The problem is, since they were black, armed, and speaking out against the horrible things happening on a mass mainstream level to African Americans and other minority groups….it was a problem. They were a younger generation who did not want to necessarily follow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s method ,had revolutionary mindsets, and this was threatening to many. Unfortunately and sadly, COINTELPRO  and other illegal projects caused total destruction to the Black Panther Party, which included assassinating people like Fred Hampton, harassment, and etc.  This video is a great example of how The Black Panther Party For Self Defense had learning centers and positive resources in inner city communities. But nevertheless, Hoover said this was the greatest threat to the internal security of our country. I wonder why.

Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watch Tower: Classic Song Highlight

Everything about this song…the lyrics, the timeless guitar riff, and just the overall portrait of this Bob Dylan remake is a good example of a song that will never die, get old, or be forgotten. Why? Because Jimi Hendrix was & still will forever be one of music’s legendary innovative geniuses that will live on.One of my first biographies that I read ( not school-related) was A Room Full Of Mirrors by Charles Cross, which was about Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix picked up a broken acoustic guitar as a financially poor child & taught himself how to play guitar, then became a guitar icon due to his playing skills that changed music forever. Long Live Hendrix.

There must be some kinda way out of here”
Said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief”

“Businessmen, they, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth”, hey

“No reason to get excited”
The thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke”

“But you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour is getting late”, hey

Hey

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants too

Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey

All along the watchtower
All along the watchtower

If This World Were Mine: What A Beautiful Song

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel were a amazing duo & this is one of my favorite songs by them. Old school love songs like this one is absolutely timeless. This song was covered by Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn in the 80’s as well. I think it is also so sweet & beautiful that somewhere out there in the world, there are couples who may have been married for 50 years or more, & this could be one of their favorite love songs. I always smile to myself whenever I see senior couples walking, holding hands, & being so into each other. This song was meant for couples like that…people who are best friends, have a bond/connection that goes far beyond the physical, and brings long term happiness in each other’s lives.