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

More Than Protesting: Strategic Action, Effective Change

Protests are not always effective when it comes to progression/change. So, what is? To help gradually decrease police brutality, there needs to be reconstruction , change & progress  on the federal, state, and local levels of government. The reason why unfit and bad cops keep getting away with these crimes is because they are protected by policies that are flawed. We cannot keep simply protesting, being out raged on social media, and accepting that this is just how it is. Effective change means not just discussion and protest signs, but it also means strategically planning & taking action. So, let’s contemplate a few effective actions we can do that will help implement change.

1. Educating ourselves on the policies/laws already enacted and policy solutions that needs to be enforced, then demanding action from policy officials at all levels of government. Don’t complain, but then refuse to actually be a part of change. Don’t shoot down my suggestions, then refuse to try or give better solutions.

2. It’s okay to be angry, but create positive change from that anger. Saying “fuck the police” and then ranting on social media is not going to solve anything.

3. I encourage all to learn more at joincampaignzero.org, which goes into detail more specifically on the  problems, solutions, and actions we can take to implement effective change.

All in all, if we live in a place where issues like police brutality and basic human rights violations plague the land, then we all should help implement change and discuss/take actions concerning effective solutions…. Especially for those of us who complain and are angry.

Feminism 101: I Won’t Slut Shame You, So Don’t Virgin Shame Me.

There is nothing wrong with a female  who is against slut shaming. I don’t believe in slut shaming,  but not every woman has the same mentality when it comes to body count and sex.  We are all individuals who have different mindsets, and just because a woman wants to keep her body count as low as possible and does  not want to have casual sex without being in a relationship does not mean she is conforming to society or whatever. It just means she is doing what she thinks is best for her. It is a form of hypocrisy for someone to get angry at slut shaming,  but will turn around and virgin -shame or ridicule another woman for not being as “free” as they want them to be. People find freedom in different things,  and being modest, Abstinent, or “lady like” might give someone the same freedom and happiness that a woman with a different mindset has. The whole concept of women empowerment is supposed to be about uplifting other women with positivity and helping those in disadvantaged situations (education, health issues) & less about freeing the nipple, bashing men in general or bashing those of us who still believe in being classy/ a lady. No matter what “type” of woman you are, we all should uplift each other and encourage equality among every one on this Earth no matter what our personal beliefs are.

America: Two Options For Me

Racism will always exist and so will brutality among humans.  However,  we can decrease and minimize this, but the question is….can most humans be on the same page and actually want to achieve this? What I mean is,  some people just don’t value or really care  about certain groups and their lives. Some people don’t really care for change or progression.  The justice system (among many other things) in America has alot of flaws like other places, of course,  and we can either decide to help change this or move out of the U.S. It’s funny how we can complain about America,  but alot of us will never move to another place.  Do you know how many people who have free will to go, complain and passionately hate America….yet they probably will live and die in the same nation that treats them unfairly?  As an African American who is not okay with the current state of the U.S, I feel as though I have two options: move out of America and become a permanent resident somewhere else, or help be apart of the change that I want to see. Just complaining is not an option for me because that doesn’t solve anything.  Some people don’t have faith in America because of its history, but there have been good people who’ve left influential/postive marks on this land. The problem is,  we need more people with that mindset….So I have a question for all of us who do not like a lot of the things that happen in America.  Since we’re here….. What are we going to do to better America? Or, are we just going to point out problems and complain?  And if you feel like America is damned & can’t become better….then put yourself in a position to leave.