Oral Histories

Interview of Tommy Jacquette

Co-founder and executive director of the Watts Summer Festival.
Twenty-Five Years of Community Organizing and Institution Building in the Aftermath of Watts: 1965-1990
Social Movements
African American History
Community Activism
Biographical Note:
Co-founder and executive director of the Watts Summer Festival.
Stevenson, Alva Moore
Jacquette, Tommy
Persons Present:
Jacquette and Stevenson.
Place Conducted:
African American Unity Center in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alva Moore Stevenson, Series Coordinator, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., English, UCLA; M.A., African American Studies (Latin American Concentration).Stevenson prepared for the interview by perusing the files of Congress member Alfred S. Moore and various primary and secondary sources related to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and urban unrest in the U.S.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Jacquette did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names may remain unverified.
3 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents community organizations and institutions that arose in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion to address issues such as education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and police harassment. The first phase of the series involved interviews with key organizers of the Black Congress, an umbrella organization of Black activist groups whose purpose was to reconstruct the community.
Childhood in Los Angeles—Where parents originated from—Parents’ occupations--South Central neighborhood—School experience and teachers who made an impact—Emphasis upon education in Jacquette’s home—Leaving school at the age of sixteen—Social life in the neighborhood—Becoming adults and seeking employment—Experiences in juvenile hall—Sense of community morality—Interaction among social classes; class consciousness and differences—Dominant role of the church and religion in his upbringing—First jobs--Watts Rebellion (1965) as genesis of Jacquette as an activist—Presence of gangs.
Different responses to racism in Los Angeles and the South—Subtleties of racism in Los Angeles as opposed to the South—A new consciousness and a broad base of support across classes—Young people as the front line of the movement—As vanguard of ongoing civil rights movement—Taking movement to a new level—Temporary Alliance of Local Organizations (TALO)—Organizational infiltration by spies and agents provocateurs—Meeting with mainstream organizations—Organizing grassroots groups—Cohesion despite attempts to undermine and dissolve organizations—War on Poverty—Lack of connection to African language and culture—Scholars and activists who inspired Jacquette—Leaving a legacy of activism—Role of Black leadership—Power of the state which perpetuates racism—Role of Black Congress—Blacks as a moral and spiritual people—Key players and organizers of Black Congress—Role of women—Role of Walter Bremond—Role of university and college students—Paucity of student involvement due to economic opportunities—UCLA--Murders of Bunchy Carter and John Huggins—COINTELPRO pitting US and Black Panthers against one another—Whites or other people of color who were allies of Black Congress—African American office holders who played a role—How inter-organizational conflict was handled.
Dynamics and tension between community and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)—Factors which led to demise of Black Congress—Legacy of the Black Congress—Genesis of the Watts Summer Festival—Key players and organizing philosophy—Challenges faced in conducting festival over the years—Community organizations supportive of the festival—Government office holders who were supportive—Community forums—Festival as a culturally specific community institution—Similar festivals outside Los Angeles—Participation of fine artists and entertainers—Effect of changing demographics on festival—Other community organizations with which Jacquette was involved—Black elected officials.