On Saturday, January 14 in the ballroom of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center at the University of Southern California (USC), Watts Village Theater Company (WVTC) partnered with LA County
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' Empowerment Congress Arts & Culture Committee to present "The Empowerment of Art," moderated by WVTC's Artistic Director, Guillermo Avilés-Rodríguez, during the 20th Anniversary Empowerment Congress Summit. Earlier in the morning in
Bovard Auditorium, the summit featured as one of its keynote speakers Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation. The phrase widely viewed as one of the most memorable of the day was Sharpton's declaration that, "this election is not about Obama, it's about your Mamma!"
"The Empowerment of Art" included interactive performances by WVTC, the Los Angeles Poverty Department and the Performing Arts for Life and Education Foundation, as well as screenings by the Wende Museum and Streetlamp Studio. In addition, panels were conducted featuring
representatives from over a dozen arts organizations across LA's 2nd supervisorial district, including Make Music Los Angeles, LA Commons, Outfest and the World Stage. The performances and panels focused on how the arts educate and empower the district's underserved communities.
WVTC's interactive workshop, co-moderated by WVTC's Educational Coordinator Raul Cardona and Associate Artistic Director David Guerra, included a call-and-response of a series of Mayan myths
with the summit participants. Participants also made colorful drawings and performed reenactments of the ancient tales. As WVTC's Managing Director and Empowerment Congress Arts & Culture Committee Chair, David Mack, noted, "participatory workshops are a unique way
for LA's residents to connect to the crucial and transformative effect the arts has on our communities."
Over 200 participants attended "The Empowerment of Art," the first summit workshop produced by Arts & Culture, the Empowerment Congress' newest committee, and attendees included artists, community activists, government officials and civic leaders. During March, the committee,
now the fastest growing in the Empowerment Congress with over 20 arts organizations represented, will launch a series of performances throughout the 2nd district commemorating World Theatre Day and honoring the spirit of the Congress' celebration of "The Year of Empowerment."
Watts Village Theater Company
Founded in 1996 by actor and Watts community activist Quentin Drew and actor/playwright Lynn Manning as an outgrowth of Cornerstone Theater Company's residency in Watts, Watts Village Theater Company is a multicultural urban company that seeks to inspire its community with
an appreciation of all cultures through new works about contemporary social issues. WVTC has been a leader in providing acting and theatrical performance workshops for at-risk youth in Watts and South Los Angeles.
Watts Village Theater Company, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, "is proud to have collaborated with Metro, the Watts Towers Arts Center, LATC,[Inside] the Ford and the Matrix Theatre. WVTC's 2003 production of Manning's "Private Battle" won a NAACP Theatre Award. "Up From the
Downs" (2005), and "Ochre & Onyx" (2009) received critical acclaim for examining cross-cultural relations between Latinos and African-Americans in Watts."
Photo credit: Terry Lee
WVTC's Raul Cardona co-moderates an interactive workshop in USC's Jaques Plaza during The Empowerment of Art
Angela Johnson Peters, Lula Washington, John Malpede, Jay MacAdams, Raul Cardona and Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez
PALEF performs a musical theatre piece in USC's Ronald Tutor Campus Center ballroom for The Empowerment of Art
The Empowerment of Art participants in USC's Ronald Tutor Campus Center ballroom