Watts Happening Cultural Center
Update: On September 29, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to designate the Watts Happening Cultural Center a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Located at 1827 East 103rd Street, the Watts Happening Cultural Center, also known as the Mafundi Building and the Robert Pitts Westminster Neighborhood Center, was established in Watts in 1969. The Friends at Mafundi organization has led efforts to preserve this site.
Designed by Kennard (Robert A. Kennard) and Silvers (Arthur Silvers), this Late-Modern, two-story T-shaped building has been a center and prominent hub for Black artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and poets. Many important community-serving organizations have been associated with this building, including the Mafundi Institute, the Watts Writers Workshop, and the Watts Prophets.
It was here that a group of artists -- writers, dancers, film-makers and actors -- cultivated Black art, culture, and local activism in the Watts community
On July 15, 2020, the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a developer to take over the city-owned historic building which could ultimately be a positive or negative result, depending on the selected participant and their plans. The Watts Coffee House, a longtime small Black-owned business on the ground floor of the building, and other nonprofit operators who currently are housed in the building are vulnerable to proposals that seek to demolish or alter the building.
The Friends at Mafundi submitted a Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the Watts Happening Cultural Center in February 2021. Currently, less than 4% of the city’s Historic-Cultural Monuments reflect L.A.’s African American heritage.
On April 15, 2021, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to take the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination of the Watts Happening Cultural Center under consideration. At a second hearing held on June 17, 2021, the Commission voted unanimously to recommend the property to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. On September 21, 2021, the PLUM Committee voted to recommend the Watts Happening Cultural Center Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) to the full City Council. On September 29, 2021, the City Council voted to give the property Historic-Cultural Monument status.
The Watts Happening Cultural Center narrates a history of Black art, culture, and activism in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles with rare representation.
The City’s July 15, 2020 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Watts Happening Cultural Center was suspended in 2021. While we anticipate the RFP will return in the future, advocates are pushing for the building to return to its use as a Black cultural arts center.
The building was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument by the City Council on September 29, 2021.
Update: On September 29, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to designate the Watts Happening Cultural Center a Historic-Cultural Monument. Thank you to all who have supported this nomination!
The Watts Happening Cultural Center is currently being considered for Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) listing. You can support the HCM nomination in the following ways:
FIRST: Submit a letter of support for the nomination to Councilmember Joe Buscaino. Email Councilmember Joe Buscaino at firstname.lastname@example.org, cc M. Rosalind Sagara/L.A. Conservancy so we may track support (email@example.com)
The subject line should read: RE: Support for Historic-Cultural Monument Nomination of the Watts Happening Cultural Center (CHC-2021-2238-HCM).
SECOND: Speak in support at the upcoming City Council hearing (meeting details to come).
THIRD: Follow Friends at Mafundi on IG @ fam_watts to support the community effort to save the Watts Happening Cultural Center. For more information go to www.friendsatmafundi.org.