Los Angeles’ recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Watts Uprising gives us a unique opportunity to better understand the recent violence underscoring the continuing practices of inequality in our country. Join us for a screening of I BUILD THE TOWER, Edward Landler and Brad Byer’s definitive feature documentary on the Watts Towers and their creator, Sabato Rodia. Made with exclusive access to Rodia’s family and the cooperation of the Watts community, the film follows Rodia’s life through the creation of his monumental mosaic-covered spires and their recognition as an architectural and sculptural masterpiece.
I BUILD THE TOWER also tells the story of Watts. Showing this story as Rodia saw it over the 30 years of his work on the towers, the film details the growth of the conditions that led to the violence of 1965 - and to Watts embracing the Watts Towers as a symbol of freedom and initiative.
Following the screening, panelists with perspectives drawn from long-term experience with Watts and the Watts Towers - for some going back to before 1965 - will address the issues raised in the film about our local history that are still influencing our society today. Panelists include:
Moderator – ROSIE LEE HOOKS is the current director of the Watts Towers Arts Center of the City of Los Angeles Department Cultural Affairs. An actor, a singer and a filmmaker, she is a former member of the singing ensemble “Sweet Honey in the Rock”, a founding member of the D.C. Black Repertory Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and a founding member of the Black Ensemble Theatre at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Prior to coming to the Watts Towers, she served as Director of Festivals and the Gallery Theatre at Barnsdall Park for Cultural Affairs.
EDWARD LANDLER has worked on independent feature films, got production experience with Satyajit Ray & Luis Buñuel, collaborated with Rodia’s great-nephew Brad Byer to make I Build the Tower and remains involved with the Watts Towers campus. He has taught film at California State University, Northridge, Woodbury University and U.C.L.A. Extension & contributes regularly to CineMontage,Motion Picture Editors Guild magazine, and is currently completing a cultural history of film.
LUISADEL GIUDICE is founder and director of the Italian Oral History Institute. She has taught Italian Folklore at U.C.L.A., lectured widely and produced programs on Italian and Italian diaspora folk life. She founded the Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative to coordinate two conferences on the Watts Towers at the University of Genoa and U.C.LA., which began the effort to have Rodia’s monument designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most recently, she edited Sabato Rodia’s Towers in Watts: Art, Migrations, Development.
JUDSON POWELL, an artist and educator, was born in Philadelphia and came to Los Angeles in 1958. In 1964, along with Noah Purifoy and Curtis Tan, he established the first arts programs at the Watts Towers Arts Center. In 1966, he created with Purifoy the 66 Signs of Neon exhibition out of debris found after the Watts Uprising. Soon after, he developed the Communicative Arts Academy in Compton. Recently he created the Hearts of Watts Project, unique handcrafted glass mosaic hearts inspired by the Watts Towers.
OJENKE is a poet and one of the original members of the Watts Writers Workshop, started by Budd Schulberg in 1965. Born in 1947, his family moved to Watts in 1953. Described as the “John Coltrane of Black Poetry”, his work has appeared in anthologies such as From the Ashes: Voices of Watts (1967), Watts Poets (1968) and Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings (1975), and magazines including the Antioch Review and Black World.
CHARLES DICKSON is an assemblage artist and sculptor. He was born in 1947 and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Working out of his own studio in Compton, Dickson has been awarded numerous public commissions including his Martin Luther King, Jr., “Hummingbird” Memorial in Watts, the El Segundo Metro Rail Station and the “Wishing on a Star” sculpture outside the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. He is also part of the Artist-in-Residence program at the Watts Towers Arts Center.
BEN CALDWELL studied filmmaking at U.C.L.A. in the late 1960s and early 70s. After teaching film and video at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Los Angeles to create the KAOS Network, a community arts center in Leimert Park that provides training in digital arts, media arts and multimedia. He has also taught at the California Institute of the Arts. His films include I & I: An African Allegory (1979), and Eyewitness: Reflections of Malcolm X and the O.A.A.U. (2006).
GERALD HORNE is the Moores Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. He has published more than 20 books including Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s (1997); Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950: Moguls, Mobsters, Stars, Reds and Trade Unionists (2001); W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography (2009); & The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (2014). He is a frequent contributor to Political Affairs magazine & his commentary is also heard on KPFK’s “Sojourner Truth Radio”.
The screening and discussion panel with take place on Wednesday, August 5th at 7:30 at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.