The 1960s were a time of political and social turmoil in the United States, and one result of that unrest was an outbreak of violence in four cities: Los Angeles (1965, 1992), Newark (1967), Detroit (1967), and Washington, DC (1968). Each city has had to struggle to rebuild. Caprice Young has had a long involvement in Los Angeles city government, and is now CEO and President of the California Charter Schools Association. In her view, many of the problems that led to the riots take generations to solve. She then made a comment that seems relevant to any city in trouble: "You don't just fix it once and go away. Everyone needs to have a sustained commitment to building great communities."

Although Watts and a lot of Los Angeles are still plagued by gang violence, which has become a major barrier to economic development, new commercial and housing development is moving forward. A major bright spot: The Watts Learning Center, a charter school run by the community for children from the most socioeconomically depressed circumstances. The school's excellent track record provides new hope for young people in the area.

Of all the cities in this group, Newark has made the most progress. Roughly 30 years ago, a major magazine dismissed the city as "the worst in America." Not anymore. With investment from major corporations and a sound city government that was willing to try new approaches to problem-solving, Newark has been transformed. There has been a significant increase in private housing, old stores have been replaced by new ones, small businesses have also opened, and a monorail links the city to the airport—which has also been upgraded.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

November 15, 2004

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.