Watts Writers Workshop & Storytelling
The Watts Writers Workshop is the oldest, established Black Writers Workshop in the Nation
The Watts Writers Workshop was founded in 1965, in the wake of the Watts Uprising, by famous screenwriter Budd Schulberg. He started the writing group after visiting Watts and being inspired by the talent he saw. The group initially gathered at the Westminster Neighborhood Association in Watts at 103rd and Beach Streets before moving to the Watts Happening Coffee House (1807 E. 103rd Street) in the same year. The Coffee House is where they established a regular program of readings called “From the Ashes.” The Workshop provided a way for the Black youth in Watts and the surrounding area to express their collective trauma. The group used poetry, essays, and stories about their life experiences as a form of healing and rebuilding.
The Workshop gained national acclaim and brought attention to the artists in Watts. It also drew the attention of 1968 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who wanted the program to be in every school in America. When Schulberg moved to New York in the early 1970s, the Workshop fell into disarray, and by 1975 members dispersed. Well-known writers emerged from the Workshop, including Quincy Troupe, Raspoet Ojenke, and Kamau Daáood. The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center also emerged from the Workshop and currently operates out of New York.
A few remaining writers currently run the Workshop in Watts as the New Watts Writers Workshop, led by Father Amde of the Watts Prophets. It is the only creative entity left in Watts that operated out of the Watts Happening Cultural Center.