Founders’ Dinner honorees and hosts: (LtoR) President Hagan, Gil Smith, Pablo Portillo, Sascha Rice, “Sweet Alice” Harris, emcee Earl Hutchinson, Danny Bakewell, and Tim Watkins.
With more than 350 activists, civic and business leaders, educators and friends of the university in attendance, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) hosted its Founders’ Dinner on Oct. 8 to honor those pivotal in the in 1965 selection of what would soon become the City of Carson as the location for the university.
As the signature event in CSUDH’s year-long 50th Anniversary Watts Rebellion Commemoration—the devastating revolt that prompted the final decision to select Carson—the Founders’ Dinner also recognized those who have since worked tirelessly to help Watts residents, and those who have helped rebuild many of the South Los Angeles neighborhoods effected by the rebellion.
The honorees were:
Gilbert “Gil” Smith, former mayor of the City of Carson
Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, former governor of California (posthumous award)
Community Leadership Award:
“Sweet Alice” Harris, founder of the Parents of Watts
Community Impact Award:
Watts Labor Community Action Committee, which was accepted by its CEO and President Tim Watkins
Community Builder Award:
Danny Bakewell, Sr., founder of The Bakewell Company and Bakewell Media
Student Civic Engagement Award:
Pablo Portillo, a CSUDH human resources student
Elegantly set in CSUDH’s Loker Student Union Ballroom, the Founders’ Dinner was emceed by CSUDH alumnus Earl Ofari Hutchinson (’89, M.A. humanities), a civil rights leader, author, radio host, and political analyst. He provided a brief welcome before dinner, which preceded the evening’s program.
“Six days later, as the smoke [from the rebellion] began to clear, the true origins of the unrest glared brighter than the fires themselves,” said Hutchinson. “It was then—with momentum from the burgeoning Civil Right Movement—that the long road to positive change and a better future for Watts began to take root. In many ways, from seeds planted by those of you we are honoring tonight.”
After enjoying dinner and the soothing sounds of the Dominguez Hills Jazz Ensemble, CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan offered the formal welcome remarks to begin the Founders’ Dinner main program.
During his address, Hagan read Langston Hughes’ poem “What happens to a dream deferred?” calling it “…one of most important questions one should ask about dreams, especially dreams about our aspirations and dreams about a desired future. If you know the Watts Rebellion, you know the answer to this question. A dream deferred will explode, especially when that dream has been deferred generation after generation,” he added.
The first honoree of the evening was “Sweet Alice” Harris, a dedicated community leader and visionary who through the Parents of Watts organization she founded has committed countless hours and energy to address critical issues in Watts and improve the lives of its residents in the wake of the Watts Rebellion.