Watts’ Arturo Ybarra, the ‘epitome of what a community activist should be,’ dies

Watts advocate Arturo Ybarra pushed for unity among Black and Latino people when much talk regarding South Los Angeles and Watts centered on demographic shifts and clashes. Ybarra died July 27. Arturo Ybarra, known as the founder of the Watts Century Latino Organization and for being tortured by the Mexican government for his college activism before the 1968 Olympics, died last month. He was 79.

Ybarra died July 27 of complications from pneumonia, according to his daughter Autumn Ybarra.

Ybarra started the Watts Century Latino Organization in 1990 and its goal was to empower and inform newly arriving Latino immigrants about their rights all while encouraging civil participation. The organization offered seminars on home ownership and community empowerment along with adult GED and English language classes to largely Spanish-only speaking residents.

Ybarra also served as the main organizer of the first Watts Cinco de Mayo festival parade . He spent months working with and incorporating ideas from various Black and Latino leaders.

The first parade in 1991 featured civil rights icon Cesar Chavez as the parade’s grand marshal. One of the most popular celebrities at the time, Todd Bridges of “Diff’rent Strokes” sitcom lore, also participated.

The event was meant to bring Latino and […]

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Michelle Rojas-Soto is Social Justice Director at the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and Managing Director at Encompass, a racial equity nonprofit. Her children attend LAUSD and Glendale USD schools.

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