Incorporated in 1983, Parents of Watts is a nonprofit organization that encourages children to stay in school and avoid drugs. Operating on a shoestring budget out of eight homes on Lou Dillon Avenue, the organization’s programs provide emergency food and shelter for the homeless, prepare teenagers for college and the job market, and offer drug counseling, health seminars and parenting classes.
A prominent community activist in Los Angeles, Alice Harris has dedicated her life to mentoring youth and providing assistance to people who are disadvantaged or underserved. She is the executive director of Parents of Watts, a social services organization that she started out of her home in the mid-1960s as a way to alleviate tensions in her culturally diverse neighborhood after the 1965 riots.
Affectionately known as “Sweet Alice” for her generosity and empathy, Harris collects toys and clothing that she distributes to children every Christmas. She is a highly regarded neighborhood advocate who works closely with elected officials and often serves as a liaison between parents and their children’s schools. She is well-known for speaking her mind in pursuing equal services and opportunities for her fellow residents and for also countering any resistance she gets from uncooperative parents, school administrators or city officials with her trademark question: “Do you want to be part of the building crew or the wrecking crew?