Cornerstone Theater Company


Jordan Downs Transformation by the Decade-1980’s

The Jordan Downs Recreation Center is in a state of change! We’re almost ready for May 18th, wrapping up load-in, adding finishing touches, and getting the cast ready for A Jordan Downs Illumination. We hope to see you there!

While some things are constantly changing, others stay the same. The community of Watts was thriving in the 70s, taking control of their own narrative and pushing for change.

Watts Skills Center

The 70s brought not only cultural expansion, but social, health and educational initiatives.

Additionally, civic engagement was at an all-time high. The
Watts Summer games (established in 1968), began allowing women competitors for
the first time in 1970.

Over the years the program would boast a long list of illustrious alumni including Lisa Leslie, John Elway and Jordan Downs own- Florence Griffith Joyner.

Known for her vivacious style and undeniable speed, Florence Griffin Joyner (also known as FloJo) was raised in Jordan Downs and ran track at Jordan High School. In 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics.

1984 Olympic Planning Committee

FloJo represented for the home team winning a silver medal in track and field. She would go on to compete in the 1988 Summer Olympics where she won 3 gold medals.

Though rumors swirled about her use of performance enhancing drugs, they were unfounded and she vehemently objected to the allegations.

Florence Griffith Joyner is a direct result of the changing landscape of Jordan Downs. Civic engagement and ownership of the community were at a high.

Welfare workers in Watts protest for more funding and support.

Unfortunately, not all change happens from within, sometimes it trickles down. There are many aspects that contributed to the Watts Rebellion of 1965. One of them is the attempted repeal of the Rumford Open Housing Act. The leader of this repeal movement was up and coming politician Ronald Regan.

Considering his stance in the 60’s, it is no surprise that when he became president in 1981 one of the first things he did was slash funding to public housing. In 1976, President Ford asked Congress to fund 506,000 units. Under Reagan, funding dipped below 100,000 units.

Jordan Downs in 1989

Research shows that there is a direct correlation between homelessness and gang activity. Additionally, a growing drug epidemic was threatening Jordan Downs.

Watts residents rally to bring awareness to PCP abuse.

And drug addiction was increasingly becoming

Nancy Reagan at a DARE event.

Local organizations did what they could, but without federal funding and support from local politicians, the community organizations began to close.

Demolition of the Watts campus.

Many people believed that the 80’s would be the end of subsidized housing. And if that’s the case, what would happen to Jordan Downs? The community was still there and tensions were beginning to rise. Residents no longer felt safe walking through their own neighborhood. The people needed help and no one was answering the call.

This blog series was created by Lindsay “LJ” Jenkins, A Jordan Downs Illumination Producing Associate. The material within these blogs was collected during the creation of A Jordan Downs Illumination premiering May 17-26, 2019 at the Jordan Downs Recreation Center in Watts. CLICK HERE to find out more and purchase tickets.