From West Forsyth to Watts: Appalachian State grad and former Greensboro educator making a difference

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

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 “Love and Basketball” event unites community at the Watts Oasis

WATTS, CALIFORNIA — On Feb. 29 at 4 p.m., “Love and Basketball”: A Community Block Party brought together the greater community at the Watts Oasis, a historic basketball court and filming location for “White Men Can’t Jump (1992)” and “White Men Can’t Jump (2023).”

The inaugural event celebrated the revitalization of the Watts Oasis court and the launch of the Simon Technology High School basketball team’s first-ever home game. Admission to this event was free and open to everyone. 

Raised in Winston-Salem, Annie Wall comes from a family of West Forsyth Titans and a family of educators. She is a proud Appalachian State Mountaineer alumni and former GCS Newcomer School ESL teacher who has been working in Watts since 2019. Wall is predominantly known for her dedication to working with English Learners and new arrivals to the United States, a passion that was fueled mainly by her tia, Dr. Mayra Hayes’, lifelong work, but recently, she has become more involved in community activism, developing partnerships and improving sports programming in Watts and the South Central Los Angeles communities.

Karlos Hodgson, the second leading scorer of the CIF division Ocean League, had his game jersey retired by the Los Angeles Clippers in a surprise ceremony. Hodgson learned the news that his jersey will be featured in the new Inuit Dome in Inglewood, California, a testament to his love for the game and a tribute to the community of Watts and Simon Technology High School.

“I mean when you are a teacher and the front office calls you, you don’t ever think that they are going to say that the LA Clippers are on the line,” Wall said. “That phone call was definitely one of the most unforgettable moments in my 10 years working in education.” 

The game ball used at the event showcased the Los Angeles Clippers 2023 City Edition which is a colorful mosaic design inspired by Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers. For more information, click here or watch this youtube video.

This event highlighted the culmination of Black History Month, celebrating the community’s spirit, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Accordingly, a Black History Month tribute honoring Juju Watkins and Raymond Lewis, two inspirational players from Watts who continue to inspire the Simon Technology basketball team, took place. Juju Watkins, a star at University of Southern California, is the great granddaughter of famed civil rights activist Ted Watkins who founded the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Ted Watkins Memorial Park is named after him and Juju grew up playing at this park. For more information on Juju Watkins, click here. Raymond Lewis was a first-round NBA draft pick who never played in an NBA game due to a contract dispute. Labeled “The best that never was, ” Lewis’ story is the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary called “Raymond Lewis: La Legend,” which can be viewed on Amazon Prime.  

During the event, representatives from the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation’s Lifeguard Ready Training program signed up students on site for their next session. Simon Technology High School students who participated in the previous Lifeguard Ready Training session held at Ted Watkins Park were also honored. 

As a part of the halftime show, Eric Washington from Watts Rising and HACLA shared employment opportunities, housing support and other available resources in the community. The Watts Oasis was excited to also welcome special guest Joe Terry with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation to promote the upcoming Dodgers Dreamteam. Simon Technology High School will sponsor its first baseball team and its first softball team through a partnership with the Dodgers Dream Field at Ted Watkins Park, with opening day set for April 20th, 2024.

Tmobo Kitchen, a local favorite catering service, provided delicious food for the event, specializing in mouth-watering fried chicken, refreshing smoothies, and cheesy fries that satisfied everyone’s cravings.

Prior to the event, the Simon Technology Community Service Club spearheaded a garden restoration project and community cleanup in and around the Watts Oasis. This work aligns with District Council 15 representative  Tim McOsker and Watts Field Deputy Miguel Hernandez’ ongoing beautification initiatives in our community.

The “Love and Basketball” event was just the beginning of increasing experiential opportunities for the children of Watts. Thank you to the following partners for participating in the event and bringing resources to the Watts community: Sisters of Watts, LA Public Library, LAANE, From the Heart Tattoo and Body Piercing, After-School All Stars, Watts Towers Arts Center and more. 

The next project is to raise funds for a “Max Preps” sports media center modeled after the University of Oregon’s Quack Cave. Here, Simon Technology High School students will be able to gain hands-on sports journalism experience covering their own sports. Your support can help make this vision a reality. Join us in building a legacy of community, sportsmanship, and excellence.