Troy Camp will commemorate Watts Riots

Troy Camp will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the L.A. Watts Riots at their annual gala on April 25. The event’s theme is “Troy Camp Through the Ages” and will feature a video made to document Troy Camp involvement in the community during this time, as well as the impact the riots had on the organization.

Troy Camp is a nonprofit student-run organization intended to provide programs for young students from local South Los Angeles schools. The main goal of the philanthropic organization is to provide the students with USC student mentors.

Otis Healy established Troy Camp in 1948, with the first camp in the summer of 1949. At that time, the camp consisted of fewer than 100 campers from the East L.A. Boys Club.

The Watts Riots took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles for six days in August 1965. The riots were fueled by racial tension, a part of the larger national civil rights movement. Though the riots occurred in a small area of the city, their powerful effects were felt throughout L.A. and the entire country.

Margie Buckingham, the 1970-1971 director, originally contacted current Troy Camp members with the idea of making a video commemorating Troy Camp’s involvement in the community during the Watts Riots.

“In 1965, the flashpoint for the Watts Riots was just right here next to campus,” Buckingham said. “Now, there is no cognizance. Young people haven’t been exposed to that information.”

Co-Executive Director Patrick Mazuca, a senior studying public relations and political science, has been involved in making the commemoration video.

“During that time, the university basically shut down, and nothing really happened,” Mazuca said. “But USC Troy Camp was still something that was going on, and through the outreach program they were able to at least get the kids away from the local community away the area for a while and make sure that the tradition and the Trojan Family was still continuing.”

Katherine Dorosk, a junior majoring in business administration, is the director of fundraising for Troy Camp and has led the project and planned the gala. She has met with several alumni to talk to them about their experiences within Troy Camp.

“They really stressed that on campus, everything seemed normal,” Dorosk said. “Besides the tanks that were in PSX, the university seemed to operate for its students, and they didn’t really notice a difference.”

Troy Camp members and alumni have already started filming the video and will continue to meet with different alumni to include more camp experiences. The original meeting with Troy Camp alumni from the 1960s and 1970s, according to Buckingham, brought out stories that she had never heard before.

“When you put everyone in a room, people start remembering different things, and then the energy starts flowing and then the laughter… We were there about three hours recording, and it was fabulous getting to hear all of these stories,” she said.

“That was really where the idea for this video came from — not only to celebrate the changes that our organization did for the community, but also how the community changed and reacted to the riots,” Dorosk said.

Since the Watts Riots, Troy Camp has changed dramatically. Now, campers come from 18 schools within a two-mile radius of campus, rather than from the Boys and Girls Club across the city. Troy Camp has expanded its programming to include hosting monthly events for elementary, middle and high school students in additions to the annual summer camp.

Despite these changes, John Ingram, co-executive director of Troy Camp, said that the current Troy Campers are still able to connect with alumni.

“What’s cool is really learning how similar their experiences are to ours and that on paper, our mission statement may have changed, but the whole energy and feel of Troy Camp has remained the same since the 1970s,” Ingram said.

The video will include interviews with Troy Camp alumni who were involved with the organization during the 1960s and 1970s. Old photographs, personal mementos and historical facts will also be included in the video. According to Katherine Dorosk, the executive board will put together a visual history of Troy Camp.

For more information about the gala or to buy tickets, email [email protected].

[Correction: A previous version of this article said Margie Buckingham was director of Troy Camp in 1977. She was director 1970-1971. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.]