Across the street from the Nickerson Gardens housing project, on the aptly named Success Street, is a sidewalk monument free of the graffiti that dirty the stop signs, houses and cars around it.
That taggers missed this stretch of sidewalk is no accident, said a neighborhood youth as he admired the 13 granite-carved plaques placed into the sidewalk. It is because they appreciate the women and men honored here.
Although far less well known than its older and larger counterpart on Hollywood Boulevard, Watts' Promenade of Prominence--which honors neighborhood heroes--has become a symbol of the possible.
And now it is a Los Angeles County historic landmark.
On Friday, about 40 community members gathered in Will Rogers State Park, which adjoins the promenade, to celebrate that designation and to enshrine Success Street's newest honoree, Dr. James A. Mays, who is a physician, poet, artist and community activist. He also established the honor court in 1988.
"This is history," Mays said, nodding to the heart-shaped monument that features his name and picture as well as the words Cardiologist-Writer.
"The developers could come and take all this land tomorrow, but they can't take this piece of granite away."
Mays said he started Watts' version of the Walk of Fame after realizing that the area needed a shot of confidence after gaining a national reputation as a symbol of a neglected community. Mays said he is trying to turn that perception around by establishing similar sidewalk monuments in cities nationwide.
The cities of Lynwood, Inglewood and Compton already have them, and one is coming soon to the Crenshaw Plaza shopping center, Mays said.
Honorees in Watts' promenade range from the famous--Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and then-Assembly-woman, now-U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters--to strictly local heroes, such as community activists Edward Lara and Edna Aliwine.
Mays also founded the national Adopt-A-Family Endowment, created a comic book series with a black hero and authored eight novels. In addition to serving on the board of several medical foundations, Mays also operates three community clinics in South Los Angeles that serve low-income residents who have little access to health care services.