"You can lead a man to the trough
but you can't make him drink. We
have found that when you create a
thirst he will want to drink."
Alice Harris is the power behind POW — Parents of Watts, a powerful and positive community force. In jail at 12, a mother at 14, homeless by 16, now 73 — and the mother of nine — can empathize with many of the people POW helps. As a teenager in Detroit, Alice had her life turned around by a caring family who helped her gain and master the tools to succeed and grow. Since moving to Watts in 1958 to care for her ailing mother, Alice has offered that same care to her neighbors and their children.
As a community activitst and now director of POW, Alice has sought to ease the frictions between the African-American and HIspanic residents of her community. A witness to the 1965 riots, Alice and a cadre of volunteers worked out of her house to help rebuild the community. Linking with other civic groups, Alice formed the Black and Brown Committee, which eventually became Parents of Watts in 1979. Today, POW operates more than 15 programs in eight houses purchased by Alice. It provides emergency food and shelter, family counseling, tutoring, parenting classes, employment training, literacy courses, college and career preparation, and housing assistance for anyone who needs it.
Every child in the community now gets immunization shots. They didn't before POW. Though POW's doors are open to all, most of its assistance goes to young women and children. A central tenet of Alice and POW is keeping kids off drugs, in school, and on track fora successful life. Sometimes Alice motivates students not to quit with the promise of a certain toy at the holidays. Other times, it's a POW summer school class to improve English proficiency or math skills. She's known as "Sweet" because from far away she seems stern. But up-close, her open heart shines through. Alice asks a simple question of people hedging about lending a hand: "Do you want to be part of the building crew or the wrecking crew?"
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