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At Nickerson Gardens, ‘the wall’ of names is sacred ground

By Nicole Santa Cruz

Here in the Nickerson Gardens public housing project in Watts, it’s simply called “the wall.”

On it, written in black in Old English script, are the names of the dead.

The first names to grace the wall were those killed in gang violence, but there are also names of people who meant something to the community.

There’s Nora King, a longtime community activist in the housing project, who died in 2004 at age 70.

There’s the son of Barbara Singleton, who has lived here since the 1970s. Carl “Scoop” Singleton was 16 when he died in a moped accident.

The wall started as a mural on the front of the recreation center gym in the early 1980s. Clifford Baynes Jr. painted figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. Maxine Waters, said Greg Brown, who grew up in Watts and was one of the mural’s founders.

As time went on, the list of names replaced the artwork. Now, they’re painted in rows. A yellow banner reads, “Keep the future alive.” Another says, “Gone but not forgotten.”

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