Brandon ‘Stix’ Salaam-Bailey is Watts new power-broker
For at least a half century the city called Watts has been the epicenter of most things bad, gang infested housing projects, homicides, drugs and enduring poverty.
Watts doesn’t have a mayor or city council, but since 1926 has been consolidated with the City of Los Angeles.
For years Sweet Alice Harris and her Parents of Watts Organization has and continues to be instrumental in supporting the underserved citizens of the region.
Ironically, it was Sweet Alice who inspired Watts next generation power broker Brandon ‘Stix’ Salaam-Bailey who for the past few years have been making waves for the work he’s been doing with his Think Watts Foundation.
Stix was born and raised in Watts and earned his nickname ‘Stix’ because when he was younger he often ran around without a shirt and his uncle branded him Stix Man because he was so skinny.
“When I got into music, I always believed that you could tell how good a rapper is by their name and I needed a rap name, the first thing I could think of was Stix and I carried the name over from my career as a rapper,” he explained to Inglewood Today during a ThinkWatts Foundation wireless give away event in Watts on Oct. 9.
He’s been in Watts his whole life, growing up and playing basketball at formerly Will Rogers Park, now known as Ted Watkins Park.
His family came from Louisiana where they all grew up in the same house and migrated to California and subsequently landed in Watts where Stix was born.
Stix is the middle child of five siblings, two with his mother and two with his father, sort of the nucleus of the family.
“Watts is an environment where it was socially engineered. It’s obvious. Social engineering at its finest, forced and made that way specifically by government to oppress. It’s an underserved community and we know that in underserved communities there is high crime rate, high murder rate, there’s drugs, gang activity. On every corner there is a different gang, whether its Blood or Crip.”
He had to learn the way of the land, and for him it was all about navigating. Either getting involved with the ills of the community or stay away from them, and Stix managed to find a balance to where he didn’t get into too much trouble but just enough so that people who were the bad seeds trusted him.
Hence, ThinkWatts foundation which uses the internationally landmark Watts Towers symbol as the logo for the non-profit organization was formed on that bond of trust rooting in the projects soil many years ago.
The organization focuses on community grassroots activations along with developing financial literacy programs, custom container housing solutions, and charitable fundraising through entertainment industry efforts.
Stix’s journey began as a rapper, record producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur over the last 16 years, but he used music background to launch advocacy of giving back to his community.
As a staple in the community, he has formed deep rooted community relationships building bridges from professional residents such as LAFC, LA Clippers, and the LA Rams.
ThinkWatts is responsible for a wide array of programming such as free financial literacy courses, a weekly meal program that feeds hundreds of Watts residents, and entrepreneurship training.
The THINKWATTS Foundation is also responsible for the development of 16 outdoor courts, an indoor gym, a Planet Fitness facility free for students, and historical murals in the Watts community. The best is yet to come with STIX’s new development THINK WATTS HQ headquarters which will be a hub where residents can receive access to resources and tools such financial literacy, entrepreneurship assistance, sewing and printing machines to manufacture clothing, a music studio, office space and desks, a coding classroom, and an outdoor soccer / basketball court.
Stix’s wife Felicia Usher serves as the leader of the organization with a diverse staff of Mexican Americans that includes Angelica Urquidez and Esmerilda Diaz. It’s a very small and efficient group that relies on scores of volunteers such as Sudanese 21-year old Lala Malik who has made the organization a priority in her life.
So, from now on when you Think Watts, you can thank Sweet Alice Harris and The Harold Robinson Foundation for this 38 year old out of box thinker and next generation leader best known as Stix of Watts, who is transforming the Watts we thought we knew one wireless internet at a time.