Black History Month 2023 Centered on Black Resistance
January 4, 2023 11:28 AM
by Delana Gbenekama
February 2023 will mark the fourth year that the Santa Monica Black History Month Committee has proudly provided programming to the public that’s been informative, inspirational, fun and increasingly representative of our diverse histories, communities and cultures. Our programming has covered a broad spectrum of events and activities: an art reception highlighting historical and present-day Black figures, who contributed to the health and wellness field in Santa Monica; dance classes focused on fitness and healing; the Black Excellence Awards honoring professionals for outstanding leadership and service; opening ceremonies focused on topics including the Black family and the Divine Nine and their roots in community service and political activism; and conversations with community members about their memories of living and working in the Santa Monica’s Belmar Neighborhood before it was taken by eminent domain and razed to make way for the Civic Auditorium and Civic Center campus. The list goes even further.
This year marks a departure from our usual long list of activities. We’re offering two main events so we can be fully present and enjoy the month: a kickoff celebration on February 1 featuring food trucks and dancing, and an author reading and conversation on February 23. Our theme for 2023 is Black Resistance, established by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The ASALH is the organization founded in 1915 by historian, author and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is also known as the father of Black history. Black Resistance can take many forms, including seeking knowledge about our histories (both during and post-slavery and genocide as well as pre-slavery and genocide), partaking in the arts, driving political action, challenging racist medical practices, supporting Black authors and entrepreneurs, and even taking up space by honoring and making visible our histories, communities and cultures through celebrations.
Our committee’s form of Black Resistance is rest, because we recognize that taking care of oneself is of the utmost importance. For my part, I’ve spent countless sleepless nights and weekends working on programming for Black History Month over the years, even to the extent of forgoing celebrating my birthday in February. It wasn’t because I was forced to do it. I founded the Black History Month Committee in late 2019 because I’m passionate about calling attention to our histories and contributions, and I love collaborating with people to create experiences and fond memories our Black communities can be proud of. Just as in my case, many in our communities go the extra mile when it comes to work, family, volunteering, planning events and more. I encourage people to leave room for self-care so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
I know it’s hard to break old habits, and some of you may say that resting is easier said than done, especially since everyone has different life circumstances. I’ve always had the mentality that I must work twice as hard at everything I do because I’m Black and a woman. I’m working on changing that mindset. I also spend so much of my time assisting people outside of work. I’m practicing saying no more often and learning to set boundaries.
Last year, I came across the article “Why Black Women Are Divesting from Excellence & Embracing Mediocrity” by Kathleen Newman-Bremang. While everyone, including me, may not embrace the term “mediocre,” there are great takeaways from this piece including the following statement by author, academic and podcast host Tressie McMillan Cottom, “It’s not whether we can be excellent, but about whether we should and at what cost.” Newman-Bremang closes the article by stating that embracing mediocrity is “giving ourselves the freedom to rest, to play, to fail, to take a break, and to just be fine.”
Additionally, a couple of months ago, I tuned into a conversation between Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and author Amerie and British Nigerian author and psychotherapist Lola Jaye about Jaye’s novel “The Attic Child.” Self-care came up during the conversation when discussing how supportive Black women are of people in our communities, and Lola Jaye talked about the art of saying no and stated that it’s OK to do the bare minimum and to just be. She posed the question of what happens if you’re the machine keeping everyone together and then you break down because you’re running on empty and haven’t been taken care of?
This Black History Month, I encourage our communities to join us in making time to rest and doing things that elicit laughter and happiness like attending our events. Below is a full list of Black History Month events in Santa Monica, including events presented by our committee, the Santa Monica Public Library and the Parent Connection Group in partnership with Virginia Avenue Park. Additionally, please visit our Black-owned businesses page to view a list of businesses you can support not only during Black History Month but year-round. Finally, check out this list of books by Black authors compiled by Goodreads and the Black Histories, Black Futures teen reading list put together by the Santa Monica Library.
Tuesday, January 24: Reading of Black History Month Proclamation
No earlier than 5:30 p.m., Santa Monica City Hall, City Council Chamber
Author and journalist Ralinda Harvey Smith and Santa Monica High School student and Black Student Union member Jamila Williams are collaborating on a two-part proclamation for Black History Month and will present it at the city council meeting. The public is welcome to attend the meeting in person, or you can click here to watch the meeting on the City’s YouTube page.
Wednesday, February 1: Kickoff Event Featuring Food Trucks and Dancing
- Brunch at City Yards, 10-11:30 a.m., Santa Monica City Yards, 2500 Michigan Ave., Flap Happy parking lot
- Lunch at City Hall, 12-1:30 p.m., Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St.
Save your appetite so you can purchase mouthwatering grub from food trucks All Flavor No Grease, Compton Vegan and OMG Icees for brunch at City Yards and lunch at City Hall. Burn off those calories by jamming to music by DJ Ron and following along with dancer Velvet Charles, who will lead attendees in crowd favorites the Wobble, Electric Slide and more.
Complimentary parking for the City Yards event is located at the Flap Happy parking lot, where the event will also take place. Parking is limited at the Flap Happy parking lot, but street parking is also available. Parking for the City Hall event is available at the Civic Center parking structure, located at 333 Civic Center Dr. Parking at the Civic Center parking structure is free for the first 30 minutes and 50 cents for each additional 30 minutes.
Wednesday, February 1 through Tuesday, February 28
- Black History Month Exhibits: Stop by Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St., during business hours to view exhibits featuring poetry aligning with the theme of Black Resistance. City Hall is open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every other Friday (closed Feb. 10 and 24).
- Black History Month Book Displays: All Santa Monica Library locations will feature Black History Month book displays. For information on Library branch hours, visit smpl.org.
Thursday, February 2: Black History Month Concert and Documentary Film Screening
5:30 p.m., Main Library, MLK Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
The Santa Monica Library invites you to a free program that presents violin music, works by Black American composers performed by the Orchestra Santa Monica (OSM) Woodwind Quintet, and OSM's film, “We Gather: Black Life in Santa Monica told through Music, Visuals, and Narrative”. Prior to this event, enjoy a cappella singing by members of Calvary Baptist Church of Santa Monica.
Thursday, February 16: Screening of "The Gabby Douglas Story"
4-5:30 p.m., Pico Branch Library, The Annex, 2201 Pico Blvd.
The Santa Monica Library invites the public to a screening of “The Gabby Douglas Story,” an inspiring look at the life of the first black gymnast to become the Individual All-Around Champion and the first American to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. For teens only.
Tuesday, February 21: Mystery Book Group Discussion
7-8 p.m., Zoom (registration required)
Join the Santa Monica Library for a discussion of Walter Mosley’s “Trouble Is What I Do.” Detective Leonid McGill is forced to confront the ghost of his felonious past when a nonagenarian Mississippi bluesman is targeted by an infamous assassin. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, February 23: Catherine Adel West Discusses "The Two Lives of Sara"
6-7:30 p.m., Zoom (registration required)
Join author Catherine Adel West for a virtual reading and discussion of her novel, “The Two Lives of Sara,” an emotional and unforgettable story of hope, resilience, and unexpected love. Participants will be able to submit questions for the author during the event. The event will be facilitated by Alisa Orduña, PhD, a practitioner, policy analyst, collaborator and thought leader in homelessness services in the U.S. Click here for more information and to register.
Digital and print copies of “The Two Lives of Sara” are available through the Santa Monica Public Library. To check out a copy, visit smpl.org. Need a Library card? Sign up at smpl.org/Getting_a_Card.aspx.
This event is brought to you by the Black History Month Committee in partnership with the Santa Monica Library.
***Rescheduled to Saturday, March 4: Black History Greens Festival
10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Virginia Avenue Park, 2200 Virginia Avenue
This is event is presented by the Parent Connection Group in partnership with Virginia Avenue Park. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-history-greens-festival-tickets-536229385527
Acting Communications and Public Information Manager