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Celebrate Black History Month in Santa Monica

January 16, 2020
by Delana Gbenekama, Alisa Orduna

Celebrate Black History Month in Santa Monica

February is Black History Month. This celebration began as “Negro History Week” founded by famed African American historian Carter G. Woodson. Black History Month was formally recognized as a national celebration by President Gerald Ford in 1976. It is a time when we recognize the achievements of African Americans and their contributions to American society. These experiences have been marginalized from common knowledge and celebrations due to the cultural legacy of slavery and its manifestation as institutional and structural racism.

Listed below are several free events you’re invited to attend. These events present an opportunity for all of us to learn something new about Black History and Santa Monica’s Black community. They also create a chance for each of us to engage in intercultural dialogue – sometimes the conversations can be uncomfortable, and that’s okay because together we are all relearning this dynamic history long hidden from the mainstream, as well as the ongoing contributions that continue to go unrecognized outside of the Black community. Black History is American history, and it’s part of our collective past and present.

The themes of this year’s Black History Month celebration will interweave past contributions of African Americans in the Santa Monica community and regionally, as well as highlight and celebrate ongoing contributions and accomplishments.

In reflecting on the past, the Belmar neighborhood was formerly situated in the Civic Campus area around the civic auditorium site. It was home to some of the earliest African American residents and businesses that contributed to making Santa Monica a vibrant and unique place from 1900 to the 1950s. While many of the key neighborhood sites are now the Civic Center where the DoubleTree Hotel stands, and where the Multipurpose Sports Field, Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project, and Early Childhood Lab are being built, this community will forever be imprinted in the memories of the City’s consciousness. It will be formally recognized through the Belmar History + Art Project. You can learn more about the public education, community engagement workshops and artwork programming held in late January through March, at santamonica.gov/arts/belmar.

Please join us for these Black History Month activities: 

What: Documentary: 13th (2016)

Where: Fairview Library Branch

When: Saturday, February 1 at 3 p.m. 

Description: Filmmaker Ava DuVernay traces the explosive growth of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex back to the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States for all except prisoners. A discussion of the film and its themes follows the screening. (Film runtime: 100 min.)

More Information: www.smpl.org


What: The Divine Nine: Commitment to Community Service

Where: Santa Monica City Hall

When: Tuesday, February 4 at 10:30 a.m.

Description: Join us to kick off Black History Month on Rosa Parks Day. This event celebrates the historical significance of Black fraternities and sororities in African-American life, and their strong commitment to community service. Local leaders will speak about their Divine Nine experiences. There will also be a step show performance. Divine Nine members are encouraged to wear their Greek paraphernalia. Refreshments will be served.

More Information: For more information about this event, click here.


What: Music of the West African Kora

Where: Fairview Library Branch

When: Thursday, February 6 at 7 p.m.

Description: Sean Gaskell performs traditional songs on the 21-stringed West African kora, an instrument native to the Mande peoples of Gambia, Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. Seating is limited; free tickets released 30 minutes prior to the performance.

More Information: www.smpl.org 


What: Montana Avenue Branch Book Group - Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Where: Montana Library Branch

When: Wednesday, February 19 at 7 p.m.

More Information: www.smpl.org


What: RE/CITE: Community Talk & Tea with April Banks

Where: 18th Street Arts Center (1639 18th Street, Santa Monica)

When: Sunday, February 16 from 2 - 4 p.m.

Description: Tea Afar is a nomadic storytelling experience that exchanges traditions across borders. Over tea, we share stories, build empathy and strengthen the community. For this edition, we'll focus on the history of the Belmar neighborhood and how African Americans migrated and built their lives in Santa Monica. The face of this community has changed dramatically over time. We will celebrate, reminisce and imagine the future... with our bellies full! This tea is one of several community events hosted by April Banks as part of the Belmar History + Art project. Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson are utilizing public engagement activities and historical research to daylight historical injustices and celebrate the rich legacy of African American contributions to Santa Monica life.

For more information about this event, click here.


What: Documentary Screening & Discussion: Always in Season (2019)

Where: Pico Branch Library

When: Wednesday, February 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Description: In this moving documentary, descendants of the victims and perpetrators of lynching work together to heal a violent history. Blending observational footage with first-person testimonies and expert input, Always in Season examines the lingering impact of lynching and the link between this historic form of racial terrorism and the racial violence that exists today. A discussion of the film follows the screening. (Film runtime: 89 min.) 

More Information: www.smpl.org 


What: Celebrating Black Excellence Community Mixer

Where: Third Street Promenade between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue

When: Tuesday, February 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Description: A community mixer to celebrating Black professionals in Santa Monica. Refreshments will be served. More details coming soon.

Nominations

The City of Santa Monica's Black History Month Committee is accepting nominations for professionals who will be honored at the mixer. Nominees must live or work in Santa Monica. Nominations must include a few sentences about how the nominee demonstrates outstanding leadership or service. The deadline for submissions is February 15. Click here to submit nominations. 


What: Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era

Where: Montana Library Branch

When: Wednesday, February 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Description: Historian and heritage conservation consultant Alison Rose Jefferson, M.H.C., Ph.D., presents and discusses her new book.  It focuses on the struggle for leisure and public space for all within the long freedom rights struggle, with emphasis on the Santa Monica area. Co-sponsored by the Santa Monica Conservancy.

More Information: www.smpl.org


What: Black History Greens Festival

Where: Virginia Avenue Park

When: Saturday, February 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Description: Join Virginia Avenue Park, the Parent Connection Group, and the Library in a celebration of Black History Month with the annual Greens Festival. This year's festival theme is Honoring Black Royalty and features chef cooking demonstrations, a community Greens cooking contest, a Black History exhibit, arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, musical performances, book readings and more!


What: RE/SITE: Dancing in Place, a workshop with d. Sabela grimes (during Greens Festival)

Where: Virginia Avenue Park (2201 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica)

When: Saturday, February 29, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Description: Dancer and choreographer d. Sabela grimes leads us through collective movement that explores shared space and our physical presence. What does the “body as archive” mean? How can you embody community in your body? We’ll investigate and move through these ideas, but more importantly, we’ll have fun dancing to the beat of live drummers! Everyone is welcome. Generations that dance together, stay together, or something like that. Let’s move! This workshop is one of several community events hosted by April Banks as part of the Belmar History + Art project. Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson are utilizing public engagement activities and historical research to daylight historical injustices and celebrate the rich legacy of African American contributions to Santa Monica life.

For more information about this event, click here.


What: RE/CITE: Natalie Patterson Poetry Reading

Where: Virginia Avenue Park (2201 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica)

When: Saturday, February 29, 12:45 to 1 p.m.

Description: Poet and Educator Natalie Patterson reads a poem created to honor the patterns of migration, displacement, and settlement that led us to this place. This reading is one of several community events hosted by April Banks as part of the Belmar History + Art project. Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson are utilizing public engagement activities and historical research to daylight historical injustices and celebrate the rich legacy of African American contributions to Santa Monica life.

For more information about this event, click here.

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