Santa Monica's Black History Month 2024 kicks off Feb. 1 with the theme "Black Media & the Arts"

January 24, 2024 2:08 PM
by Brandi Lockhart

Updated Feb. 6, 2024

The city of Santa Monica's Black History Month celebration is organized by the Black History Month Committee. Staff participation in cultural events, monthly observances and affinity groups is always optional and primarily a volunteer effort, and the BHM Committee organizes these events with the support of the city's partner affinity groups, local businesses, and city departments. This blog post was written by Brandi Lockhart, co-leader of the BHM committee, and a 10-plus year employee of the city of Santa Monica, who is currently a housing specialist with the city's Housing and Human Services department.

"Brown skin, you know I love your brown skin, I can't tell where yours begins, I can't tell where mine ends…Where are your people from? Maybe Mississippi or an Island. Apparently, your skin has been kissed by the sun …" – excerpt from India.Arie’s "Brown Skin," 2001

When I visited Egypt in 2018, the local people called me sister, cousin, and Nubia. It was such a wonderful experience to feel connected to a community of no blood relation, but a shared solidarity. An investment in would show that I am 35 percent Nigerian with another 36 percent spread through Cameroon, Congo, Bantu, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Senegal. My less melanated side would be 19 percent Scottish and six percent Swedish, Dane, Jewish and Southern Italian.

The 2024 theme for Black History Month is "African Americans and the Arts." Here in Santa Monica, we want to acknowledge that Black History does not begin nor end in America, as seen from my DNA and the richness of contributions from African, Caribbean, English, South American and black contemporary culture from across the globe. Thus, our theme this year at the city of Santa Monica is "Black Media & the Arts."

Terms like urban dictionary, Black Twitter, and invitations to the cookout/BBQ are all from the belly of Black culture. We’ve all seen on Instagram & TikTok how music, slang, fashion and art spreads through the culture. Many Black trends are easily finding their way into mainstream media.

Three years ago, on my commute to work, Pandora radio advertised an alternate station that I could “ADD NOW” if I was so inclined. I decided to take them up on this emerging station, if you will. The station was called AFROBEATS. The very first song randomly selected was Fela Kuti’s “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am,” and I almost fell out of the car! I was blown away by horns, drums, all the undertones, and other musical influences such as jazz, Latin and pop, just to name a few. I would later discover that he is a Nigerian musician and activist, considered THE Father of Afrobeat. I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do and read more about Fela Kuti and his legacy.

While surfing Facebook, I received a pop-up advertisement for a January performance of Step Afrika! in Irvine. Although I won’t be able to attend this time, I want to share with you one of their performances that took place at the White House.

As a member of the Black History Month (BHM) Committee since December 2019, I am reflecting on the themes and events we have undertaken since 2020. We still continue focusing on these themes moving forward as our world faces so many challenges:

This year, the BHM Committee is working hard to curate entertaining and educational community events in partnership with local businesses, schools, city of Santa Monica affinity groups, community organizations, the Santa Monica Public Library and Virginia Avenue Park.

Pencil us in your calendar & check back here weekly for updates! 

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, the Santa Monica City Council presented a proclamation for Black History Month that included an artistic performance and an introduction to BHM by actress Jennifer Holmes. Watch the video here

Monthlong events: Collaborative Art Celebrating Black History Month sponsored by Santa Monica Library and an art installation in the City Hall lobby. And join city staff in reading Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Sower." 

And please check out these Santa Monica Public Library BHM activities: 

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to seeing you at this year’s events!

The BHM Committee would like to give special thanks to:

Our colleagues: Alvin Ho, Taryn Bishop, Tati Simonian, Tawny Vannatim, Naomi Okuyama, Sofia Klatzker and Delana Gbenekama 

Additional 2024 BHM Committee members and staff advisors: Cathy Taylor, Cheryl Shavers, Erin Carr, Fela Diaz, Lisa Parson, David Gardinier 

Our partner affinity groups, local businesses and city departments:

Black organizations in Santa Monica: 

Please check out this video featuring messages from Santa Monica's Black community organizations. 

*Please note that Locals' Night on the Pier is on Thursday, Feb. 15, not Feb. 16.*

Authored By

Brandi Lockhart
Housing Specialist


Arts, Culture & Fun