Historic Belmar Park Virtual Grand Opening Celebration and Site Dedication Honoring and Commemorating Santa Monica’s African American Community
February 11, 2021 12:10 PM
On Sunday, February 28 at 3 p.m., the City of Santa Monica will host a virtual grand opening celebration to unveil Historic Belmar Park, Santa Monica’s newest open space. Historic Belmar Park expands Santa Monica’s parks system and provides a space for recreation and historical reflection on a site where some of Santa Monica’s earliest African American residents lived and contributed to making Santa Monica a vibrant and unique place from 1900 to the 1950s.
“We are proud to open Santa Monica’s newest open space, Historic Belmar Park, and to unveil the culmination of the Belmar History + Art project, a community-driven effort to explore, celebrate and shine a bright light on the site of Santa Monica’s former thriving African American neighborhood,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “I hope we will see many Santa Monicans young and old join the virtual celebration and that every resident will find time to safely enjoy Historic Belmar Park for recreation and to steep yourself in a painful part of our local history.”
The virtual event will officially open the 3.5-acre multi-purpose sports field complex adjacent to the Civic Auditorium. The concept of a field in the Civic Center was raised throughout the early and mid-1990s and ultimately included in the 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan. Years of work by many community members followed; plans for construction of a synthetic turf sports field near 4th and Pico gained momentum in 2015. A groundbreaking occurred in summer 2019.
“This is a joyous moment for the legions of community members who advocated for this great new facility for youth and adult recreation,” said Maryanne LaGuardia, Vice Chair of the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission. “This is many years in the making and a much-needed addition to our local network of parks, fields, and open space. When the pandemic is behind us, I look forward to seeing a fully activated Historic Belmar Park!
The new park showcases an outdoor exhibition that includes the public art installation “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas,” created by artist April Banks and historical panels created through the work of historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson. This is the culmination of the Belmar History + Art project, a collaboration between the City of Santa Monica and community leaders to mark the site of this historical injustice and tell the stories of the historical Black community members who lived there until being displaced in the 1950s.
“It is encouraging to be a part of this project dedicated to sharing the history and memories of our community that were overlooked for many years,” said Robbie Jones, local historian, activist, and Belmar History + Art community advisory committee member. “This park and the dedicated artwork represent the displaced Santa Monica families and offer a starting point for the healing process of our Black community.”
In addition to the unveiling of the artwork and historical panels, the virtual event will include a Time Capsule burial dedicated to a collection of this early history as well as remarks by Project Historian Dr. Jefferson and Project Artist Banks.
Banks’ artwork was informed by research and collaboration with project historian Dr. Jefferson, utilizing themes gathered from public engagement activities that surfaced the stories and dreams of Santa Monicans and the descendants of those who were displaced from the field site. The outdoor exhibition features interpretive text panels researched and written by Dr. Jefferson, which illuminates the history of the Belmar neighborhood and surrounding areas, and its businesses, places of worship and underrepresented stories of its community members.
Sample image of on-site historical panel provided by Santa Monica Cultural Affairs.
To register for the virtual grand opening celebration, visit santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark. A recording of the virtual event will be rebroadcast on CityTV Channel 16 on Monday, March 1, 2021 at 8 p.m., and available on the City's YouTube channel. To learn more on the Belmar History + Art Project, visit santamonica.gov/arts/belmar.
The City of Santa Monica has also launched an effort to prioritize housing opportunities for Santa Monicans and their descendants who were displaced by the construction of the Civic Center complex. To learn more about this work, visit santamonica.gov/righttoreturn.
Santa Monica remains committed to the health and wellness of the community and is taking extra precautions to ensure the community feels welcome and safe. When visiting Santa Monica and the Historic Belmar Park and art installations, face masks and social distancing are required.