Black History Month was formally recognized as a national celebration in 1976 and in the years since, local residents have used the month to recognize the Black Americans who’ve helped shape their community and country.
This February features a multitude of free events occurring in Santa Monica between now and the end of the month, so residents — young and old — still have plenty of time to get out and celebrate the occasion.
In an effort to celebrate Black professionals in Santa Monica who have demonstrated displays of outstanding leadership or service, the city of Santa Monica will host the inaugural “Celebrating Black Excellence Community Mixer” on the Third Street Promenade for the first time in its history.
The community mixer is set to occur Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to Delana Gbenekama, who recently said the event has been in the works for some time now and it feels great to finally see it come to fruition.
“In Santa Monica’s history, you’ve had a lot of people of color who have been displaced from the community. Even in spite of that, we have a black population here and we want people to know they’re here and they’re contributing a lot,” Gbenekama said. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from community members who’ve told me: ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that we’re finally doing this. I’m so happy about this,’ so it feels great to have an event like this and hear how much it means to people.”
Gbenekama said she hopes attendees will mingle and get to know each other at the “casual” event that will feature vendors, awards and other activities. She added the city’s Black History Month Committee is still accepting nominations for community members, employees and difference-makers who should be honored at the mixer until Saturday, Feb. 15 — and residents can submit nominations online at bit.ly/BHMnom.
“We want to highlight people who are demonstrating outstanding service or leadership so however you feel that person is demonstrating that, we encourage you to submit their name and story,” Gbenekama said.
Other Black History Month events occurring in the local area:
- Local residents are invited to a community talk and tea with artist April Banks, who has recently been hosting several community events as part of the Belmar History + Art project. Occurring Sunday, Feb. 16 from 2-4 p.m. at the 18th Street Arts Center, the event will focus on the history of the Belmar neighborhood and how African Americans migrated and built their lives in Santa Monica. Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson will discuss how the face of the community has changed dramatically over time as they aim to celebrate the rich legacy of African American contributions to Santa Monica life.
- Historian and heritage conservation consultant Alison Rose Jefferson will discuss her new book that focuses on the “struggle for leisure and public space for all” with emphasis on the Santa Monica area beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. “Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era” is set to transpire at the Montana Library Branch, which is located at 1704 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.
- The annual Santa Monica Greens Festival is set to return to Virginia Avenue Park on Saturday, Feb. 29. Featuring chef cooking demonstrations, a community Greens cooking contest, a Black History exhibit, arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, musical performances, book readings and more, local residents are invited to join the fun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For a more comprehensive list of events occurring in Santa Monica during Black History Month, visit santamonica.gov/blog/blackhistorymonth.