In an effort to celebrate one of Santa Monica’s most prestigious community leaders, three local organizations have partnered to host an event this Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. that will feature food, games and many other family-friendly activities.
Hosted by Virginia Avenue Park, 18th Street Arts Center and the Quinn Research Center, Saturday’s event seeks to celebrate the life of Thelma Terry, a woman who believed in the importance of teen recreation, athletics and arts education in the Pico Neighborhood.
“She had a natural talent for reaching out to young people, and people were just naturally drawn to her. She listened to young people,” said Carolyne Edwards, a co-founder of the Quinn Research Center. She said for African-Americans coming of age in the 1940s, Terry addressed their needs when no one else was willing to.
Who is Thelma Terry?
Nestled in Santa Monica’s Pico neighborhood, the Thelma Terry building is a recreation facility located in the heart of Virginia Avenue Park. The building is used primarily for community gathering activities and allows residents opportunities to enjoy everything from baile folklorico rehearsals to rent control information sessions. And while the essence of these activities is in line with the legacy of Terry, only a few know about her influence in the Westside, specifically in the areas of Venice and Santa Monica.
Upon discovering this realization, Edwards expressed frustration to Carla Fantozzi, Principal Supervisor of Virginia Avenue Park and Sabrina Fields, a longtime resident and community organizer of the Pico neighborhood. Having recently attended a training session organized by Art+Feminism — a national organization that trains people to write new Wikipedia pages, particularly for under-recognized women of color artists — Fields suggested constructing a Wikipedia page for Terry.
From there, a committee of cultural workers began to gather once a month with the goal of unraveling and materializing Thelma Terry’s role within Santa Monica history.
“Ever since I learned that so few women and especially women of color are included in Wikipedia, I have been motivated to do something about that. So when I heard about the Wikipedia-thons and our interest in documenting Thelma Terry, I thought that we had an opportunity,” Fantozzi said. So the committee of cultural workers, led by Edwards and Fields, began to gather the fragments and evidence of Terry’s life using the Wikipedia entry process as a framework.
“Now, thanks to the efforts of those involved, Terry will finally have a Wikipedia page that matches her profound influence in the community,” said Sue Bell Yank. And through art-making, story sharing, local history presentations, food, and more, the community will celebrate Thelma Terry’s legacy at the Thelma Terry Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 7.