Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Upcoming Santa Monica City Council Meeting Includes Vote on Recommendations to Advance a Black Agenda in Efforts to Promote the Wellbeing of the Black Community 

Santa Monica, Calif. — September 6, 2020 The Santa Monica City Council released the meeting agenda and staff report for the next city council meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 8. Among the 13 major agenda items is: Agenda Item 8-A: Advancing a Black Agenda for Santa Monica. This action item is the next step following the June, 2020 City Council vote to advance equitable and lasting change in Santa Monica.  Comprised of a group of Santa Monica’s Black community leaders, the Black Agenda is united for the purpose of assisting the City of Santa Monica in addressing systemic barriers through the implementation of an “informed, proactive platform of forthright, sustained, and credible actions. The Black Agenda is part of the City council’s three-prong approach to addressing equity, and includes development of a Black Agenda for Santa Monica, Public Safety Reform and Equity and Inclusion Work in the City.

The Black Agenda is also focusing on mental and physical health/wellness in driving a blueprint for change. “The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the Black and Brown community. The centuries-long history of institutional racism, loss of black lives, and disparity in access, opportunities, and resources have led to days of reckoning. The city of Santa Monica is not immune. It has an opportunity to address its own challenges and self-correct,” says Dr. Karen Gunn, a retired Santa Monica College professor, and Principal for Gunn Consulting Group.

Santa Monica native Robbie Jones, a Black Agenda steering committee member agrees with Dr. Gunn’s sentiments. “For City Council to approve a Black Agenda is a step in the right direction in healing and making our community whole again,” says Jones, CEO of Black Santa Monica Tours and Concierge. She adds, “Years ago, we had a vibrant, Black community, where many residents were property owners who had their own businesses. Everyone was family – no matter what your last name was,” Jones fondly recalls. The longtime activist has been spearheading numerous grassroots efforts for more than 25 years.

The Black Agenda is pivotal to Santa Monica’s growth and move toward reimaging a more inclusive and equitable city,” says Barry Snell, a Black Agenda steering committee member and Santa Monica College Board Trustee. “The Black Agenda is designed to improve the wellbeing of Black Santa Monica residents whom we know have been disproportionately marginalized due to systematic racism in housing, employment and education. Through outreach and assessment, we’re creating a comprehensive blueprint for authentic change across multiple areas from economics and affordable housing to civic engagement and police reform.”  

Snell says the Black Agenda is an evolving thinktank for community members to engage and cultivate change through various methodologies and projects including the arts and humanitarian efforts. On July 14, 2020, the Black Agenda was approved to receive 10% of non-designated donations from the City’s We Are Santa Monica Fund to support projects that are part of the Black Agenda. Such non-specifically earmarked donations were once limited to COVID-19 but has since expanded to support the Black Agenda. “Not only are we looking at innovative ways of recovering, but we’re exploring opportunities for our Black community to sustain itself in an economy that’s ever-changing,” says Snell. 

With respect to the remaining two prongs of council’s mission to address equity, recommendations both from the City Council-appointed Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) will also be presented during Tuesday night’s council meeting. Each group will have time to present and field public comments. 

To get involved in the Black Agenda, contact the Black Agenda Steering Committee, led by Dr. Karen Gunn, Robbie Jones, and Barry Snell at SantamonicaBlackAgenda@gmail.com.  

To make a cash or in-kind donation to the City of Santa Monica for a particular use, please contact Debbie Lee at Debbie.lee@smgov.net.