The deadline to nominate local professionals for Santa Monica’s Black Excellence Awards has been extended, and local residents are invited to put forth those they think are worthy of being honored with one of the various awards that will be handed out this February.

Hundreds of residents gathered at the Third Street Promenade in last year for the inaugural “Celebrating Black Excellence Community Mixer,” which featured treats from various vendors, a traditional West African Dance and Drum performance and plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with fellow Santa Monicans and the many others who stopped by for a peek at the fun.

With safer-at-home orders likely to still be in effect this February, Black History Month celebrations will look a little different this year, but organizer Delana Gbenekama said the City is currently planning a few festivities for next month and still intends to celebrate Black professionals who have demonstrated displays of outstanding leadership or service.

The theme for Black History Month 2021 is: “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” so community members are being asked to submit their family stories for a chance to be featured during the opening ceremony and various events this year. Stories and nominations for the Black Excellence Awards are due Jan. 10 now that the deadline has been extended, according to Gbenekama, who said residents can visit for the forms to submit the names of prospective honorees and families stories.

“We want people to nominate black professionals who live in Santa Monica or who work in Santa Monica, who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and outstanding service to the community,” Gbenekama said. “I think it’s really important to highlight people who are doing great work in the community because they may not necessarily be in the spotlight all the time even though their efforts certainly make them worthy of attention,” she added. “So, anybody can nominate anyone you know who fits these requirements. We just ask that you fill out a form that will help us get a really detailed explanation about why the person should be nominated to be honored.”

Following last year’s event, there was a lot of feedback from community members who said they were so happy to be part of an event like this, “so we knew we had to do it again because it feels great to have an event like this and hear how much it means to people,” Gbenekama said. “We are elated to continue sharing and reflecting on Black History — an essential part of American history — with the Santa Monica community again in 2021. It’s a time to honor many of the unnamed heroes, including influential family figures, who have uplifted the Black community and paved the way for people like me and future generations.”