This year’s Black History Month, which begins Feb. 1, is the first since the City of Santa Monica issued an official apology to African American residents and their descendants for years of discrimination, racial injustice and systematically racist policies last November.
At last week’s Jan. 24 City Council Meeting, Santa Monica resident and writer Ralinda Harvey Smith referenced the apology and laid out her hopes for the future when reading out this year’s Black History Month Proclamation.
“Our observance of this Black History Month, in February 2023, will serve as year one since the Santa Monica Black Apology has sent us on a renewed path to a more just and equitable society,” she said.
While the proclamation called the apology a ‘historic statement’ with the hope that it will “create a communal understanding of the debilitating effects of systemic racism and locally created discriminatory policies have had on generations of black residents and their families,” Harvey Smith emphasized the need for it to be followed-up with concrete action and change.
“It should also reinforce the idea that it will require sustained attention, unwavering momentum and relentless accountability to achieve reform and restoration,” she said.
Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History establishes a primary theme for Black History Month. This year’s theme is Black Resistance, which Harvey Smith said is fitting in the wake of the apology which was brought about by the efforts of local community activists.
“It was their Black Resistance that elevated the conversation, helping to serve as a catalyst for the historic statement of apology to Santa Monica’s African American residents and their descendents,” she said.
The theme of Black Resistance has also shaped this year’s Black History Month programming, organized by the City’s Black History Month Committee (BHMC).
“Black Resistance can show up in different forms, whether it’s self-love, self-care, activism or learning,” said BHMC founder and Equity and Communication’s Coordinator for the City Delana G. Gbenekama. “Our kickoff event on February 1 is meant to elicit joy; the author reading and discussion on February 23 is meant to spark discussion and learning; and our poetry displays at City Hall throughout the month of February are meant to ignite deep thought, dialogue and hopefully action to bring about positive changes in people’s lives.”
The Feb 1. Kickoff event includes a food truck brunch event at the City Yards from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m followed by a similar lunch event at City Hall from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will also include music and dancing.
For additional information and a list of Black History Month events, exhibits and more visit: https://www.santamonica.gov/blog/black-history-month-2023