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Saturday, September 20, 2014 • 9:00 A.M.–Noon

Coastal Cleanup Day 2014 flyer

(click to enlarge for download)

Join Heal the Bay, Santa Monica College, the Santa Monica Conservancy, the Black Surfers Collective, the California Historical Society, Los Angeles Black Underwater Explorers and other local organizations in the annual cleanup at the historical African American beach/Inkwell Monument site  in Santa Monica, California.

Santa Monica Beach at Bay Street, near Lifeguard Tower 20
Parking Lot 4 South, Enter at Bicknell Street
http://www.healthebay.org/event/coastal-cleanup-day

At this site we celebrate our collective love of the ocean and our layered community history through Coastal Cleanup Day site in Santa Monica. Volunteers will be educated about the history and environmental concerns of this site.

In 2008 the City of Santa Monica installed a monument Bay Street and Oceanfront Walk officially recognized this important Jim Crow era African American gathering place, and Nick Gabaldón, the first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent, who was also attended Santa Monica College.

Bay Street Beach 1924

Verna Williams (Lewis) and friend Sidney at the Bay Street beach in Santa Monica, ca. 1924.
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At this site Gabaldón and others challenged racism and class structures to enjoy beach public space, and contributed to opening up leisure and public spaces for all Americans.

Coastal Cleanup Day gives us an amazing opportunity for action and education, and remembrance of our collective history. We stand united by our love of the ocean. We remember the past and move forward together as stewards of this precious environment.

Santa Monica Conservancy docents will be on hand to talk with volunteers about the history of this unique site sometimes known as the “Inkwell”.  The Los Angeles Black Underwater Explorers will share information with volunteers about scuba diving and marine life.

My title of this article plays off an article title by Brentin Mock, the justice editor for Grist.com. He offers some really thought provoking commentaries on a variety of issues around the natural and cultural environment. Mock has written several enlightening articles this year on the lack of diversity in the various mainstream Green movements, and on the work by different African Americans and other overlooked and marginalized Americans working in the field.

From Mock I learned about a report particularly worth reading for anyone interested in outdoor activities and the Green movements, that included a discussion on diversity in these industry’s employment practices called “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations”. The report was produced by the group called Green 2.0, led by one of the leaders in environmental and race issues discussion, Dorceta Taylor.

Green 2.0

Green 2.0: Accelerating Diversity in the Mainstream Environmental Movement (click to link)

Mock’s articles and Carolyn Finney’s new book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors  discussing environmental justice issues are inspiring me in my own work as a public historian and heritage conservation consultant.

The state of heritage conservation/historic preservation could also use more diversity in the representation of American expressions of cultural identity and pride. The spring 2014 issue of the Forum Journal, a National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) publication, looks at how some of the current American preservation practices could be improved to tell a broader range of American stories.

Tanya Bowers, director for diversity at the NTHP, said in “Becoming A More Inclusive Preservation Organization”, an online article accompanying the spring 2014 Forum issue, “Most preservation organizations have taken steps to embrace the idea of diversity.” She also asserted these groups need to focus on the needs of a broader group of stakeholders if they want to stay afloat.

Forum Journal: Imagining a More Inclusive Preservation Program, spring 2014 (click here)

Forum Journal: Imagining a More Inclusive Preservation Program, Spring 2014 (click for article)

I also wrote “Challenges to the Conservation of California’s African American Heritage”, a web companion article to the spring 2014  Forum issue about my successes and challenges to reinsert the California’s African American heritage into existing regional and national history and historic preservation discourses. Some of the issues discussed in the work of the three authors highlighted here, Mock, Finney and Bowers, are illustrated by real world examples I give in my above mentioned article about heritage conservation and engaging broader audiences with more inclusive American stories.

Both the nature environmental and heritage conservation movements have work to do in creating more inclusive atmospheres for the conservation of America’s spaces and places that reflect national identity, environmental values, and American history. What Brentin Mock said in his most recent Grist.com article, “Green must diversify or die“, is applicable to both environmental and heritage conservation/historic preservation organizations – if these groups are serious about diversity, “then put your money where your mouth is or suffer the consequences later.”

Over the last few months several articles appeared about African Americans’ and women’s history of enjoying the beach culture of California. First up, Ryan Reft’s three articles written for KCET’s online, Departures Columns Intersections commentary on Southern California beach culture, race and gender. Reft’s articles are an outgrowth of his viewing the documentary film, “White Wash” at the Organization of American Historians meeting in Atlanta, Georgia (April 10-13, 2014,) and hearing a panel session after the documentary featuring the film’s director Ted Woods, and historians, Prof. Krista Comer (Rice University), Prof. Michael Willard (California State University, Los Angeles) and doctoral candidate Alison Rose Jefferson (University of California, Santa Barbara).

Reft’s articles discuss a short history of women and African Americans in surfing, and the historical African American beach sites in California’s Manhattan Beach (Bruce’s Beach) and Santa Monica (Bay Street/Inkwell).

Riding Waves, Forging Communities: Surfing, Gender, and Feminism in 20th Century California, May 30, 2014

Fighting for Leisure: African Americans, Beaches, Civil Rights in Early 20th Century L.A., May 16, 2014

Surfing for Freedom: Black Surfers and Reclaiming Cultural History in Los Angeles, April 24, 2014

Mary aka Surf Sista

Mary aka Surf Sista on one of her long boards enjoying the waves. Photograph by Mike Avalon. (click to enlarge)

 

Check out the nice profile with great photographs, written about Mary Mills aka Surf Sista, a fabulous Black Angeleno resident and member of the Black surfer coalition groups, who loves the beach and began surfing when she was in her forties! Candace Stalder of Stalderart.com wrote “Surf Sista Goes Ricta~! for DROPZONEla.com.

 

Nick Gabaldón portrait painted by Richard Wyatt, a Los Angeles artist known for his many history-based public art projects. Wyatt was asked to paint this inspired artwork as commission from native Angeleno and retired surfer Rick Blocker of BlackSurfing.com. (click to enlarge)

Nick Gabaldón portrait painted by Richard Wyatt, a Los Angeles artist known for his many history-based public art projects. Wyatt was asked to paint this inspired artwork as commission from native Angeleno and retired surfer Rick Blocker of BlackSurfing.com. (click to enlarge)

Finally, over the last year in my work to spread knowledge of African American heritage at Los Angeles County beaches I wrote several articles. One article I wrote, “Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) : A Southern California Surfing Pioneer”  was published by the UltimateHistoryProject.com. This history website has big ambitions to gain a national and international audience. The article is a more expanded piece on Gabaldón and civil rights than what has been written about him before.

Some of the other new articles I wrote this past year for the Los Angeles Historical Society Newsletter, the 2014 Nappywood L.A. Natural Hair Care Expo event program, Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race an Ocean Festival 2013 Event Guide and others can be found on the Publications page.

Nick Gabaldón Day 2014 celebration at the historical African American beach site, “the Inkwell” in Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page. (click to enlarge)

Nick Gabaldón Day 2014 celebration at the historical African American beach site, “the Inkwell” in Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page. (click to enlarge)

The sun was out and the surf was up for the Saturday, June 14, 2014 day of celebration around the pioneering African American and Mexican surfer Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) and others that have come before us. Many youth, and a few adults, from the Los Angeles County region learning (or least tried) to stand on surfboards for the first time. All attending learned about local history, ocean stewardship and marine biology.

Youngsters learn about the history of the event site at the Bay Street/Inkwell historic site from historian Alison Rose Jefferson and the banner exhibit entitled, “Hidden Beach Stories & the California Dream: African Americans, Beach Culture, Santa Monica & the American Narrative” at Nick Gabaldón Day 2014. Bay Street/Inkwell historic site, Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page. (click to enlarge)

Youngsters learn about the history of the event site at the Bay Street/Inkwell historic site from historian Alison Rose Jefferson and the banner exhibit entitled, “Hidden Beach Stories & the California Dream: African Americans, Beach Culture, Santa Monica & the American Narrative” at Nick Gabaldón Day 2014. Bay Street/Inkwell historic site, Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page. (click to enlarge)

Young people from the Challengers Boys & Girls Club and the Concerned Black Men mentoring programs of Los Angeles took their turn at learning to surf with volunteer instructors from the Black Surfers Collective and Surf Bus Foundation at the Bay Street beach sometimes referred to as the “Inkwell. This site at the end of Bay Street was a gathering place of African Americans during the nation’s Jim Crow era when racial restrictions on many areas of life sometimes occurred, even on some recreational public spaces.

Jeff Williams of the BSC and Marion Clark of Surf Bus Foundation/Surf Academy lead the surfing lessons. Meredith McCarthy headed up Heal the Bay’s teaching about ocean life at the shoreline. Also check out Meredith’s blog post about the event entitled, “Lessons From L.A. Beaches’ Checkered Past.”  Santa Monica Conservancy volunteers Alison Rose Jefferson, Thomasine Rogas, Leslie Lambert and Carol Lemlein acted as docents, giving people information about the significance of Nick Gabaldón and the Inkwell site to regional and national history.

 Newbie young surfers learning about paddling at Nick Gabaldón Day 2014 celebration at the historical African American beach site, “the Inkwell” in Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page.  (click to enlarge)

Newbie young surfers learning about paddling at Nick Gabaldón Day 2014 celebration at the historical African American beach site, “the Inkwell” in Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page.
(click to enlarge)

The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky were the lead partners the event production. Groups supporting the programming included: the Santa Monica Conservancy, the LA County Lifeguards, Santa Monica Co-op, L.A. Black Underwater Explorers, Body Glove and the Association for Surfing Professionals.

Nick Gabaldón Day 2014

Marion Clark of Surf Bus Foundation/Surf Academy giving instructions to newbie youth surfers and their instructors at Nick Gabaldón Day 2014. Bay Street/Inkwell historic site, Santa Monica, California. Photography by Damien Baskette from the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page. (click to enlarge)

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Dr. Ned Kaufman will do an evening public lecture entitled “Extraordinary Prizes in Ordinary Places: How Preserving Everyday Things Can Save People and the Planet” on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 7.00pm at University of Southern California’s (USC) Pierre Koenig Lecture Hall/School of Architecture.

In his USC evening presentation Dr. Kaufman will discuss the general themes of rethinking the economics of heritage and historic preservation as a tool for achieving social justice, and how the field is forging new interdisciplinary alliances with public history, folklore, community planning and tourism promotion. Reception to follow.

Also on March 11, Dr. Kaufman will do a lunchtime program for graduate students, faculty, administrators and other interested parties at USC’s History Department Conference Room/SOS Room 250 from 12.00–1.30pm. He will talk about his current research around historic conservation, social justice, intangible resources, sustainability and the economics of heritage. He will also discuss his career inside and outside of academia. As more Ph.D.’s are seeking alternative careers, by choice and by necessity, Dr. Kaufman’s academic and non-academic career offers an example of a path of intellectually challenging and worthwhile work as a consultant, a public historian and a professor. A light lunch will be served at the session.

Admission is free to both USC programs. For more information contact me, Alison Rose Jefferson via this website.

Dr. Kaufman’s work is at the vanguard of historic preservation thought and activism. His scholarship, teaching and practice confront outmoded conventions and inspire us to question traditional methodologies for saving and interpreting historic sites. His scholarship reminds us why we must continue asking “why” we are preserving a site, challenging use to look beyond the analysis of beautiful buildings and materials conservation to connect with places through our shared life stories.

Continue Reading »

At Pilgrim School: Remy Smith, Alison Rose Jefferson, Richard Yelland and Marcus Chatman with the Pilgrim student who recently had the opportunity to surf at Hawaii’s legendary North Shore! Eat your heart out guys and gals, and give a shot out to the fabulous kid! Photography by Carmen Wolf. (Click to enlarge)

At Pilgrim School’s BHM Assembly after the screening program of 12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldón Story (l to r): Remy Smith, Alison Rose Jefferson, Richard Yelland and Marcus Chatman with the Pilgrim student who recently had the opportunity to surf at Hawaii’s legendary North Shore! Eat your heart out guys and gals, and give a shot out to the fabulous, adventurous little guy! Photography by Carmen Wolf. (Click to enlarge)

February 6th, 2014 –– A screening of the documentary, “12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldón Story” kicked off Black History Month at Pilgrim School in Los Angeles. Carmen Wolf has organized a whole month of activities to teach the kids at her son’s school about some of their overlooked heritage as Americans.

During Pilgrim School BHM Assembly: Carmen Wolf (standing far left), parent organizer of the BHM programming; Alison Rose Jefferson (standing); Richard Yelland; Remy Smith; Marcus Chatman; and the kids of Pilgrim School! Photography by Wesley Michael Groves. (Click to enlarge)

During Pilgrim School BHM Assembly during the Q&A after the screening of 12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldón Story: Carmen Wolf (standing far left), parent organizer of the BHM programming; Alison Rose Jefferson (standing); Richard Yelland; Remy Smith; Marcus Chatman; and the kids of Pilgrim School! Photography by Wesley Michael Groves. (Click to enlarge)

Following the film was a Q&A with filmmaker Richard Yelland, joined by featured historian Alison Rose Jefferson and Los Angeles County Lifeguard Captain and surfer Remy Smith. LA County Sheriff and surfer Marcus Chatman, who is also a lifeguard and aquatics educator, joined the conversation with the kids. This event was for secondary students, parents, staff and faculty. Wesley Michael Groves, a newbie surfer and parent of children at Pilgrim and other parents were in the house.

See the flier (below) for the other cool programs, Carmen arranged for the kids. Please share with your friends who have children attending Pilgrim School (Wilshire Center, Los Angeles, 90020).

FINAL-POSTER-FOR-BHM-2014

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tclf

I was honored to be a leader in the first ever tour programming in Southern California sponsored by The Cultural Landscape Foundation.  Participants explored and discovered two-dozen historical landscapes in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica through a series of FREE expert-led tours highlighting the region’s remarkable landscape legacy.

On Sunday, October 27 from 1.00- to 2.30pm I lead a tour entitled Ocean Park Neighborhood Beach: The Significance of the “Inkwell” in Jim Crow Era Southern California. To learn more about my tour click here.

Continue Reading »

The surf image of Los Angeles County Lifeguard and Aquatics Educator Marcus Chatman at El Portal/Manhattan Beach used on this program announcement is featured in the "tower of images" near the end of the new "Becoming Los Angeles" exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County at Exposition Park. (Click to enlarge)

The surf image of Los Angeles County Lifeguard and Aquatics Educator Marcus Chatman at El Portal/Manhattan Beach used on this program announcement is featured in the “tower of images” near the end of the new “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County at Exposition Park. (Click to enlarge)

Members of the Black Surfer Collective (BSC) and their compatriots were featured guest speakers and instructors in segments of the Claremont University Consortium (CUC)/Office of Black Student Affairs’ (OBSA) sponsored 2013 New Student Retreat taking place Friday, September 13 thru Sunday, September 15, 2013 in Claremont, Malibu and Santa Monica, California. The programming consisted of a series of activities to support the wellbeing of incoming students of African American descent in their pursuit to earn degrees at the Claremont Colleges.

OBSA administrators selected the retreat’s text for workshops of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom. A Southern California surf image featuring Los Angeles County Lifeguard and Aquatics Educator Marcus Chatman at El Portal in Manhattan Beach was selected as the visual imagery branding the retreat marketing and other materials. These two texts are obviously different, but both engage imagery of freedom, resilience, achievement, identity, strength and bravery in a global context. The weekend programming consisted of expert and peer speakers, historically and culturally relevant curriculum workshops, and activities to aid initiation of the new college students on a path of excellence, career development, personal success, and college connections. Surfing lessons and serious fun were also on the students’ schedule.

Continue Reading »

Looking down the hill towards the beach at Bay Street on Coastal Cleanup Day 2013 at some of the cultural exhibits, volunteers’ registration area, and the “Inkwell” landmark monument just before the almost 700 people show up for a day of education and community action. Saturday, September 21, 2013, Santa Monica, California. Photograph courtesy of Heal the Bay.  (Click to enlarge)

Looking down the hill towards the beach at Bay Street on Coastal Cleanup Day 2013 at some of the cultural exhibits, volunteers’ registration area, and the “Inkwell” landmark monument just before the almost 700 people show up for a day of education and community action. Saturday, September 21, 2013, Santa Monica, California. Photograph courtesy of Heal the Bay. (Click to enlarge)

The Santa Monica site derogatorily called the “Inkwell” was a popular beach hangout for African Americans from the 1920s to the early 1960s, where they challenged racial hierarchies to enjoy beach public space at the core of California’s mid-twentieth century identity.  [View historic site description]

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On Coastal Cleanup Day 2013, Saturday, September 21 (CCD 2013) close to 700 people of all ages showed up with good energy for their task of community service to help cleanup the beach. From docents and small exhibits, the day’s volunteers learned about watershed stewardship, sea life and the social history of the Jim Crow era, African American beach site derogatorily called the “Inkwell.”

Continue Reading »

NickGabaldonDay-CommemorativePoster-2013_small_

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Wonderful day you and [all] planned. My daughter Asha has repeated the Nick story over and over to friends and family.

-Louis Emile
Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor
Santa Monica, California, Email/6 June 2013


Heard about you guys on NPR. Shout out from Jacksonville, Florida!

-Daniel Beulah
Comments on the Black Surfers Collective Facebook page/3 June 2013

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We had a delightful day with several hundred appreciative people visiting the place sometimes referred to as the “Inkwell,” the gathering place of African Americans during the nation’s Jim Crow era of racial restrictions on many areas of life, even on some recreational public space. The day of celebration around the pioneering African American and Mexican surfer Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) and others that have come before us, included many youth, and a few adults, from the Los Angeles County region learning to stand on surfboards for the first time. All attending learned about local history, ocean stewardship and marine biology.

I and the other members of this year’s Nick Gabaldón Day organizing team are especially appreciative that Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and his staff joined us to support this educational and recreational programming of the Black Surfers Collective (BSC) and Heal the Bay.

Thanks to all the other groups who supported the programming: Surf Bus Foundation, the Santa Monica Conservancy, Clif Bar, BlackSurfing.com, the California Historical Society, the Sierra Club Outdoors, Rusty’s on Santa Monica Pier, the LA County Lifeguards, CYA in California, Santa Monica Co-op, Dan Cobley from DANC Surfboards and Jeffrey Sudzin from Om Surfboards.

Continue Reading »

Celebration-site

Nick Gabaldón Day 2013 celebration at the historical African American beach site, “the Inkwell” in Santa Monica, California. Photography by Marie Rachal from the Black Surfers Collective FACEBOOK page.

Check out my commentary on Heal the Bay’s, Around the Bay Blog – “Reclaiming L.A.’s Beaches as Communities of Color.”  Here I discuss the layered cultural complexities and significance of surfer Nick Gabaldón and the Jim Crow era, African American Bay Street/Inkwell site in Santa Monica, California to the public processes of historic preservation, nature conservancy and environmental justice movements. I look forward to hearing any thoughts you might have on my commentary.

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