As the project historian, Alison Rose Jefferson joins her team members in being honored with the 2021 Cultural Resource Award from the Santa Monica Conservancy for the work done to produce the Belmar History + Art project which commemorates the contributions of the early African American residents to Santa Monica and recognizes their neighborhoods.
Six Conservancy awards this year recognize exemplary contributors to the conservation of Santa Monica’s architectural and cultural heritage, and individuals for their stewardship and advocacy work in the city.
The first African Americans settled in Santa Monica in the late 19th Century. They established neighborhoods around Philips Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church at Fourth and Bay Streets and north of Santa Monic High School, as well as in the Belmar Triangle, an area now occupied by the Civic Center. As the city grew, this thriving community was displaced by both explicit and subtle discriminatory policies.
An outdoor exhibition encircles the sports field, Historic Belmar Park, at Pico Boulevard and Fourth Street which features a large sculpture by social practice artist April Banks and interpretive story panels based on work by historian Alison Rose Jefferson, Ph.D. Learn about the other programming that joins the outdoor exhibition to reinsert the African American experience into the Santa Monica landscape and cultural heritage and see the project’s virtual opening ceremony video here.
Belmar History + Art was inspired in part by Dr. Jefferson’s advocacy and the California Coastal Commission’s initiative of environmental justice, equality and social equity in the coastal zone and was funded through the City’s Public Works Department and Percent for Art Program.
In 2020 the Conservancy also honored Michael Blum of the Sea of Clouds organization and Alison Rose Jefferson for their work to get the Bay Street Beach Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the African American experience in United States and California history. The Jim Crow era beach site African Americans enjoyed was the first Santa Monica district to recieve this national honor and one of the few in California associated with any community of color.
Continue the celebration. Come out to the Juneteenth, Saturday, June 19, 8 to 10 pm, Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Festival at Historic Belmar Park. View the films, engage with the interpretative history panels and see the sculpture.