ARJ Breaking News, Event Invitations and Celebration of Accomplishments || May 2024

Join me in exploring the past and gaining inspiration to shape the present and future from a few activities, movies, books, and articles I highlight below. Check out more of these musings here. Also, you are invited to share this news post with your colleagues, friends, and family.

Pictured above are participants on a tour titled, “Los Angeles Black Heritage Real Estate,” I (Alison Rose Jefferson) led on February 29 hosted by Nuveen, Goldman Sacks, Invesco and PGIM Real Estate. For a Black History Month celebration I shared a historical perspective of Black real estate and community development in Los Angeles over the last 100 years plus. On a chartered bus with a few stops, I covered topics which included Black migration, notable developers and architects, landmark sites, and current developments of affordable housing, studio and technology facilities, hospitality and more. The tour traveled from Downtown to the Historic South Central District to Vermont Manchester Center to Inglewood’s Hollywood Park and Civic Center Districts to the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Districts to West Adams. If you are interested in these kinds of educational opportunities, please contact me.

Check out my new essay, “In L.A., Driving the Road of Black Empowerment: For Families Like Mine, Cars Were an Engine of Social and Economic Mobility,” which publishes  alongside the Zocalo Public Square and Destination Crenshaw Friday, May 31, 2024 event, “Is Car Culture the Ultimate Act of Community in Crenshaw?” My new essay, not unlike my other work, intersects with this Black real estate development tour I led in February in the examination of personal, familial, communal histories that were shaped by forces that hindered and helped opportunities to open new possibilities for housing, employment and investment in new places for Black Angelenos over the twentieth century. In case you missed this, Destination Crenshaw is a public, open-air Black art project that will be installed over the next few years along Crenshaw Boulevard between Vernon and Slauson Avenues.

The 2024 Black History Month tour group photograph at the top was made in front of the historic Dunbar Hotel (formerly the Hotel Somerville) constructed at Forty-second Place and Central Avenue. Built by Black Angeleno dentists and entrpreneurs John and Vada Somerville to accommodate the 1927 National Association for the Advancement of Colored people meeting – the first one held on the West Coast. Today the site has been rehabilitated as affordable housing. Photography by Jake Ramaey and Jordan Rasco, Joe Chung Photography.

Update: “Black California Dreamin’…” Exhibition, CAAM LA, and More  

BCD exhibition poster, 2024. 

The “Black California Dreamin’: Claiming Space in America’s Leisure Frontier” (“BCD”) exhibition curated by me, Alison Rose Jefferson, for the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles on view May 22 through August 18, 2024, illuminates African Americans in Southern California histories during the Jim Crow era and a more inclusive American identity. Join me (Dr. Jefferson) for a curatorial exhibition tour on Wed. June 19 at 2.00 PM and at KCRW Summer Nights @ CAAM on Friday, June 28, 7.00–11.00 PM. This exhibition visually illuminates my book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era subject matter and some of the public/applied history activities which have used these histories.

See The Public Historian journal exhibition review here (scroll down to story, Update: “Black California Dreamin’ …” Exhibition, …). Also, view the global media coverage the BCD exhibition has garnered and and more see photographs from the August 4 opening party here (scroll down the page to the BCD story of this post).

More exhibition news: BCD features a long trailer of the documentary film, “Wade in the Water: A Journey into Black Surfing and Aquatic Culture” by David Mesfin. I am happy to share the full film will begin showing on streaming services on June 19, 2024. The film includes interviews with contemporary surfers about their experiences and historians like me (Alison Rose Jefferson), discussing the historical African American experience with beach culture.

Less Familiar SoCal Stories of Pioneers in Aviation, Essay, Video and Podcast Presentations Now Available

You can read the photo essay, “Long Beach Airport and Southern California: A Brief New Aviation and Aeronautics History (1900s – 1980s)” that Philip S. Hart and I recently completed, and see the video of the January 25, 2024 presentation (Billie Jean King Library, Downtown LB) we did for the project at the Long Beach Airport 100th anniversary celebration webpage.

We illuminate histories of overlooked women and people of color who contributed to making Southern California a global center of aviation and aerospace over the last century. Featured in our essay is Ed Dwight, the 90 year old and former astronaut candidate who finally went into space as the oldest person to do so in the last few weeks. This project was commissioned by the Historical Society of Long Beach and Long Beach Airport (LGB, airport code) as part of its 100th anniversary celebration.

Also to learn more about Bessie Coleman, one of the early Black aviators featured in our essay, listen to the “Invisible Eagles: Bessie Coleman” podcast (Apple, Spotify, Google) produced by Tanya Hart and Philip Hart, a production of Flying Free Films, AURN and AARP.

Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest actor to ever receive an Oscar nomination for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” film, is part of the cast of this scripted podcast series written by Danielle Nicki (“Chicago Fire”).

In the Santa Monica Bay, Black Beach Resort Developers From Past to Present

Some progress has occurred for Black developers realizing their vision of owning beach service businesses with The Redline Venice Hotel Apartments recently holding its grand opening — the only Black owned apartment hotel in the area. As a historian, I had the great pleasure of assisting the owners in developing the visual content to accompany the stories about Black beach culture that are weaved through the design of the rooms, along with other Venice/Santa Monica Bay histories.

The Ebony Beach Club of Santa Monica, California has been featured in media coverage (“Press Play with Madeleine Brand,” March 27, 2024, Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2024 and High Country News magazine, October 13, 2021), for the documented racist land grab of Black property in the 1950s. This situation is among several where Black developers efforts were thwarted in their attempts to build beach amenities over the twentieth century in Santa Monica, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, and Huntington Beach. I documented and elucidate these overlooked stories in my book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era and in the essay, “Reconstruction and Reclamation: The African American Experience in Santa Monica History” that I wrote and other programming for Santa Monica’s Belmar History + Art project.

The “Redline” in the name of the new Venice establishment has multiple meanings –– it is symbolic of racist housing and loan discrimination practices that inhibited Black and other minoritized people from living and buying property in certain areas. The name also refers to the old “Red Cars” of the trolley line that transported people from downtown Los Angeles to Venice Beach up to the mid-twentieth century.

Steps from the beach, dining and other Venice area attractions, The Venice Redline also has a rooftop for gatherings. I am so happy when I could help to educate and entertain people with the stories and images I helped to provide this establishment. The Redline Venice management hopes you and your family and friends will make a reservation soon, to enjoy the best of what Venice has to offer.

Nick Gabaldon Day 2024, Saturday, June 1

Join the Santa Monica Conservancy, Heal the Bay, the Black Surfers Collective, Surf Bus Foundation and Swim Up Hill on Saturday, June 1 for Nick Gabaldón Day 2024. This innovative celebration provides an amazing opportunities to connect Angelenos and others with cultural, historical and natural heritage. Gabaldón was the first documented surfer of African American and Mexican American descent in the Santa Monica Bay. He represents Black people of his era’s aspirations and challenges to racial and class structures when they confronted the politics of leisure and recreation space access as they sought self-fulfillment at the oceanfront, a public space that was and continues to be a centerpiece of California’s twentieth and twenty-first-century identity.

Learn more about this celebration of Black California coastal culture enjoyment that takes place at the Jim Crow era African American, Bay Street beach site (sometimes controversially called “the Inkwell” (which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places) in Santa Monica here and about the history of the locale here. Learn more about Nick Gabaldon (1927–1951) here.

Updates: Living the California Dream … Book and New Artworks About Black Angelenos and Santa Monica

Brian Tanguay at California Review of Books wrote a nice review of Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press). If you have not read the book yet, there are chapters that illuminate the history of the Santa Monica Bay Street Beach and the extraordinary African American pioneers who pursued their California and American Dreams, even in the face of anti-Black racism that challenged their joy, self-determination and socio-economic community building initiatives. He also did a separate interview with Jefferson about her “effort to raise public awareness of people and events that have been ignored, deemed unimportant …”

Congratulations to 40 Acre Conservation League for securing 650-arces of former logging forest northwest of Lake Tahoe in fall 2023. The non-profit organization secured $3 million in funding for California’s first Black land trust. This Black-led land conservancy has both a social and environmental mission –– to help people of color to feel more comfortable in nature and to fight environmental degradation. The organization’s leadership honored me, Alison Rose Jefferson, as keynote speaker at their 2022 Black Climate Exchange! program where they shared how my work had been inspirational to them as they developed the organization’s goals around “the concept of land justice from an economic, recreational, and environmental perspective,” which are part of the foundation of both my scholarly writings and public program work.

Artists April Banks and Glen Wilson in collaboration have created artworks inspired by the Ebony Beach Club which imagine alternative histories of the establishment and also recognize  its lose to Black Angelenos. Silas White bought a building to renovate and open as the Ebony Beach Club in the 1950s in Santa Monica on Ocean Avenue, just north of Pico Boulevard on what are the grounds of the Viceroy Hotel today. It was to be a place of pleasure and social enjoyment where patrons could also walk a few blocks to the beach. The City of Santa Monica seized the land for a parking lot using eminent domain in 1958. White sued, but lost, both the case to get his land back and to pursue his dream of opening the Ebony Beach Club. Learn more about Silas White and the Ebony Beach in the essay, “Reconstruction and Reclamation: The African American Experience in Santa Monica History” that I wrote and other programming for Santa Monica’s Belmar History + Art project.

Emerging Artist Evan Alex has done an experimental short film, “Belmar” which he said,  “explores erasure in our society’s past and the preservation of history, while focusing on the displacement of once vibrant Black communities like Belmar Park [Santa Monica] and Sugar Hill [Los Angeles] due to societal injustices.” His film is the result of a partnership between Ghetto Film School (GFS) and The Huntington with high school- and early college-age students. It was humbling and inspiring for me to see that this young person Evan Alex was stirred to make a film after engaging with content of the Belmar History + Art project that April Banks and I (Alison Rose Jefferson) collaborated on in Santa Monica. Alex’s “Belmar” and other GFS student films can be viewed at The Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American art and online.


Lastly, before you go…

Here are inspiring events, articles and books to check out. Some are about omitted or once-forgotten stories of the Black American and other group’s experiences in the national  and global narratives which have recently been highlighted in public memory.

  • Please join the Sweat Equity Alliance (SEA) Change and me, Alison Rose Jefferson, for a talk I will do on Black Histories of the Jim Crow Era in South Bay cities of Los Angeles County and how they impact us today on Thursday, June 13, 2024, 6.30 – 8.30 PM (SEA Social, 6.30 PM; Presentation, 7.00 PM) at the El Segundo Public Library. Get more event information here.

  • Stop by to hear me, Alison Rose Jefferson, and other panelists discuss our work and subjects around it influencing the present at a few conferences coming up. If you are attending the 2024 California Preservation Conference at the Biltmore Hotel (Downtown Los Angeles), join us Thursday, May 30, 2024, 11.00 AM – 12.30 PM at the “Preservation After Designation” panel in the Cordoban Room. Also if you are attending the 2024 Inland Empire People’s History Conference at California State University, San Bernardino at the Center for Global Innovation, Saturday, June 1, 2024, join us from 4.30 – 5.45 PM at the “African American Experiences in the Inland Empire” panel (#14). Get more information on the Inland…Conference at the flyer QR code.

  • Please join me to have some laughs with my dear friend, funny woman “V”’s at her “Ruffling Feathers” showcase on Saturday, June 15, 2024, 7.30 – 8.30 PM at Comedy Blvd!, 7924 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048. This show is one of the last on land, before she begins doing cruise ship performances. Purchase tickets here.

  • Check out the opening exhibition, “This is some place,” at the Venice Heritage Museum, 228 Main Street, Venice, CA 90291. I helped to commandeer a few items featured in this new exhibition that will be up until late 2024, and I am a VHM board member.  Hours: Thursdays – Sundays 11.00 AM – 5.00 PM. Free admission with donations welcome. More information here.

  • Watch the “All American – Walter Gordon Story” documentary film by Doug Harris. Learn about the overlooked story of Walter Gordon, a UC Berkeley All-American football player and the first Black graduate of Cal’s Boalt Law School, who went on to a distinguished career in law enforcement, civil rights, and prison reform. He went to high school in Riverside! Viewfinder Series, Season 30, WNET, aired January 23, 2024.

  • John Swanson Jacobs’ biography and critique of nineteenth century America, A True Story of Slavery: The United States Governed by Six Hundred Thousand Despots (edited by Jonathan D.S. Schroeder) offers an unflinching narrative about his life as an enslaved person and a global perspective that was originally published in 1855 in Australia. Schroeder rediscovered the narrative and “hopes the book will now place Jacobs in the tradition of Black radicalism from David Walker’s incendiary “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World” from 1829 to the Black Lives Matter movement today” as New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Schuessler notes.

  • Alan Taylor’s American Civil Wars: A Continental History, 1850-1873 offers a transnational framing of the period in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and their borderlands. Taylor argues, “the West [the American West] was the contested prize that sparked the Civil War.” The Wall Street Journal (May 17, 2024) book review is a good one, and there is also a Publisher’s Weekly Review which groups Taylor’s new book with others including Manisha Sinha’s excellent book on the reconsiderations of the  implications of the rise and fall of the Reconstruction.

You are invited to share this news post with your colleagues, friends and family.

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