Yes, it’s been a while since I have sent out my email musings. I have been busy doing research to document overlooked African American stories and making presentations about these findings in a few places. I have also been building bridges with other like-minded folks to soon illuminate this past in upcoming public programming to inspire and empower folks to make our lives better today and in the future.
As part of this research, I went to a few conferences and on excursions this past year. In this April 2022 photograph above I am at Winks Panorama Lodge in the Lincoln Hills of the mountains not far from Denver, Colorado. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lodge was one of the resort’s buildings of this mountain oasis that offered African American vacationers’ a dignified place to relax from 1925–1965 during the nation’s Jim Crow Era. Like the places I write about in my book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era, it allowed Black folks to enjoy themselves without fear of discrimination and abuse. I went on this excursion as part of The Trust for Public Land African American History and Culture Council meeting in Denver. I am posing with TPL staff and Council members in the photograph on a day we visited and learned about this successful Colorado, safe “Black space” for nature and recreation experiences in the long African American freedom struggle.
Join me in exploring the past and gaining inspiration to shape the present and future from all these activities and a few articles, books, exhibits, music, and movies I highlight here.
Black Chicago Heritage Initiative Needs Your Input!
The Chicago Department of Planning and Development has established the Black Chicago Heritage Initiative (BCHI) to engage the community to contribute ideas about under-recognized histories that identify people and historic sites associated with them which could help foster pride of place in the windy city. The initiative is to encourage public dialogue around how historic preservation can best reflect the diverse histories of all Chicago residents.
I was invited to serve on the Steering Committee of this two-year project as a result of my involvement with SurveyLA’s Historic African American Context Statement, Angels Walk LA Central Avenue heritage trail, Santa Monica’s Belmar History + Art, and other projects. The BCHI Steering Committee is collaborating with the project team on strategies for community engagement to capture narratives for memorialization to broaden the recognition of what constitutes a historic landmark, and advance new methods for preserving intangible aspects of a community’s heritage.
To all you folks with knowledge about Chicago, please reach out to me or Eiliesh Tuffy at the city’s Historic Preservation Bureau with ideas about under-recognized Black community stories of people and places that would foster pride in Chicago. Also please pass this information on to your network of folks who might also have ideas about these windy city Black people and places.
Justice for Bruce’s Beach, LAC Returns Oceanfront Property to Descendants of Black Family and New Short Doc Film
On Wednesday, July 20, 2022, a ceremony marked the first time a government entity ever returned land which was wrongfully taken to an African American family. Los Angeles County returned the oceanfront property known as Bruce’s Beach to the living descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.
I am honored to be featured in a short film that highlights the behind-the-scenes activities which contributed to accomplishing what had never been done before. My book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era made an important knowledge contribution to this accomplishment. Produced by the Los Angeles County government’s communications team you can view the new film, “Returning Bruce’s Beach: A 100-Year Journey to Justice” and other educational resources here or check out the LAC YouTube channel for this story and others.
Happy Nature Swagger Day!
I am thrilled to have an essay I wrote featured in a new collection of beautiful stories about Black joy in nature compiled by Rue Mapp (Outdoor Afro founder) from Chronicle Books. Nature Swagger is on sale now wherever books are sold. This uplifting collection of first-person stories celebrates the many ways outdoor spaces offer Black people opportunities for self-empowerment, connection, and rejuvenation. This inspiring read will also make a great gift.
New City of LA Reparations Initiative joins the State of CA’s Reparations Efforts
The newly formed City of Los Angeles Reparations Advisory Commission began public meetings in late October 2022 asking residents to contribute ideas and share their experiences involving institutional racism to help guide the commission task force created in June 2021. Residents can also contribute via a survey here. Part of the city’s Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department’s Office of Racial Equity, this commission will look specifically at reparations tied to laws that stymied Black Angelenos’ ability to build wealth. Watch for more opportunities to participate in the commission’s work and learn about attending virtual and in-person events here.
The State of California Reparations Task Force set up in 2020 released an interim report a few months ago providing an in-depth overview of the harms inflicted on African Americans in California and across the nation due to the ongoing legacy of slavery and systemic discrimination. I testified at the December 7–8, 2021 videoconference about White supremacist sabotage of African Americans wealth building efforts in community development in California coastal areas, including at Bruce’s Beach and others. Some of my suggestions for contemporary restitution and remedies were included in the interim report.
The interim report includes a preliminary set of recommendations to the California Legislature and a final report is expected to be issued in 2023. This Reparations Task Force is a first-in-the-nation effort by a state government to study slavery, its effects throughout American history, and the compounding harms that the United States and Californian governments have inflicted upon African Americans.
[Deeper Digs] Illuminating Marginalized Stories from the Jim Crow Era in Historic Preservation
Please join me and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) members on Thursday, December 1, 2022, from 11 am to 2 pm PT (2 to 4 pm ET), at a seminar where I will discuss my research and methods in illuminating untold stories about the African Americans’ fight for dignity, equal access, and the full range of human experience and self-fulfillment. For this presentation, I will draw from my research where I take a fresh approach to looking at the historical practices of relaxation and recreation in outdoor and public spaces for all people at beaches, mountains, and other scenic locales connected to the long freedom rights struggle.
Learn more about and register for the SAA seminar here.
Lastly…Black folk’s stories matter!
Here are inspiring articles to check out about omitted and once-forgotten stories of the Black experience in the national and global narratives which have recently been reinserted into public memory.
“A Hamptons Property Fight Over a Black Whaler’s Homestead.” Property tussles in the moneyed enclave of Long Island are nothing new, but the battle to preserve the homestead of Pyrrhus Concer raises questions of whose history gets to be honored. By Lindsay Gellman, New York Times, November 1, 2022.
“A Journey Through Black Nova Scotia.” The 400-year history of African culture in this maritime province is expansive, but it’s a story that’s been tucked into the shadows of Canadian history. Now, grass-root initiatives are changing that. By Shayla Martin, New York Times, September 12, 2022.
Here are a few books, an exhibit, some music, and films that are also inspiring and good gifts to share with family and friends in this year’s holiday season.
Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments (Ebony Magazine Publishing, 2022) by Carrell Augustus. “Photographer Augustus succeeds brilliantly with these arresting reimaginings of classic Hollywood scenes using Black performers… Augustus and his team exemplify the power, beauty, and talent that Hollywood and film lovers have missed.”
The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection highlighted objects are on exhibit at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California thru March 2023. The collection celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black America from before the formation of the United States to present times. Get your exhibit tickets and/or buy books featuring many objects and their stories here.
Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity (Pantheon Books, 2022) by Donald Yacovone. “Monumental…expansive and eye-opening…This troubling and powerful history is essential reading.”
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Badinyaa Kumoo” is a new album by Gambian and British Kora virtuoso, singer, composer, educator, and activist Sona Jobarteh. After hundreds of years of men, she is the first woman to master the kora, an instrument composed of 21 strings, played with four fingers, two on each hand. In her performances around the world, and in her work off-stage, she says she is keeping tradition alive through the very act of breaking it. Learn about this woman griot, her music, and her social justice work on the CBS 60 Minutes TV show, “Sona Jobarteh: Expanding the unique musical tradition of West Africa’s kora.”
Films to view:
- “The Woman King” movie (TriStar Pictures) is “an epic story inspired by true events” led by Viola Davis and other amazing women in front of and behind the camera.
- “Is That Black Enough for You?!?” (NETFLIX) is a documentary film directed by writer and film critic Elvis Mitchell that looks back at the age of daring Black cinema (1968 to 1978) from the African American contributors to this film era.
- “Till” (United Artists) is a movie about the gruesome murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was brutally lynched while visiting his family in Mississippi in 1955. With an amazing performance by Danielle Deadwyler, the film reframes this historical event through his mother Mamie Till Mobley’s grief and relentless pursuit of justice for her son.
Living the California Dream…Book and Other Work Continues to Garner Praise and Media Attention
In recent months my book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press, 2020) or other work was profiled, reviewed or mentioned in articles where I was quoted in media, including podcasts Save As: NexGen Heritage Conservation, The Sum of US, MHD Off the Record, Nahshon Dion’s Transbrations, Pay the Tab: Reparations Now, and Corner Table Talk with Brad Johnson. Other interviews and quotes occurred on “Don Lemon Tonight CNN” cable TV show and in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, and The Union newspapers. Academic journal book reviews arrived in recent issues of in The Journal of African American History, California History, Journal of American History, and The Journal of San Diego History. Review these media pieces and others about my work here.
The Santa Monica Belmar History + Art produced by me, artist April Banks, and other team members was reviewed in the Journal of American History. Additionally, the artwork received the 2021 A+D Museum “On the Street” Award. This remembrance project showcases the Black experience in the Santa Monica south beach neighborhoods before the Civic Center expansion and Interstate 10 Freeway developments occurred in the 1950s-1960s decades.
Please contact me to begin the invitation process to schedule public presentations and interviews on American history and the African American experience which includes book talks for Living the California Dream… Please review all my speaking topics to pick your favorite for me to present at your event here.
You are invited to share this newsblast with your colleagues, friends and family.