ARJ || New Year’s Greetings 2019 and Social Justice News


Good tidings to all.

I wish you good health, and infinite possibilities for happiness and success for a special 2019! I hope you all had a productive 2018. I did and I look forward to more of the same in the New Year.

Los Angeles daughter Victoria Franklin and her friend learn about Angels Walk LA’s newest heritage trails at the 2018 Central Avenue Jazz Festival, July 29-30. Historian Alison Rose Jefferson collaborated with journalist Martha Groves to create the Central Ave. heritage trail stanchion and guidebook narratives which will finally debut in 2019! Photograph courtesy of Alison Rose Jefferson.

On that note, I am happy to announce my new book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era will be available for purchase in January 2020 (University of Nebraska Press). I am also excited to share in the upcoming year, I will write articles on historical themes and people for a California Historical Society online publication and the Los Angeles WAVE newspapers. After a year of construction review delays, the Angels Walk LA Central Avenue heritage trail commemorating the history and culture of the old hub of African American life in Los Angeles during the Jim Crow era, is on target to be installed in 2019. More information is to come soon on all these activities.

Verna Deckard Lewis (later Williams) and her friend posing at Santa Monica’s Bay Street beach sometimes called “the Inkwell,” 1931. Michael Blum of Sea of Clouds and historian Alison Rose Jefferson are collaborating on a National Register of Historic Places nomination listing for its significance as a site of African American beach culture heritage in California from the 1900s to 1965.  Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Additionally, I want to announce I am collaborating with Michael Blum of Sea of Clouds to nominate Santa Monica’s Bay Street beach area sometimes called “the Inkwell” in Los Angeles County, California for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance as a site of African American beach culture heritage from the 1900s to 1965. Only around three percent of National Register listed sites reflect the history of communities of color or women. With this initiative we will make national register landmark listings a little more reflective of the narratives of the American story, as we strengthen heritage and environmental conservation education and stewardship programming at this site, and other important and unique intangible heritage places.


Committed Citizens Changing the World

Late 2018 bore some other especially notable news which will impact wider audience engagement with the African diasporic experience and that of other marginalized groups in the history of Los Angeles, California, the United States, and globally.

Anthea Hartig, currently executive director and CEO of the California Historical Society, will move soon to Washington, D.C. to be the first woman to take up the position as the new director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Susan Anderson moved across the San Francisco Bay in October to become the California Historical Society’s new director of Library Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs. She had been the Interim Chief Curator at the African American Museum & Library of Oakland for the past year. These are wonderful accomplishments for these women from California. Their new positions give them the opportunity to lead transformative and meaningfully collection, preservation and knowledge sharing of the diverse experiences of the American people.

California Palm trees at Los Angeles County’s Pacific Oceanfront Walk at sunset, 2018. The 9th Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management theme “Investing in Our Coasts: Environment, Economy, Culture” in December 2018 reflected the variety of intertwined benefits that our coastal areas and resources provide to communities and the nation from ecological services, financial value to a way of life for surrounding communities, and was a consistent thread woven throughout the various sessions. I spoke in the “Stories of Race and Coastal Access in California” panel session.

I was invited to speak about the historical African American beach culture experience in Los Angeles County at the 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management, co-hosted by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) and the Coastal States Organization (CSO), held in Long Beach, California at the Convention Center (December 8-13, 2018). The Summit theme was “Investing in Our Coasts: Environment, Economy, Culture.” I and the others on the “Stories of Race and Coastal Access in California” panel shared knowledge and spoke frankly as we engaged summit attendees in the history and contemporary issues of social and environmental justice and equity around beach access of communities of color. We proposed ways this knowledge we conveyed could be used by participants in equity planning and broader community engagement in heritage and nature programming and the respective conservation movements, and to improve coastal access. We challenged and pushed these folks to up their personal commitments for diversity and inclusion in their operations and programming.

The front book jacket illustrations is a detail in the Edouard Manet, “Olympia,” 1863 painting which is also featured in the exhibition and book of the same name, Posing Modernity….

The “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today” exhibition is at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York City now until February 10, 2019, and a fabulous book has been produced about the works featured. The exhibition will be expanded and presented at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris from March 26 to July 14, 2019. I am so appreciative that the exhibition’s art historian/curator Denise Murrell followed her instincts and interest to reexamine black women as central figures, in some of the most famous paintings of the last 200 years where they had been ignored in art history analysis. Murrell and I share a few commonalities in our lives and work, most importantly the reclaiming of the history of under recognized segments of the black population. She recovered the history of black women in some of the most famous paintings in the world. I have retrieved and am making visible the unrecognized historic stories of Afro Angeleno female and male agents of community and economic building in California and American West history.

San Francisco resident Millona Araia and historian Alison Rose Jefferson with artist Bushmama Africa participating/interacting with her artwork “Africa/Initiation” (2011) which relates the journey of descendants from the African continent (symbolized on the wall with text about facets of this historical experience), to all posing themselves around the chair that is part of the installation. “Black Woman is God…” exhibition segment at the African American Art and Culture Complex, San Francisco, California, September 20, 2018.

In September 2018 I attended an African American Art and Culture Complex installation of the most recent year of the multi-disciplinary art exhibition, “Black Woman is God: Assembly of Gods,” led by the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. I gained inspiration from the way curator/artist Bushmama and a few other auteurs used historical themes and symbolism in evocative ways to remember, honor, and champion men and women of the past who made this history in their exhibition art pieces. Scholars across disciplines and other thought leaders can learn a few things from these professionals about how to make emotional connections to inspire and empower real people’s engagement with the important knowledge they produce.

I remain enthusiastically committed as ever, as a historian and heritage conservation consultant, to transforming underrepresented histories into knowledge that can be spread to empower people now and in the future. Those who see themselves in the narrative of history become more engaged citizens, and our society certainly needs this.

Please contact me for your needs of an expert speaker and/or project developer for themes on the African American experience and California history. With my unique experience I can effectively develop strategies to interpret history in different forms of writing, visual exhibitions, and public presentations for contemporary audiences.

Please feel free to share this information with your networks.

(Article updated on February 15, 2019.)

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