ARJ News June 2021! – Black Lives Matter

Freedom, Liberation, and Justice Now!

The sentiments expressed by these words in the sub-title have galvanized the reinvigorated demands from Black America and their allies in a present day moral movement pushing for fulfillment for all of the Declaration of Independence’s ideals of fair play and justice and the promises of democracy. The demands for this fulfillment of these ideals and for Black people to have their humanity fully recognized will always be urgent and ongoing.

Lessons of history helped this movement make some progress in the last year of racial reckoning which inspired social justice undertakings and critical dialogue about cultural, social and political issues around the nation and the world even during this time of multifaceted pandemic and societal challenges that we are emerging from.

Progress has advanced in civil societal actions of empowerment that are shaping contemporary events as well as overdue structural reform and new public policy to intentionally create for the future a more just and equitable society. This progress has occurred even as it has sometimes been subverted and sabotaged.

As a historian my work is a social justice action practice to expand knowledge for the construction of a more inclusive public culture, historical memory, and national identity encompassing the diverse experiences of the American people and to dismantle institutional racism. I speak truth to power as I expose historical omissions to recover erased and suppressed stories that I and others are using in empowering people for the betterment of society.

Join me in an exploration of inspiration from all these activities I highlight below.

Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach, CA Jim Crow Era Black Leaders of California Beach Community Development Recognized and Upcoming Site Events


Santa Monica: ARJ and Belmar History + Art Team Members Win Award and New Events

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 to produce the Belmar History + Art project (history and art exhibition and other features) which commemorates the contributions of the early African American residents to Santa Monica and recognizes their neighborhoods.  Learn more about the awards here.

BH+A Upcoming Event: View this award winning project and come out to the Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Festival on Juneteenth, Saturday, June 19, 8 to 10 pm at Historic Belmar Park. Learn more about seeing the exhibition at the park and this film event here.


ISLA/Oxy Symposium Video Now Available: View the video of the virtual March 20, 2021 Symposium, “Promised Land, Hallowed Ground: Commemorative Justice and Making Change in Community Heritage Preservation in Southern California, Pt 1.” ARJ produced and spoke at as a Scholar in Residence with the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles at Occidental College on March 20 was well received by a diverse audience. Featured invited guest speakers discussed and responded to the context of American history and culture as the discussed the impact of the Santa Monica Belmar History + Art, a public history and art project.

You can watch the virtual symposium video here. Download the program bulletin to learn more about the guest speakers at the virtual symposium here.

Manhattan Beach: Bruce’s Beach Reparations Campaign Updates and Upcoming Events

Read the Los Angeles Times OpEd, “The true damage in a racist land grab” by ARJ which highlights the broader issues of Bruce’s Beach and the African American experience in Manhattan Beach, California and the United States.

Joining the national moment of racial reckoning Los Angeles County Supervisors and California State Senate Legislators have affirmatively voted with support on the first steps to return beachfront property to the descendants of the African American couple Willa and Charles Bruce, from whom it was wrongfully taken in 1929 through a racist land grab by Manhattan Beach officials. Learn more about the next steps for this land to be transferred to the Bruce descendants and why we must think more deeply about the events of 100 years ago and their legacy here.


BB Event: Learn about the Justice for Bruce’s Beach Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday, June 19, 12 noon to 3 pm here. Activities will include spoken word, music and information on the status of the land restitution to the Bruce family descendants.


BB Event: Join ARJ and the California Historical Society for a virtual talk about the Black leaders of leisure resort and community development at Bruce’s Beach during the Jim Crow era and how their stories are shaping our lives today on Thursday, June 22, 5.30 pm. Get more information and RSVP here.


Radical Leisure Exhibition Presented at CAAM in 2022


ARJ and the California African American Museum at Exposition Park in Los Angeles are planning an exhibition, Radical Leisure, that will open in December 2022. The exhibition will illuminate the extraordinary community buildings and socio-economic development experiences of Black Angelenos and Californians who I describe in my book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era. There will also be a public events around the exhibition.

Featured in the exhibition will be photographs, memorabilia, and works by artists that  illuminated these leisure communal practices of enjoyment as well as challenge to White supremacy. These items may showcase geographic mobility, femininity, masculinity, beauty, social hierarchy, and cultural identities around these places. The contemporary consequences of the history of these places that has been used to create artworks, new public policy and educational programs will also be illuminated in the exhibition.

If you have photographs and other memorabilia of Black ancestors from before the 1960s visiting such places as Santa Monica, Lake Elsinore, Val Verde, Bruce’s Beach, Cornona’s Parkridge Country Club and other places of beach and inland recreation and relaxation in California please contact me or CAAM so we can set up an appointment to view these items and learn about the stories they tell for possible inclusion in the upcoming exhibition or public programming. If you are an artist who has work which fits the exhibition themes, also please contact me to discuss the work and how you might participate in the exhibition programming.

Photograph: Black beachgoers from Los Angeles at the Bay Street Beach, 1926. (Left to right) Grace Williams, Albert Williams, Mary Mingleton, Willie Williams. Black visitors to Santa Monica swam and socialized at the beach near Ocean Front Walk until the 1960s. Like these beachgoers in 1926, African Americans found less anti-Black hostility at the Bay Street Beach in front of the Crescent Bay Park than at other Southern California beaches. Still, Whites called it “the Inkwell,” in reference to the color of Black beachgoers’ skin. Shades of L.A. Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library


Read The Denver Post Opinion piece, “Secretary Deb Haaland is sure to enrage everyone. She should just embrace it,” by Patty Limerick, Luis Benitez, and ARJ describing what we think she should prioritize at the Department of Interior, especially in the areas of inclusivity and the heritage and outdoor economies.


Living the California Dream…Book Continues to Garner Praise and Media Attention


In recent months my award winning book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press, 2020) was profiled or mentioned in articles where I was quoted in American and European media, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Guardian newspapers, and, along with features in TV programs 60 Minutes+, Inside Edition, and French and German Arte TV, among other outlets. Academic journal book reviews arrived in recent issues of in The Public Historian (May) and The Western Historical Quarterly (Summer). 

Review these media pieces and find others about my work here.

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.

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

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