Opinion: Black History Month – The Long-Awaited Celebration

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Daryle Lynn Cornelison, Juanita Dolby, Phyllis Wilson, Susan Seybold, Rebecca Washington-Lindsey, Diane Riegler, Loren Cohen and Ken Cornelison (kneeling). Photo courtesy of Rebecca Washington-Lindsey

By Rebecca Washington Lindsey

Think back to your last celebration was it a wedding, birthday, baptism, parade, retirement? What did you get out of it? Sometimes you’ll never know the true value of a celebration until you look back. Celebrations should be memorable, as is the case with Laguna Beach’s first Black History Month (also called African American Heritage Month) held last month. Typically, this celebration is filled with music, food, dancing, plays, religious services, remembering the past, and looking optimistically to the future. So, I owe a lot of gratitude to the Lord for helping our organization, We All Matter, creatively plan a program that closely resembled a traditional Black History celebration, keeping the banner high during the closing celebration. , and for the best members of the organization I could work with: Laguna Beach Unified School District Board Member Dee Perry, Board Member Peter Blake, Jean Strake, Maggie Bingham, Dan Ardell, Natalie Sutton, Julie Lee Perlin and Nadya Hickman. A heartfelt thank you. Thank you to elected officials, city employees and the Laguna Beach Police Department for their support of this celebration. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, led by Rev. Lester MacKenzie, and Laguna Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. Steve Sweet, and Associate Pastor Beth Pinney supported the celebration. The justice of our cause shone like the midday sun.

The celebration encompassed three themes: education, art and social gathering and was filled with many activities. First, a virtual story told with Laguna Beach children led by the Amigos Alliance Club at Laguna Beach High School. Natalie, a club member who was not readily available for final comments, once said, “We had fun doing the activities and the kids were interested in the stories.” She once said, “The attendance wasn’t too bad for a first-time event. Next year should be better.” It’s a celebration. The educational place was a priority because reaching our children is where the ethnic foundation begins to gain knowledge and become enlightened. Nadya Hickman, branch manager of the OC Public Library in Laguna Beach, made sure that tales from around the world were included in the celebration. As a result of my request to have more ethnic material on the shelves. This request led to the opportunity to serve on a special book selection committee, called Zip Books.The Independent featured ethnic articles plus African-American articles in January and February.That’s also a reason to celebrate.

The second theme was art. The room has been transformed into an African-American gallery since there are none in Laguna Beach. Several works of art framed the room changing the atmosphere. We All Matter is a cultural arts organization; the Laguna Art Museum played an important role in the February celebration. When a local once told me that we don’t have African American art here because it’s a white town, Perllin said, “not under my direction.” She immediately contacted local artist Gerard Stripling. Stripling designed a sculpture that now stands in front of City Hall that sends a powerful message. Additionally, two quilt artworks by artist Allyson Allen hang in the museum. It’s a celebration.

The Black History Finals took place on February 24 at the Community and Susi Q Senior Center. A streaming power point of African Americans of the past and influencers of today continued to air. The room has been transformed into a mini library filled with books on African American history, children’s stories, studies of African American women, biographies and autobiographies, and finally research-based information. I managed to locate a TEDx talk, “Black History Matters” by Don John. A moving quiet time with three speakers followed. This led to a period of reflection. It was deep and festive. “I appreciate the three speakers talking about building unity and kindness,” one guest said. Another guest said, “I wish this event was from January to March.” The music of Henry the saxophonist set the tone for a party as our guests enjoyed ethnic desserts and Ethiopian coffee. A visitor said, “It was the music and the conversation that was great. Another guest said, “I wish you had shown us how to do a dance.” What a celebration. What does next year look like? I don’t know, but a guest suggests we get Stephen Curry to talk. I suggested Denzel Washington (lol).

The following residents offered insightful testimonies. Phyllis writes: “I have been a resident for seventeen years. For seventeen years I was distraught when Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday came, and no one honored it. I was even sadder when Black History Month came around in February and for years no one did anything. In 2019, I tried to organize a fashion show hoping it would bring us together, but it didn’t. Then came a dynamic, educated, wise black woman…and I said, “That’s her. She did so much to make February 2022 a long-awaited memorable celebration. »

Dan Ardell commented, “Laguna is known as a liberal stronghold, but there is extraordinarily little real diversity. Our group reminded me to refocus on others, especially people of color, who are often denied or simply “invisible.” He also said: ‘The quilt display that was taken down by Wells Fargo is a classic example. I hope that at the end of Black History Month, we will all learn a little more about our built-in biases (unconscious or conscious). »

At the end of the celebration, Gordon McGregor led the room in reflection with enlightening and encouraging words: “Let’s all realize, let’s start to discover and practice a different delivery”.

Rebecca is a Laguna Beach resident and former assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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