I would like to thank Matt Kettmann and Nick Welsh for last week’s cover story, “Recognizing Santa Barbara’s Black History.” I was not aware of the many contributions made by Black Americans here. The Independent remains the number one newspaper for reporting in Santa Barbara thanks to Kettmann and Welsh.—Morris Berniard, S.B.
As a 76-year-old lifelong resident of Santa Barbara and the African-American community I am wondering why you only used Bill Simms as your source. There are many more sources of information to draw from, to give you a fuller picture of the rich heritage of the Black community here.
I myself taught 35 years at Santa Barbara Junior High, attended local schools and UCSB, and officiated high school and college sports. My grandmother, Martha Forney, came here in 1903 with the Trenwith family. My grandfather, Gene Forney, owned the only Black cleaners, on Haley Street. Dorothy Forney Wright, my mother, born here in 1915, was a charter member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Haley and Olive. There’s a full-sized picture in the church of the charter members singing.
Some others with a wealth of information are Otey Scruggs, track star and UCSB history professor; Cliff Lambert, an athlete, UCSB graduate, and teacher who worked for Black youth through scholarship programs; Ron Wilkes, pastor; and his son Jamaal Wilkes, a professional basketball player.
I have materials that will be helpful to you should you care to go into more depth and detail.—Neill Wright, S.B.