In 1969, Santa Barbara experienced the worst environmental disaster of its time, televised and photographed for the world to see. Thousands of gallons of oil spewed from the ocean floor, coating our pristine beaches and waterfront in a silent and punishing blanket of black. The social, economic, and environmental aftermath was unparalleled.

From that fateful event rose a powerful and united voice urging action at all levels of government to ensure that this would never happen again. New laws, new social perspectives, and even a new sense of personal responsibility came to the forefront. But 41 years later, the question must be asked, “What has changed?”

As the Gulf Coast continues to be pummeled by one of the largest man-made environmental catastrophes the human race has witnessed, the time is now for a renewed, expanded movement that unites communities rural and urban, coastal and inland, left and right. This new movement must be all encompassing, and must promote a clean, renewable energy future. This must be the legacy of the Gulf Coast’s oil spill disaster.

This Sunday, June 27, at 1p.m., Santa Barbara will unite on the shores of West Beach to send the Gulf Coast a message of solidarity, support and sympathy. Our message is not of protest and it is not of anger — there is no time for this. For as we bicker and blame, the Earth continues to bleed from a wound that shows no signs of healing. Instead, we will gather together to channel frustration and anger into positive social action. We will offer our thoughts of mind, our love of heart, and our skill of hands to our Gulf Coast neighbors.

This symbolic gathering is important for many reasons, but while communities across the nation and around the globe launch rallies of opposition and heated debate, the one thing most of these communities cannot offer is the sympathy that comes from personal direct experience. Many Santa Barbara locals can remember the black tide of January 1969. All will tell you it was something they have not, and will never, forget.

We live in a diverse and beautiful place. Our tourism and fishing industries, our agricultural heritage, our history borne of native Chumash roots, and our workforce comprised of gardeners, cooks, day laborers, teachers, and more lend to what makes us different. The current tragedy our nation now faces is being felt throughout other diverse communities, be they fishing, industry, Native American, tourism, and beyond. Our response must be equally broad.

We invite you to join your fellow Santa Barbarans this Sunday to publicly express our support for the people and the environment now being affected by the Gulf Coast spill. On this, day we will be greeted by members of our Native American community. Mayor Helene Schneider will provide opening remarks, and speakers of both local and national significance will speak to how we can alter our current path to one of a sustainable and clean energy future.

We will launch the Stand in the Sand Recovery Fund to provide direct relief to affected communities for ecological and humanitarian support. Housed within the Fund for Santa Barbara — a foundation with a history of giving towards environmental, social, and economic causes — we will work with national partners to assure the wisest allocation of funds. Finally, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, we will gather at the water’s edge and, dressed in yellow, will form a ‘Human Boom’ to symbolically stem the rising black tide.

History has taught us lessons that we oft forget. The current spill has brought those faded memories back to the forefront. As Santa Barbarans, let us now call ourselves into action so as to never repeat this tragic mistake.

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