Santa Barbara Commemorates Juneteenth

Voices from Our Vibrant Black Community

Published June 18, 2020

Over three thousand community members held space at the steps of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on May 31, 2020. Community advocates Simone Ruskamp and Krystle Farmer Sieghart shared stories with the crowd of Blackness in Santa Barbara. They and other speakers shared on the atrocious murders of Black Americans like Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Meagan Hockaday, a Don who lost her life to an Oxnard Police Officer. “Elevate Black voices, lift up Black folks,” Ruskamp said. The list of countless names continued. 

The Danzantes led us as we marched to the Santa Barbara Police Department. We laid our Black bodies in the intersection of Santa Barbara and Figueroa Streets for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the time a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and ended his life. We asked non-Black people to kneel in solidarity. The silence overcame us, the sound of my siblings’ tears and heavy breath. There was a refusal by police and the Mayor to kneel in solidarity.

This is the story I remember; this is the story I will tell.

I am often asked, “Where are the Black people in Santa Barbara?” I am often called upon as the “diversity representative” as if any single voice can speak on behalf of all of our vibrant Black community. In this issue, we are pushing back on this erasure of the Black community and have collected stories from many black individuals, to present that vibrancy.

We invite you to share in our stories and our struggles, as our histories are American histories. We take both the inherited joy and inherited trauma that our Ancestors have shared with us and weave those into our own voice. Storytelling is rooted in Black heritage. We share our stories with our community, our real voices, to let you know we exist in this space.

So in response to the question posed earlier “Where are the Black people in Santa Barbara?” we borrow the words of speaker Courtney Frazier, who said, “Can you see us now?”

—Jordan Killebrew