Celebrate Black History Month 2021 With Events Hosted Virtually by a Collaboration of Santa Barbara County Organizations

SANTA BARBARA, CA – Around thirty virtual events are planned for Black History Month (BHM) in Santa Barbara County with a theme of The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity this year. For the second year in a row, several organizations are collaborating to celebrate and honor the contributions of African Americans and Black folks in society. 

Credit: Black History Month in Santa Barbara County

“Black History Month is a time of recognition, reflection, learning, and appreciation,” shared Lawanda Lyons Pruitt, President of the NAACP Santa Maria-Lompoc.  “A time for all Americans to acknowledge the rich contributions and sacrifices made to our country, by Black people. History informs us that our contributions and sacrifice are often not acknowledged in our past, including in our history books.”

Due to the rising numbers of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region, all events will be available virtually and will allow for a larger audience than community members residing in Santa Barbara County. As it stands, COVID-19 has affected the Black and Latinx communities at a disproportionate rate, and some of the virtual events will bring awareness to the Black community’s disparities. COVID-19 aside, the community groups below look forward to uplifting the African American/Black community’s rich contributions through diverse virtual programs.  

“It is imperative, now more than ever, that Black organizations work together to promote the great work that we are facilitating within the community,” said Warren B. Ritter II, Board President of Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals. “For far too long we have all been working diligently on our separate projects that have been successful but focused within specific target groups. Covid-19 has forced us all to be creative in how we connect and using virtual means for communication has actually bridged gaps like never before! I am happy that our Black organizations are collaborating happily together with the national theme of Black History Month: Representation, Identity, and Diversity in the forefront of our minds.”

Community groups include Healing Justice Santa Barbara, Black History Month Culture House, Gateway Educational Services, Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals, Coffee with a Black Guy, El Centro, Endowment for Youth Committee, African American Women in Santa Barbara County, Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara, Juneteenth Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Public Library.

“I believe there is a Black renaissance happening as we speak,” said Leticia Forney Resch, Co-Leader of Healing Justice Santa Barbara and Founder of fResch events. “It is time for Santa Barbara to join in on this cultural revolution. Our programming centers on the Nation’s theme of Representation, identity, and family. Our events are inclusive (some free to the public; diverse artists in terms of race, gender, sexuality, age; ADA accessible; and celebrate Blackness). The impact is that all people see themselves represented in art (that it becomes something that reflects the experience of a diverse community). Black children see themselves represented in books, mentors, and leaders and music, etc. I will continue to strive to uplift Black artists and support their success, grow their reach, allow them to be successful in their path.”

Kicking off this year’s month is the traveling art installation of Say Their Names, presented by Healing Justice Santa Barbara. Previously positioned in the Funk Zone at several locations, the installation is now to be displayed throughout the month at UCSB. Events will span from yoga with Dr. Azure Stewart to the return of the Black History Month Culture House events, and even a Black Educators Panel hosted by Gateway Education. 

The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity is this year’s national theme,” shared Connie Alexander, Co-Founder of Gateway Educational Services. “During this time of struggle, it is the resilience of the Black family that continues to hold our communities together. The celebration of diversity within our families will secure our future.”

The national theme of the 2021 Black History Month is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History notes: 

The black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy.  Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family writ large. While the role of the black family has been described by some as a microcosm of the entire race, its complexity as the “foundation” of African American life and history can be seen in numerous debates over how to represent its meaning and typicality from a historical perspective—as a slave or free, as patriarchal or matriarchal/matrifocal, as single-headed or dual-headed household, as extended or nuclear, as fictive kin or blood lineage, as legal or common law, and as black or interracial, etc. A variation appears, as well, in discussions on the nature and impact of parenting, childhood, marriage, gender norms, sexuality, and incarceration. The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present.

“Last year, we had an extremely successful rollout of the first-ever Black History Month Culture House here in Santa Barbara,” said Darrell McNeill, co-founder of Black History Month Culture House. “It was central in elevating the profile of Black history, arts, and culture. It’s unfortunate we can’t interact physically this year, but we have every confidence we will migrate as much of that energy as possible into a virtual setting and expect to illuminate the richness of Black culture even further.”

The community-at-large is welcome to come and enjoy the events listed below (events details will be updated here throughout the month of February): 

  • January 28, 7 P.M. | A Follow-Up Conversation to the UCSB Arts & Lectures Race to Justice Featuring Isabel Wilkerson, Coffee With a Black Guy
  • February 2, Time TBA | Black History Month Resolution, Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors
    • Free
  • February 6, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | Black Women Rock – a roundtable discussion about Black women navigating the music business as rock and roll artists, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 7, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | Interview with Soul-Patrol.com Founders Bob and Mike Davis, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
  • February 9, 5:30 P.M. | Fiction Book Club discussion of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, Santa Barbara Public Library
  • February 13, 10:00 A.M. | Chocolate Baby Story Time, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 13, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | Black Rock Coalition 35th Anniversary Celebration featuring select video concerts by the BRC Orchestra, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 14, 10 A.M. | Soulful Healing Through Gentle Yoga with Dr. Azure Stewart, Virtual
  • February 14, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | TBA, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 16, 5 P.M. – 6 P.M. | Favorite Poems Reading, Santa Barbara Public Library
    • Free | Click for more details
  • February 16, Time TBA | Cooking with Afrofusion & Gipsy Hill Bakery, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 20, 10:00 A.M. | Chocolate Baby Story Time, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 20, 10:00 A.M. | Virtual Brunch, Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals 
  • February 20, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | Interview with Harold Brown, one of the original composers and performers of “Spill The Wine,” “Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” and more.  “All my friends know the Lowrider,”  Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 20, 5:00 P.M. | Virtual Paint & Sip, Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals 
  • February 21, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | TBA, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 22, Time TBA | Cooking with Shaloob & Gipsy Hill Bakery, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 23, 6:00 P.M. | Movement for Black Lives, Fight for Black Futures, UCSB
  • February 24, 4:00 P.M. | Black Educators Panel, Gateway Educational Services
    • Invitation Only
  • February 26, 3:30 P.M. | Diversify Our Narrative Book Club discussion of Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson, Santa Barbara Public Library in collaboration with Diversify Our Narrative Carpinteria, a student-led campaign aimed at addressing systemic racism in education by demanding diversity in texts, authors, and cultural representation in public school curricula.
  • February 26, 4 – 8 P.M. | Black is Beautiful Showcase, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 27, 10:00 A.M. | Chocolate Baby Story Time, Healing Justice Santa Barbara
  • February 27, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | Interview with Mandrill, legendary funk/rock/jazz/soul band, one of the most influential groups in Black popular music, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • February 28, 10 A.M. | Soulful Healing Through Gentle Yoga with Dr. Azure Stewart, Virtual
    • Free
  • February 28, 2 P.M. – 5 P.M. | TBA, Black History Month Virtual Culture House
    • Free
  • March 4, 6 P.M. | The Indy Book Club discussion of February reads by Black women, featuring Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Santa Barbara Public Library 
    •  Free | link to come

About the Community Organizations

African American Women in Santa Barbara County – African American Women in Santa Barbara is an effort for a luncheon to provide a space and a place for African American Women to “Come Together,” “Being together” in the form of networking, and supporting each other and to build a strong well-connected community of women of color. Learn more at aawsbc.com/.

Black Rock Coalition – The Black Rock Coalition, founded in 1985, is the nation’s only 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to championing the work by progressive/alternative artists of color whose work goes largely underrepresented by mainstream media outlets and the music industry. The BRC was co-founded by Vernon Reid, Greg Tate, and Konda Mason and is headquartered in New York City. Learn more at blackrockcoalition.org/

Coffee with A Black Guy – Coffee with a Black Guy (CWABG) is an innovative social impact movement launched in July 2016 by Santa Barbara resident James Joyce III. In these community conversations, Joyce facilitates candid cross-cultural dialogue to help counteract much of the racial tumult going on in the world, particularly in the United States. These sessions are a time to share stories, have conversations, impart perspective or just listen and learn from fellow citizens of the world. CWABG seeks to merge the tactile and digital worlds to bring greater understanding, compassion, empathy, and love to our shared global community. Simply put Coffee. Connection. Conversations. Learn more at www.cwabg.com.

Endowment for Youth Committee – Since its start in 1986, the Endowment for Youth Committee (EYC) has been one of the largest organizations on the California Central Coast that remains dedicated to the educational success and advancement of Black/African American youth.

Co-founded by Cliff Lambert and Melvin Richey, the organization provides educational, cultural, social, and recreational programs for young African-American men and all other segments of our youth. Now more than thirty years later, EYC is adapting to the dynamic youth of today to more accurately address their needs and concerns. EYC is committed to our youth, to their success, and putting forth all our resources to help them thrive. Learn more at endowmentforyouth.org.

El Centro – El Centro, also known as the Santa Barbara Lower Westside Community Center, is a volunteer-activist-led grassroots community space located in the lower Westside of Santa Barbara that centers people working towards the liberation and uplift of people of color, womxn, youth, indigenous and queer communities. El Centro was established for these groups to exercise artistic expression, fundraise, and host meetings and educational events, building local networks that connect folks to a collective struggle toward self-determination, self-empowerment, self-expression, and liberation. El Centro is run by committed volunteers and organizers of this community who together work to build critical dialogue and action for justice and equity. El Centro actively builds toward financial autonomy on a membership-based model. Learn more at http://www.elcentrosb.org/.

Gateway Educational Services – Serving students since 2009 Gateway Educational Services is Santa Barbara County’s only nonprofit learning center. Gateway’s services are for students grades K-12 and include assessment based tutoring for students and subjects include reading, math, and writing. Gateway has a College Readiness Program for first-generation underrepresented students and has successfully helped over 70 students realize the dream to attend college. This year Gateway expanded its services to provide 40 Black/African American students needing support in Santa and Lompoc. Gateway was founded by Connie Alexander and Audrey Gamble African American educators and leaders. Gateway recently relocated to Goleta.

Healing Justice Santa Barbara – Healing Justice Santa Barbara aspires to uplift all Black/African-Americans to affirm that they are deserving of safety, love, equity, respect, and joy. Simply put we do it for the love of Black people. Learn more at HJSB.org

Juneteenth Santa Barbara – Juneteenth is an annual event, where we bring community members together to celebrate the freedom of slaves in the United States. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom and immediately danced in the streets. Today we honor our ancestors and celebrate our freedom, showcasing black joy and culture in Santa Barbara, California. Our community event also honors local black artists, performers, and organizations as well as providing free food, dancing, and singing. Join us for our 2020 event on June 19. Learn more at juneteenthsb.com.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara – The mission of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara is to foster positive relationships between the many diverse groups in the Santa Barbara Community and the surrounding areas; to sponsor programs and events which exemplify the teachings of Dr. King; and to observe, and celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. Learn more at mlksb.org.

Santa Barbara Black History Month Virtual Culture House – In February 2020, Darrell McNeill and Sally Foxen-McNeill created the Black History Month Culture House as a pop-up cultural event space in downtown Santa Barbara. Live music performances, film/documentary/concert video screenings, live discussions, and more all centered around the richness of Black culture, were featured every weekend in February. Find out more about this year’s virtual programming at BHMCultureHouse@gmail.com.

Santa Barbara Public Library – The mission statement of the Santa Barbara Public Library System is to provide information services, reading materials, and educational resources to residents of all ages from the Santa Ynez Valley to Carpinteria. Educate, Captivate, Connect. Learn more at santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/lib/default.asp.

Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals – Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals’ goal is to create and foster positive relationships that empower young Black professionals in the Santa Barbara area by creating and participating in opportunities for professional development, social enrichment, and community service. This group is intended to create a space for young black professionals in the Santa Barbara area to; build community, establish roots, network, and excel personally and professionally. To learn more please go to SBYBP.com

The National Association For the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Santa Maria-Lompoc, was founded in 1909 to address existing racial and ethnic disparities and is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the nation.  Its mission is to secure the social, political, educational, and economic equality of rights of all people by removing barriers such as race-based discrimination and to ensure the health and well-being of all persons.  Learn more at santamarialompocnaacp.org


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