During Black History Month 2023, it might be a very good idea to participate in living reminders of that ongoing history. While many of us can simply look outside to see living Black history in our neighborhoods — the Adams Street neighborhood, Baldwin Hills (the so-called “Black Beverly Hills”), Central Avenue, Watts, Compton, etc. — this column strongly urges you to actually get outside if you can, and be in California’s ongoing Black History panorama.
For instance, there’s always the annual L.A. Pan African Film and Arts Festival, held here since 1992 (even figuring out ways to do that during the recent pandemic). It will occur starting February 9 at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Theater in Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw Plaza.
It is a world-famous gathering and display of cinematic talent, as the combined vision of filmmakers Danny Glover, Ja’Net Dubois, and longtime executive director Ayuko Babu.
It has not only survived for over 30 years, it has grown into what is called the largest “Black film and arts festival and Black History Month activation in the United States.” That’s saying something, and it’s right here at home. It promises to provide screen and display space for African-based artists from over 40 countries and six continents, and it is a melting pot of cultural exchanges, conversations, creativity and Pan African culture.
The festival intends to showcase over “200 Black films from the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the South Pacific, Canada, and increasingly, Asia.” How can you be from L.A. without having been a part of at least one of these annual festivals?
Also right here, for those who desire and/or who need more outdoors involvement, is Kenny Hahn State Park and Recreational Area, located at 4100 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. The park is named after former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Kenneth Hahn, the father of James Hahn, former Los Angeles mayor, and Janice Hahn, former U.S. Representative and currently one of the five L. A. County Supervisors.
Kenny Hahn, as he was known, became famous for being the only Los Angeles area elected official who personally welcomed Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. to Los Angeles during the height of the civil rights agitation in the 1960’s.
The park is relatively huge, spanning over five acres with hiking trails, water spaces, picnic areas and many other amenities, including a virtually free park bus (especially for seniors). It is a quiet space for reflection on the travails of the Black experience. The park is also the home of the California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove.
Thirdly, but not least, every Black Californian needs to visit, at least once, the Colonel Allen Allensworth State Historical Park near Bakersfield. It is one of California’s last remaining examples of a spirited Black township built by and for Black people.
Located in Tulare County near Bakersfield, in 1974, the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased the land and rebuilt the historic townsite of Allensworth. That became Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park and today (as the only Black state park in California), the state has restored and maintains a valuable collection of historic early 20th-century buildings — including the Allensworth’s house, the first Allensworth School, the old Baptist church and the town library. It is one of the only examples of California doing the right thing in trying to pardon itself for its non-support of the settlement during its heyday.
Black Americans living in California owe it to themselves to visit and support the site. It is living Black History.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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