Remarkable changes in today’s Los Angeles reflect the diversity of an international city that welcomes people from all around the world for sporting events, arts, and entertainment, but what isn’t always apparent is for as long as there has been a city of L.A., there have been Black people contributing to its story.
In recognition of African American Heritage Month, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass spoke before the City Council and noted that the city is fortunate – albeit under her guidance – to not be plagued with threats of erasure from the history books that you see in states such as Texas and Florida.
“As Black History Month begins, we celebrate and honor the legacy of the Black community in Los Angeles and across the country,” stated Bass after delivering remarks recognizing the observance in Los Angeles.
“We have much to celebrate in the economic, cultural, political, and artistic contributions of Black Angelenos, whose efforts continue to change the American landscape. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us honor the legacy of resilience and entrepreneurship within the African American community by supporting Black-owned businesses throughout the city, including the vibrant neighborhoods of View Park-Windsor Hills, Gramercy Park, Leimert Park, Manchester Square and Arleta. Their success is the city’s success, and by uplifting these businesses, we enrich the entire fabric of Los Angeles,” she said.
Bass did note however that even though diversity is championed in Los Angeles, the Black community still faces challenges, including a rise in the reports of hate crimes.
“Los Angeles and the nation must stand together to speak out against hate and declare unequivocally: These acts are wrong. They are un-American. And they must stop,” stressed the mayor.
Also, she promised residents that the City of Los Angeles will continue to honor the history made by Blacks Americans in the African American community and that the plight to achieve racial justice and equity within the city remains a dream deferred.
Black members of the City Council leading the ceremony were President Pro Tem Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD 8), Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. (CD 9), and Councilmember Heather Hutt (CD 10).
Capri Maddox, executive director of the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, which has been tasked with the city’s first ever Reparations Advisory Commission also shared her thoughts on inclusivity.
“I’m very grateful that we also have a chance to show our diversity, what our community brings and what we do. As we make a better Los Angeles, we do all of this despite what happens to us,” she said while invoking the Middle Passage and inequities that still persist today.
“Some of the harms that happened in the city of Los Angeles started in this room, not during this council, but in years gone by. When you think about redlining or government sponsored discriminatory practices led to some of the challenges that African Americans are suffering in the city of Los Angeles right now – even thinking about those that spent a cold night on the streets last night.”
Similar to the sentiment of Mayor Bass, Maddox reiterated that the Black community still has its challenges yet showed confidence in the path forward.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the City Council, leaning in to support equity, inclusion and belonging in the City of Los Angeles by putting dollars and programming behind it,” she concluded referring to the LA Civil Rights Dept.
As economic disparities persist, City Controller Kenneth Mejia revealed the city’s racial wealth gap.
“Our payroll data shows that while Black people are 14% of our city’s workforce, Black women on average are only paid $72,000 compared to their white male counterpart that makes $110,000.
As the mayor just said, although Black people make up 8% of the city’s population, they make up nearly a third of the city’s homeless. According to LAPD’s own data, they made up 22% of all stops and 26% of all arrests,” Mejia said.
“I vow that my office will continue to use data to shine a light on issues of progress and equity. My office’s job is to gather and analyze data that impacts everyone in our city. Our work has highlighted some of the key areas that impact black members of our community.”
Daniel Tarica, Department of Cultural Affairs general manager, presented the African American Heritage Month Calendar and Cultural Guide.
“I am very proud today to share both our excitement around this year’s African American Heritage Month and larger theme around African Americans in the arts. We are so excited and proud to highlight that through our heritage guide this year,” Tarica said before unveiling the cover art of the guide with Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., honorary chair for citywide celebration; and Lura Daniels-Ball, president of Our Authors Study Club.
The guidebook includes of the work of local Black artists proving their influence and contribution to the City of Angels.
The ceremony then awarded honorees with induction into the African American Hall of Fame starting with Occidental College President Elam for Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Award in recognition of his work at Occidental and Stanford University; chair of the Board of Trustees at California Institute of Arts Charmaine Jefferson for Outstanding Achievement in Education Policy; and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital Dr., Elaine Batchlor for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.
Among the celebrity talent as honorees were Kim Coles, an accomplished actress known for her comedic prowess; Freda Payne, a renowned vocalist and author whose talent has captivated audiences worldwide; and Mamie Hansberry, an esteemed artist whose work speaks volumes.