Guest Opinion: African American History Celebrated in Laguna Beach


By Rebecca Washington-Lindsey

 Cutline: Family Laundry Day, by H. Rousseau. 

To better understand why our world, society and community regrettably face racial turmoil of all kinds, it must be embraced by becoming knowledgeable about people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. They, too, have shaped and shared in building our society, communities and world. Even in ethnic communities where diversity is categorically underrepresented, there remains a need to understand, acknowledge, and celebrate diversity, as there is an integral link between our past, present and future. Perceptions, biases and preoccupations with “who are they? Does she live in Laguna Beach? I’d better follow her around our store. They are known to grab and run.” 

These comments might remain on some people’s lips in the Laguna Beach community. I understand that our society and the local community are changing. Still, there remains room for increasing cultural awareness, which takes me back to why African American history should be celebrated. After all, we get along. Or do we?

Yes, the African American community has come a long way, and there remains much more room for equality and recognition. Let’s talk about that.

American history is black and white. 

Carter G. Woodson, an educator, became angered that history books ignored historical facts about Black Americans. His goal was to acknowledge Black achievements in our country, society, and communities. In 1926, he sought to change that narrative and founded Negro History Month, now Black/African American History Month, which became official in 1976. 

Seeing special moments honoring, remembering and celebrating African Americans is encouraging. Recently, President Biden awarded Coronel Paris Davis a Medal of Honor for his heroic mission during the Vietnam War. Davis’ nomination was mysteriously lost twice, but 60 years later, he was finally honored. An African American art mural was unveiled in Miami-Dade, Florida, as well as other cities, and the passage of Juneteenth, now a legal holiday, is also encouraging. 

Finally, “Bloody Sunday,” which advocated voting rights for all African Americans, was recently remembered in Selma, Ala. (Celebrate Black History Month, History web, Feb. 20, 2023). 

Joining an African American history event forms friendships. Charles Spurgeon said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” 

The celebration of African American history goes beyond remembering Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and John Lewis. It’s also important to highlight the work of such individuals as educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) and scientist Katherine Johnson(1918-2020), who was profiled in the film “Hidden Figures.” 

Let us remember inventors who are a significant part of our daily lives. For example, in 1923, Garett Morgan invented the three-light signal. Alexander Miles invented the automatic elevator doors in 1887. Charles Drew (1904-1950) was a physician, surgeon and medical researcher who was instrumental with helping the Red Cross and blood transfusions. Bubba Wallace (2021-present) was first African American to win a NASCAR Cup. Then, there is Sir Lewis Hamilton, who has also had NASCAR wins. (Web History Stories, Feb. 20, 2019). 

The recent African American History 2023 was important for our Laguna Beach community. 

One evening, we traced different eras of Black history only to discover that my history was also your history. The visual essence of African Americans – children’s art from our own Boys & Girls Club was seen, as were the marvelous artworks by Henry Rousseau and other 

African and African Americans, all of whom carry strong African American history messages. We also enjoyed music by local artists and guests. 

Now you understand why the Laguna Beach community recently celebrated two ethnic events: Unveiling Multiethnic Artworks in January and Black/African American History in February. We must remember that African American History is essential for our society and community because celebrating African American History ushers in friendship. 

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

Rebecca is a Laguna Beach resident and former adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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