Celebrating Los Angeles’ Black History

Celebrating Los Angeles’ Black History

Andrew Rintala  


Over time, Black History Month has served to appreciate generations before us and the struggles they have faced. There are education systems based solely on the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, and countless museums dedicated to the artwork of African Americans throughout time. 

Just about halfway through this historical month, this past Saturday several Whittier College students, faculty, and staff embarked on a day-long tour led by the Black Student Union, in which they viewed areas of the city to explore African-American culture during Black History Month. 

 For many members of the large group, their reason for coming on the tour was to support and educate themselves about Black History Month. Many students felt that education regarding what the Civil Rights Movement brought to the city they live in was a big outcome of the tour itself. 

First-year and life-long L.A. resident Maddy Reasin focused her experience on supporting the black community where she grew up. “I like to go to anything that involves my city,” she said. 

The tour included a small variety of culture-indulging experiences, with the first and most memorable being a morning visit to the California African American Museum (CAAM). There, tour members were able to enjoy exhibits that displayed the history of L.A. in various forms of artwork done by thousands of artists throughout time. 

A photography exhibit at the museum gave first-year Emmanuel Jones a much better understanding of specific moments from the Civil Rights Movement in L.A.. He is interested in activism himself, but the exhibit gave him some personal inspiration to one day join an organization that focuses on community outreach. 

More captivating exhibits at the CAAM gave fourth-year Dennisa Gallegos “a calming sense of home,” because of the beautiful quilts displayed all across the museum. A specific exhibit from the museum, called The Notion of Family, showcased various forms of art that depicted African-American families across generations. The message behind the entire exhibit, widely interpreted as “unity amid hardships” perfectly represents a common sense of home for African-Americans across this country. 

As a special guest on the tour, Whittier College President Linda Oubré brought a wise perspective that comes from many years of living in the city. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley during the ‘60s; went to University of California; Los Angeles, and her kids were even born in L.A.. Since she lived there in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and eventually moved away for a few decades, there were many changes upon her arrival at Whittier College this past fall. 

According to Oubré, however, everything is still the same at the heart of Los Angeles. Her goal for the excursion and for those on it was “remembering that African-Americans are at the root of history in this city and who built the importance of it … both to this country and this world. What makes L.A. so unique is that it was founded by eight families, four being African families. The roots of L.A. are a very rare source of multiculturalism.” 

The main takeaway of the tour was the feeling of home that some experienced through the artwork. For others, it was the education about the Civil Rights Movement in L.A., and for many, it served as encouragement for them to remember what exactly living in this city means and how the history of L.A. itself ties perfectly into what Black History Month stands for.