Focus on Black Santa Monica

We believe that the story of communities can never be fully told, but rather revealed over time in greater depth and through different facets of understanding. This section collects those multivalent stories around the rich and resilient Black community in Santa Monica, and how it has evolved over time. Rocio Garcia and Sylvana Gutierrez created a Story Table that explores some of the many themes that came up in the oral histories collected through Culture Mapping 90404. USC’s Critical Cartography class of Fall 2020, taught by Professor Annette Kim, uses mapping and data analysis to reveal patterns and narratives in different neighborhoods and the built environment of the Pico Neighborhood. Finally, some of the many voices of long-time Santa Monica residents are collected in a series of oral histories. We invite you to explore, and use these as a jumping off point to find out more.


Several incredible resources we are deeply indebted to for this research and context include the Quinn Research Center directed by Carolyne and Bill Edwards; the Santa Monica Library and Susan Lamb in particular; and the Belmar Art + History project, which developed alongside Culture Mapping 90404. Historian Allison Rose Jefferson recently completed an excellent and thorough article delving deeply into the history of the Belmar neighborhood of Santa Monica. Many thanks to the history keepers who allowed us to record their voices and stories, including Harriette McCauley, LaVerne Ross, Ola Mitchell, Taylor Parker, Carolyne Edwards, and Robbie Jones.


We plan to add more focus sections in the near future to cover other aspects of our map, including the Japanese-American, Latinx, and Indigenous communities of Santa Monica. Please check back often for more.

This narrative story map is an overview of many of the stories and historical events that were revealed out of the Culture Mapping 90404 oral histories, and were compiled with additional research and secondary sources gathered from the Quinn Research Center and the Santa Monica Public Library. This narrative was created by Sylvana Gutierrez and Rocio Garcia, 18th Street Arts Center interns, in the Summer of 2019.


Explore here.

For the last four years, 18th Street Arts Center has partnered with Professor Annette Kim’s Critical Cartography class, which is part of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Students in the class used the oral histories and primary research collected via 18th Street’s Culture Mapping 90404 initiative as a starting point, focusing primarily on histories of displacement, communities of color, and immigrant communities in the Pico Neighborhood of Santa Monica. Conducting their own original research and data analysis in addition, they created narrative Story Maps and videos to tell different facets of these stories.


Explore here.

Presented here are a range of oral history interviews collected between 2016 – 2020 from Black community leaders and long-time residents in Santa Monica, reflecting on a variety of topics relevant to Santa Monica’s vibrant Black community and its evolution over time. The interviews touch upon Black churches, integrated education, neighborhood support networks, important community leaders, and seminal events like Santa Monica’s Juneteenth Festival — all key elements of the culture of the Pico Neighborhood both past and present. These oral histories were collected by a team of volunteer Pico residents as well as 18th Street Arts Center staff.


Explore here.