Black History Reaches Community with Services, Culture, Arts
By Dianne Anderson
For those making the circuit of nonstop Black History Month festivities, lots of free jam-packed cultural events are up for the taking with everything from best-sounding drums to best-selling audio books.
Last weekend, Elite Skills Development training center kicked off the Celebration of Blackness, showcasing their Roots of Slavery Exhibit, the African Marketplace and a drum and dance workshop.
Program director Sharon Diggs Jackson said their event was a hit, and their outreach presents an opportunity to link the community up with connections they need for hard to find local services. For many, it can seem like navigating a maze.
Diggs Jackson, a lifetime resident of Long Beach, has worked for the city for 20 years in various departments and capacities. Her organization works with individuals and nonprofits at different levels of need, acting as a clearinghouse on where to go to access available resources.
Her monthly Black Magic gatherings cover a gamut of power topics, including mental health, housing, and emergency preparedness. She and her team also work health fairs while continuing training for the community at their facilities, one located at 3515 Linden Avenue #56, and the other at the resource center at King Park.
She said that center is temporarily closed as the city remodels the building, but she continues outreach on the grounds, hoping to return to the facility soon so the community can access the center.
Her program also assists with COVID outreach, and educational opportunities, but she said while there are a lot of good programs, not everyone is aware of what’s available.
“It’s part of what we realized during COVID, people don’t know what was available. We wanted to fill the niche. People will call me to ask questions about Section 8, childcare opportunities. I try to connect them with resources I know in the community,” said Diggs Jackson, a founding Board Member for the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion, and also partners with African American Cultural Center, where they host regular ongoing programming.
Also coming up Saturday, Feb 24 through February 26, Loiter Galleries welcomes the community to the 3rd Annual Celebrating Black Excellence – An Arts & Culture Experience, a free Black fine arts celebration, music, entertainment, and a meet and greet with artists, including Buena Johnson, Mohammad Mubarak, Sheldon Gillis, Skyler Bush, Rhonda Love, Chelly Glo, Zulu DJ, and Beach City Radio, among others.
Loiter Galleries, which is partnering with the Arts Council on the exhibit, is located at 425 The Promenade in Downtown Long Beach.
“As a local Long Beach community-based and part Black-owned art gallery we felt it important to host and co-curate a group art show focusing on Black artists while celebrating, peace and love and excellence under one roof in an effort to lift up African American voices,” said Loiter Galleries co-founder Monica Fleming in an email.
At Long Beach Public Library, Cathy De Leon said that they are thrilled with this month’s selection of a great offering of Black authors on audio, available for free with all the best sellers and popular titles, including Michelle Obama.
“We’re excited, we’re happy to provide that resource for the community, especially digital audiobooks that we believe that everyone should be able to use and they’re free,” she said.
This month, the library is also featuring a new local author, Diane Marie Brown, with her launch of Black Candle Women.
“Her debut novel is getting a lot of positive reviews in the book publishing industry and she is an employee of the city of Long Beach, we’re excited to have her,” she said.
De Leon also meets monthly with the African Heritage Society on their new project to revitalize the Burnett Library African American Resource section developed by the late Indira Hale Tucker.
“We talk about the vision for that space, and work collaboratively to shape what the collection looks like. I think we’re going to start to shift more toward uplifting local Black history,” she said.
During the pandemic, she said their 12 library locations were only offering door service, but since reopening, they are almost back up to pre-pandemic, a little lower than one million a year.
She said that Black history events are at locations citywide.
“It’s been a really gigantic group effort, with all of our library staff in all of our 12 locations contributing with their ideas. It’s been fun we’re happy to contribute to black history,” she said.
To see Loiter Galleries,
To see Library events,