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Category: Nick Gabaldon Day

Juneteenth commemorates the promise of freedom and recognizes the achievements of African American and Black people, while truthfully acknowledging and reflecting on the time in American history when enslaved people were freed nationwide. Take part in a Juneteenth activity near you. Now, let’s learn more about this holiday and its connection to the coast.

The history of Juneteenth

The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln went into effect in 1863, but did not instantly free all enslaved people in the United States. Many enslavers withheld information or migrated toward Texas in an effort to thwart the Union army’s enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.

On June 19, 1865—two and a half years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas and issued an order proclaiming the emancipation of enslaved people there. This date reflects one of the final phases of official emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. The year after, Black people in Texas organized the first “Jubilee Day” aka “Emancipation Day” on June 19. The observance of June 19 as Juneteenth (a blending of “June” and “Nineteenth”) is now a tradition that has spread across the United States and world.

Historically, the Juneteenth holiday has been observed through community festivals, concerts, picnics, fishing, outdoor sports, prayer services, family gatherings, and more activities. Texas was the first state to officially observe the holiday in 1980. As of 2021, 47 states and the District of Columbia officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of observance; and, there is a big push to make it a national holiday.1,2,3

The legacy of slavery on the coast

The legacy of slavery pervaded long after the 13th amendment was ratified in 1865. Locally, “in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Black people were harassed and kicked off of beaches surrounding Santa Monica. Nationwide, practices like redlining – the division and ranking of neighborhoods based on race and socioeconomic status – prevented people in low-income communities and communities of color from buying homes, properties, or establishing businesses along the coast. On top of that, Black communities were subject to additional discriminatory and unjust rent practices. The impact of these racist and discriminatory policies is clear today, as the demographic of those who live on and near the coast is primarily wealthy and white. Now, gentrification continues to cause the displacement of low-income communities and communities of color that live near the coast, parks, greenspace, and the LA River – and Black people still face harassment while trying to enjoy nature.4


Honor Juneteenth

Here are events honoring Juneteenth on June 19, 2021 in Santa Monica, California.

Black Out at Bay Street with Black Surfers Collective

Saturday, June 19, 2021
9am-Noon
Free & Outdoors at Bay Street beach
Santa Monica, California

Share some stoke. Share some love. Black Surfers Collective is hosting a Black Out at Bay Street on Juneteenth. Join the gathering to eat, laugh, tell stories, catch a few waves and celebrate fellowship. While our annual Nick Gabaldón Day celebration is postponed to October 9, 2021, we’ll be honoring Juneteenth with this informal, relaxing beach day at Nick Gabaldón’s home break in Santa Monica. Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was a Santa Monica local and the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay.

Learn more


Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Fest

Saturday, June 19, 2021
8pm-10pm
Free & Outdoors at Historic Belmar Park
Santa Monica, CA

Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Fest on Juneteenth features the premiere of BELONGING, a Belmar History + Art site-specific film honoring early African Americans in Santa Monica. This in-person outdoor screening of short films celebrates Black culture and the water. From spiritual rituals to migration and sports, water is an integral part of how people rejuvenate and restore joy. Before the screening, enjoy food trucks, music by DJ Moni Vargas, and the history panels and sculpture that make up the Belmar History + Art exhibition. At the close of the event, free prizes will be raffled off! Bring your blankets or beach chairs for lounging on the field. Limited seating will be provided for accessibility. Please note: event organizers are following the COVID LA County Health public health and safety guidelines that are in place at the time of the event.

  • Field Entrance: On 4th Street between Olympic and Pico Blvds., at 1840 4th Street, Santa Monica CA 90401
  • $5 Parking: Civic Center Parking Structure, corner of 4th Street and Olympic Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401
  • Metro: 8 minute walk from the Downtown Santa Monica Station

The City of Santa Monica’s 29th Annual Juneteenth Event

Saturday, June 19, 2021
Free & Online at 10:30am-Noon
bit.ly/SMJuneteenth

The theme for this year’s virtual 29th Annual Juneteenth event “The Change is Here” is inspired by the famous Sam Cook song that foretold A Change is Gonna Come. It was also developed as a response to the outpouring of calls for change locally and nationally toward a more equitable society. Similarly, Santa Monica’s Juneteenth event has been a voice of change within the community since 1992 thanks to the leadership of LaVerne Ross, whose family had been recognizing Juneteenth in Texas before she and her family relocated to Santa Monica in the 1950s.

The program’s Master of Ceremonies will be spoken word artist Sean Raymond Hill and the presentation will include:

  • Traditional opening drum call performed by Chazz Ross and dancer Teresa Smith
  • A selection of classic and original soul and blues pieces performed by Harold Wherry and the Blue Breeze Band
  • Gospel favorites performed by Kaleo & the Voice of One Singers featuring Dr. Henry Jackson
  • The annual presentation by Mayor Himmelrich of the Juneteenth Proclamation to LaVerne Ross founder and visionary of the Juneteenth event in Santa Monica

More information about this free community event online event at www.smgov.net/vapark, Virginia Avenue Park’s Facebook page (vapark), by emailing vap@smgov.net or by calling 310-458-8688.

Learn more


Juneteenth Heritage Event

Saturday, June 19, 2021
11am-3pm
Free & Outdoors at Calvary Baptist Church
1502 20th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

The grounds of the oldest African-American Baptist church in Santa Monica will be transformed into a place centered around African American heritage, achievement, equity, joy, and culture.

Learn more


Free Admission to Heal the Bay Aquarium in honor of Juneteenth

Saturday, June 19, 2021
12pm-4pm
Free & Indoors/Outdoors at Heal the Bay Aquarium
1600 Ocean Front Walk

Santa Monica, California

In collaboration with Black Surfers Collective and the City of Santa Monica, Heal the Bay is honoring Juneteenth by opening our doors to the inside of Heal the Bay Aquarium free of charge from Noon to 4:00pm on Saturday, June 19. We’re offering free admission to Heal the Bay Aquarium in honor of Juneteenth to provide space and opportunities for education and enjoyment at the Santa Monica Pier.

Learn more


Sources:

  1. https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth
  2. https://blacklivesmatter.com/make-juneteenth-a-national-holiday/
  3. https://www.diversitybestpractices.com/what-companies-are-doing-to-honor-juneteenth
  4. https://healthebay.org/equality-equity-justice/

 



Nick Gabaldon Day, June 3, 2017 welcome and on-land paddle out ceremony. Participants surround a replica of a painting of Nick Gabaldon by Richard Wyatt. Photography by Elizabeth Espinoza, Martin Luther King Recreation Center, Los Angeles.
Adults pictured, standing, left to right: Eric Griffin, director of Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center; Albizeal Del Valle, field deputy for Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Michael Blum, author of the Malibu Historic District National Register Listing Nomination; Alison Rose Jefferson, historian and coordinator of Santa Monica Conservancy’s youth program; Effie Turnbull Sanders, California Coastal Commissioner; Shelley Luce, CEO of Heal the Bay; and Tom Ford, executive director of The Bay Foundation. Front row, kneeling: Meredith McCarthy, programming director, Heal the Bay, led the big hug for the bay.
 


Join the celebration to honor Nick Gabaldón and his legacy as the quintessential California surfer. 

Nick Gabaldón Day introduces communities across Los Angeles County to the magic of the coast through free surf and ocean safety lessons, beach ecology exploration, and a history lesson about an individual who followed his passion against all odds.

In 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, Heal the Bay joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to amplify and expand Nick Gabaldón Day. This year marks our organization’s 8th Annual Nick Gabaldón Day celebration!

As a result of the COVID-19 response, this year we partnered with World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy to create a virtual Nick Gabaldón Day with a series of online panels to dive deeper into past and current issues of justice, equity, and access on our coast.

Panels for Nick Gabaldón Day 2020


The “Nick Gabaldón Day Knowledge Drops Panel” features Alison Rose Jefferson (Historian and Author), Rhasaan Nichols (Filmmaker), and Inés Ware (Special Events Manager at Heal the Bay).


The “Women in Surf Panel” features Rhonda Harper (Founder and President of Black Girls Surf), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation).


The “Surf Sustainability Panel” features Ryan Harris (Co-Owner of Earth Technologies), Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Dr. Shelley Luce (Heal the Bay President & CEO).

 

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The “Community Connectedness Panel” features Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jamal Hill (Paralympic Swimmer), Giovanni Douresseau (President of Youth Mentoring), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation). Watch the full video on WSL >

The recent civil unrest has laid bare the desperate need to address racism and racial injustice across all sectors. Our coast is no exception. Let’s dive into some local history and why we honor Nick Gabaldón’s legacy as an early surfer of color in Los Angeles.

Who was Nick Gabaldón?

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was a Santa Monica local and the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. As an accomplished board rider, he smashed stereotypes surfing the Bay during the 1940s and 50s. Gabaldón would sometimes paddle 12 miles from Santa Monica to the fabled break at Malibu. The grueling trip showed true commitment and passion for ocean sports. Tragically, Gabaldón would lose his life during a huge swell at Surfrider Beach in 1951, crashing into the pilings as he tried to pull off a dangerous maneuver called “shooting the pier”.

Gabaldón reminds us of a time when beaches suffered from de facto segregation. The shoreline and waters at Bay Street Beach in Santa Monica were an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular in the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who sought to avoid hostile and racial discrimination they might experience at other southland beaches. Racial discrimination and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from buying property throughout the Los Angeles region, but the community’s presence and agency sustained their oceanfront usage in Santa Monica.

Gabaldón overcame overt and tacit racism and became a role model for communities of color. Taking his rightful place in a lineup with such legends as Ricky Grigg and Matt Kivlin, Gabaldón helped integrate what largely was an all-white sport. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized Bay Street and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk. Today, Gabaldón is an enduring symbol that our beaches are recreational havens for all people.

nick gabaldon day 2013 poster

What is Nick Gabaldón Day?

To honor his pioneering spirit, Nick Gabaldón Day is celebrated during the first week of June with community partners, including Heal the Bay, the Black Surfers Collective, the Surf Bus Foundation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy.

In past years, we have hosted nearly 150 African American and Latinx youth from Pacoima to Compton for a day of ocean exploration and cultural reflection at Bay Street Beach. Many youth who particpate are learning to surf for the first time. Usually, we celebrate with a paddle out, free surf lessons, and free Heal the Bay Aquarium admission.

In 2020, World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy joined our efforts as well.

What was “The Ink Well”?

“The Ink Well” is a derogatory name that was used for a stretch of beachfront near Bay Street and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, which was a safe haven for African American beach-lovers during the Jim Crow era. This area became a sanctuary of sorts for Gabaldón. He learned to surf at the gentle beach break about a half mile south of the Santa Monica Pier.

In 2019, the Bay Street Beach Historic District became officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “[The addition of the] Bay Street Beach Historic District [to the National Register of Historic Places] increases the number of listings associated with communities of color, which [as of July 2019] is less than five percent of the total sites represented on the National Register,” according to Santa Monica Conservancy.

How can I support?

Please consider making a donation to these organizations creating opportunities to advance equity:

Save the Date: Nick Gabaldón Day 2021

The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, Santa Monica Conservancy, and more organizations will be back for the next Nick Gabaldón Day on October 9, 2021. Together, our goal is to continue to reach families in underserved communities and help build personal and shared cultural, historical, and nature heritage as well as civic engagement, which makes up the foundation of stewardship for the next generation of leaders.

 


 

Photos from past #NickGabaldónDay events

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What an honor and awesome experience it was to paddle out for Nick Gabaldon today! . . . Nick Gabaldon, was the earliest recorded surfer of color who taught himself how to #surf. He would surf at Tower 20, in Santa Monica, California, and would even #paddle 12 miles north to #Malibu (He didn't own a car) often to surf better waves. The white Surfers of Malibu did not bother him at all, instead showed #respect, which was unheard of or rare at the time. He unfortunately passed away doing one of the most #dangerous tricks in surfing, #shooting the pier. Though he's no longer with us, he has been a #huge influence and #role model for both African and Mexican American surfers across the world! . . . Today, we #commemorate Nick with a paddle out, dedicated the time out at sea to any other losses in ones family (I did for my grandmother), threw our roses in, #splash some water, and caught a #wave in their names! ???? . . Then we taught #InnerCity youth how to surf!! Some of these kiddos have never been to the #beach, the ocean, or even have felt #sand!! It was awesome to #educate, #empower, and even have good old #fun with such stoked kiddos! ???????? . . It was wonderful to #serve alongside the Black Surfers Collective, Heal The Bay, Surf Rider, The Surf Bus Foundation, and many more! Thank you to everyone that were there, truly made my day, and I'm sure it changed lives for many others! . . #NickGabaldonDay #Honor #PaddleOut #ForThoseWatchingOver #SurfingCommunity #Unity #Serving #Influence #FunInTheSun #StayAwesome #SharingTheStoke #Grateful

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Life lessons. #nickgabaldon

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