Crossroads News

Equity & Justice Institute Explores Black History in Los Angeles

Three events celebrate the city’s “hidden gems.”
To celebrate Black History Month, the Crossroads School Equity & Justice Institute introduced students and community members to three “hidden gems” of Los Angeles—the Belmar neighborhood, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Various Small Fires gallery. From the end of January through February, students explored the history of black Angelenos along with their present-day opportunities and achievements in the sciences and arts.
The first event, held on Jan. 25 at the Santa Monica Public Library, was part of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs’ Belmar History + Art project, which pays tribute to the once-thriving African American neighborhood that the city intentionally burned in order to build the Civic Center campus currently in that location. At the talk, longtime Santa Monica residents Carolyne Edwards and Arianne Edmonds underscored the significance of family archives in remembering and sharing local histories.
On Feb. 10, a group of 11 Upper School students answered the Institute’s open invitation to visit Charles R. Drew University (CDU)—the only historically black college or university on the West Coast, located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of Los Angeles. In conversations with CDU administrators and staff, the students learned about the history of the university, founded in 1966 and named after the African American physician who advanced blood preservation techniques. They also learned about summer research opportunities for high school students. Before returning to Crossroads, the students visited Watts Towers, where they discussed the Watts Rebellion.
For the final Black History Month event on Feb. 25, the Equity & Justice Institute took roughly 35 interested Upper School students, including two art classes and one history class, to Various Small Fires. Currently, the gallery in Hollywood features the exhibition “A Dream for My Lilith” by artist and Upper School parent Calida Rawles. Rawles talked about her acrylic paintings on canvas, discussing with students how African American history, family and womanhood inspired her art.
“These were very important and powerful field trips,” says junior Karla Montano, who was struck by both the enthusiasm of the CDU staff and Rawles’ focus on family and heritage. “These two field trips taught me a lot of black history. … I will remember [them] forever.”