By Anissa Durham | Contributing Writer
Every day that passes is another day of history that was made. As we recap on this year’s Black History Month, let us not forget the local history many of us saw happen right before our eyes. San Diego has a small Black population but that has not stopped Black Americans from making vast strides in excellence this month.
First Black California Secretary of State
Former San Diego Assemblymember, Dr. Shirley Weber was appointed the first African American California Secretary of State on Jan. 29 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“On the eve of Black History Month, California once again makes history in swearing in Dr. Weber as Secretary of State,” said Governor Newsom. “As the state’s Chief Elections Officer, Dr. Weber will continue her lifelong dedication to defending civil rights and will undertake a vital role in protecting our democratic process at a critical time.”
Dr. Weber was first elected to the California State Assembly in 2012, representing the 79th Assembly District, she never lost an election. She introduced the California Act to Save Lives, in 2019 to make clear that police officers should only use deadly force when necessary. Prior to this she taught at San Diego State University for 40 years as an Africana Studies Department professor and served as president of the San Diego Board of Education.
Two Black Women Running for the 79th District
Dr. Akilah Weber, daughter of Dr. Shirley Weber is racing for her mother’s now empty seat. Dr. Weber has served on the La Mesa City Council since 2018 and has worked to implement the City’s Climate Action Plan and pushed for a Community Police Oversight Board and the La Mesa homelessness taskforce.
She is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and is the founder and director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. She also leads the adolescent gynecology program at UC San Diego Health, and she serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at UCSD.
Aeiramique Glass Blake is a restorative justice consultant who has served on the San Diego Chief of Police Board of Advisors and the City Attorney’s Advisory Board. She is a former candidate for the 51st Congressional District and said she joined the race to promote equity and justice. She is running as a Democrat but considers herself an independent.
Former congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar announced on Jan. 19 that he would not be running for the 79th District. He said the seat should be held by a Black woman as it has been for the past decade. He is not alone in this sentiment. La Mesa Councilman Colin Parent opted out for similar reasons.
The 79th District includes parts of Southeastern San Diego, Bonita, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and National City. Voters will choose the final candidates in a primary on Apr. 6, the final two will go through a run-off election on June 8.
Southeastern San Diego Pop-Up Art Gallery Changing the Community
Kim Phillips-Pea, Racquel Rhone and Vee Brooks known as the Southeast Art Team opened up their first pop-up gallery at the end of Oct. in 2020. They partnered with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation to showcase Black art, created and curated by all Black artists. The gallery is filled with fine art, abstract art, portraits, prints, jewelry and other creations that celebrate Black culture.
“As Black artists in the community, we know how important representation is, in Southeastern San Diego,” Phillips-Pea said. “We want people to see art that reflects who they are. It is essential for people within our community to see that we have beautiful arts and cultures all around us.”
The gallery was scheduled to close at the end of Feb., after a successful four months, the gallery will remain open until spring of this year. Art enthusiasts and all in the community are invited to visit the gallery and support a Black-owned business.
Due to COVID-19 occupancy guidelines, the gallery must be visited by appointment only Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments can be booked at calendly.com/popupartgallery. All guests will also be asked to sign a COVID-19 form for everyone’s health and safety.
San Diego History Center Celebrating Black History
At the start of Feb., the San Diego History Center launched its new online exhibit Celebrate San Diego: Black History and Heritage. With gaps in its history, the History Center is asking for locals to help provide information, insights and items that represent Black history in San Diego.
There is a link on the website to make a submission to the collection and the center is encouraging people to nominate a Black local hero.
Shelby Gordan is the marketing manager of the exhibit.
“We wanted to offer that opportunity to the community to nominate heroes… who have really helped instill values and goals in families, kids of all ages who have then turned around and mentored other generations and who continue to help this community really thrive and strive,” she said.
San Diego Public Library Honors Black History Month
Sahithi Lingampalli a Scripps Ranch High School Sophomore designed the San Diego Public Library’s special-edition library card honoring Black History Month. Her art featured portraits of four well-known Black Americans who have paved the way of Black excellence; John Lewis, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant and Kamala Harris.
The card is available at the 25 library branch locations that are offering limited in-person and/or contactless pickup services. Library director Misty Jones raised awareness of the importance of celebrating Black History Month, including virtual programming throughout the month of Feb. She said the library is a safe space that promotes inclusivity and invites people to continue to learn from each other.