Release Date: February 6,2020
arrell McNeill grew up in Brooklyn, where he says he was shaped by cultures and people from all walks of life. Then he moved several years ago to Santa Barbara, where he felt that the diversity was lacking. “I came from a city where you walk out to get the newspaper and you run into people from several different countries, backgrounds, and cultures. Here in Santa Barbara, seeing a black person feels more like a Where’s Waldo? scenario,” said McNeill, who is the director of operations for Black Rock Coalition, a grassroots advocacy group for artists of color. “There’s this schism between different communities in Santa Barbara. That definitely exists elsewhere, even places like Brooklyn, but in Santa Barbara, it’s a little more pronounced.”
For Black History Month, McNeill and his wife, Sally Foxen-McNeill, have put together nine events that showcase black culture’s central role in the American fabric. They include highlighting the unique contributions of African American musicians such as Mandrill and Jimmy Castor, featuring live musical performances by artists like Maritri Garrett and the Cookies, and bringing together Laura Capps and Das Williams, both running for 1st District Supervisor, to talk about their vision for Santa Barbara and how it includes marginalized communities.
Darren McNeill and his wife, Sally, have put together a monthlong program that highlights black culture. Photo: Daniel Dreifuss
Another event will feature James Joyce III, creator of Coffee with a Black Guy, a forum for people to come together and have difficult conversations about race in America. “That’s going to be an opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together and talk about race in America, which is especially important in this current moment,” said McNeill.
The Black History Month Culture House, the name of Darrell and Sally’s program, will take place at 1219 State Street. McNeill said that he wanted to make sure they were centrally located. “Back when I was younger, before social media, things just spread by word of mouth. But now it’s more difficult, so it was important that we had a space on State Street,” added Sally.
The couple also hopes the Black History Month Culture House can be a place of collaboration and exchange for a number of African-American economic, political, and social organizations in Santa Barbara. “There are a lot of black organizations in Santa Barbara: the Santa Barbara NAACP, Santa Barbara Black Lives Matter, Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals. We wanted to make a place where all these groups can come together in one place,” said McNeill. “We want this to be a place where we can collaborate and be open to the community.”
If this year proves successful, the McNeills will build on what they’ve started. “We hope that everything will go well this year and we can grow, nurture, expand,” said McNeill. “Currently, there isn’t a huge space for black culture in Santa Barbara, but it’s still an important part of our connective tissue. What we want to say is that we’re real people, we have a real culture, and here we are.”
The Black Rock Coalition will present a pop-up cultural space on weekends through Black History Month (February). The Black History Month Culture House will feature black artists and community groups showcasing their work and elevating the profile of this often overlooked yet vital segment of S.B. All events are free and will take place at the Black History Month Culture House (1219 State St.) unless otherwise noted.
Pop-Up Opera: Selections Honoring BHM. 5:30-6:30pm. S.B. Museum of Art, 1130 State St.
Screening: The Last Black Man in San Francisco. S.B. Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Coffee with a Black Guy. 2-4:30pm.
Live Music Performance: Maritri. 1-2:30pm.
Fiction Book Club: Washington Black by Esi Eduguan. 5:30pm. S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Black Table Talk presented by S.B. Young Black Professionals. 6:30pm.
Exploring Art: Celebrating Black Artists in the United States. 5:30pm. S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Chocolate Baby Storytime. 10:30am. El Centro, 629 Coronel Pl.
Town Hall and Debate: 1st District Supervisorial Candidates Das Williams and Laura Capps. 1-3pm.
Film Screening and Talk: Wattstax. Rated R. 11am-3pm.
The Measure of Her Life: A Tribute to Toni Morrison. 3pm. S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Visions of Hope 2020: 10th Annual Worship Celebration Service. 3:30pm. Marjorie Luke Theatre, 721 E. Cota St.
Civic Forum: The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters. Noon. Faulkner Gallery, S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Live Music Performance: The Cookies. 1-4:30pm.
Black Art Now! Exhibition: The View from Here. 7pm. Paseo Nuevo (Next to Nordstrom).
Black Art Now! Paint & Sip. 7pm. $35. Paseo Nuevo (next to Nordstrom).
Album Launch and Listening Event: Mandrell. Noon-3pm.
Film Screening and Talk: Mandrill: Live at Montreaux. Noon-4pm.
All Aboard Black History’s Country Soul Train: Petrella and Mixed Influence. 6pm. S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.
Friday Matinee: Harriet. 2pm. S.B. Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. Rated PG-13.
Film Screening and Talk: Jimmy Castor: I Promise to Remember. 2-4pm.