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In the spirit of our cultural asset mapping project Culture Mapping 90404, we introduce COMMUNITY X COMMUNITY. 18th Street Arts Center is excited to collaborate with Santa Monica residents in highlighting the history and cultural treasures of the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica centering traditionally overlooked stories, especially stories from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. COMMUNITY x COMMUNITY aims to amplify the stories of the people, places, events, and organizations, both past and present, that define the culture of the Pico neighborhood according to the community itself. 

If you want to highlight a person, group, place, event, or organization whose work around social justice, community building, or culture you like, use this form.

Sunrise Mourning Meditation

Nominated by Jeny Amaya, 18th Street Arts Center’s Communication Associate

I would highlight the healing powers of Sunrise Mourning Meditation, a space to mourn, reflect, and celebrate Black life. I first met one of the event organizers, April Banks, when she was working as a lead artist with the Belmar History and Art Project, a civic commemoration project honoring the former African American neighborhood of Belmar that was destroyed and replaced by the construction of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. On Friday June 19, 2020, I attended the Sunrise Mourning Meditation for Juneteenth, organized to honor the lives that have been lost, stories forgotten and work still yet to be done in creating equity for the African American community. In the context of a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected so many Black and brown communities, Sunrise Mourning Meditation becomes a crucial space for healing. In order to amplify and highlight Black spaces, organizers April Banks and Arianne Edmonds intentionally chose a historically Black beach in Santa Monica, Bay Street Beach, known as a haven for African-American communities amidst the Jim Crow era.

As I settled in before the meditation, the subtle smell of sage came in and out like the waves in front of us. Participants, all wearing masks and white clothing, danced, sang, and laughed as flowers were offered to the ocean. The sound of the bell signaled the beginning of the group meditation. As we closed our eyes and synchronized our breathing with the breathing of the ocean, the presence of ourselves in our surroundings felt amplified. Alli Simon, who guided the meditation,  instructed us to let the water and spirit move through us as we honored our fallen brothers and sisters, alluding to Black lives lost due to systemic police violence and racial inequity. As participants recited names, their absence in our collective presence felt more pronounced. As participants sang “Wade in the Water”, a song associated with spirituals of the Underground Railroad, the past intertwined with the present.  Amidst the important protests saturating our country’s landscape, Sunrise Mourning Meditation provides an alternative space for collective reflection. As physical presence is being replaced by virtual space, the opportunity to be physically present with others in collective mourning felt nurturing. The Sunrise Mourning Meditation project reminds us that issues of racial discrimination occur at the immediate and local level by centering Santa Monica’s own Black history. I asked April Banks a few questions about Sunrise Mourning Meditation, with hopes you can join the next one.

Sunrise Mourning Meditation is a collaboration that came out of a conversation between Arianne Edmonds and yourself. What are some of the goals you all have with this project?

2020 has been a brutal year from deaths due to the pandemic to police brutality to economic hardship. We wanted to mourn together, to bear witness to our community pain, to provide a moment of levity, and to do it in the presence of nature. Both of us work in social and civic justice. So in addition to creating the collective space, we wanted to bring people together around a hidden Black history in Santa Monica. We were very intentional about gathering at Bay Street Beach/The Inkwell, to pay homage to our ancestors. We are grateful to Alli Simon for leading our meditations and for the people who have made an offering of music and song.

How did the idea of having a Sunrise Mourning Meditation in Bay Street Beach come about? What about the other locations?

This collaboration happened quickly and easily at a time when we desperately needed a safe space to gather and mourn. Shortly after George Floyd’s death I was feeling so overwhelmed by anger and frustration but also the need to grieve his death and so many others. Arianne was feeling the same way and after a short conversation, we  mobilized and planned the first gathering. In our initial conversation we talked about  how we no longer have the rituals to publicly grieve in this country. So we decided to look at other rituals of death that take place at the ocean. In reference to elements of Santeria, Condomblé and MAAFA, we asked everyone to wear white and bring a flower as an offering to our ancestors.

On Juneeteenth, we held the second mediation at Bay Street Beach/The Inkwell and were joined by collaborators in Tempe and NY. Healer friends saw the documentation of the event and wanted to host in their local area. So we shared our process and all decided to host the meditation on the same day. It has been such a smooth and easy process.

Is there an upcoming Sunrise Mourning Meditation?

We are planning more for the near future, but closely watching the spread of the coronavirus to decide when is safest for the next event. New York will be hosting their next meditation this Saturday 7/18 at 7:30am at Far Rockaway Beach B105, Queens NY. You can find the organizers on Instagram @writtennthestars and @isarias

What would you like the community to know about Sunrise Mourning Meditation?

Grievance and grieving go hand in hand. Organizing, protesting and fighting for racial justice is never-ending hard work. We recognize our collective need to recharge and be silent for a moment. It has been a beautiful and unexpected journey. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for how these meditations have been received and for the contribution they are making to this political movement. We will continue for as long as it feels right and safe. Rest is revolutionary. Rest is sacred. And we deserve to rest.

For updates on this project, follow @SunriseMourningMeditation on Instagram.