First published in the Feb. 11 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena City Council is taking action this Black History Month, adopting a resolution that condemns the city’s past practices of institutionalized racism and outlines ways the city will promote equity among all people.
“We’ve gone a long way from simply adopting a resolution to identifying specific things that we’re going to do,” Councilwoman Diana Mahmud said. “And that, as some of the commenters said, will help to put some teeth into it.”
Ten public comments as well as multiple written comments to the council at its Feb. 2 meeting voiced support for the resolution, which was developed with input from Care First, the Anti-Racism Committee and the Anti-Bias Club.
The resolution, which was presented by executive assistant to the city manager Tamara Binns, is a multi-pronged effort that began years ago to ensure that South Pasadena acknowledges its past and continues to move forward.
Research done by South Pasadena city library historian Olivia Radbill and former Mayor Robert Joe showed instances of institutionalized racism, including an occasion in 1911 in which city council members voted to block an orphanage for Black children from being built.
In 1941, a race restriction campaign was established by the city to restrict non-white citizens from purchasing homes, and in 1942, 165 Japanese American residents of South Pasadena were forced to evacuate the city as a result of Executive Order 9066.
Years later, in 1955, a 9-year-old Black girl was denied entry into the Orange Grove Plunge, a public pool that once was located where Orange Grove Park is today.
There’s also strong evidence from written and oral history, public accounts and newspaper articles that shows South Pasadena was a sundown town for some of the 20th century. The name “sundown town” comes from warnings issued to minority groups that stated they may work or travel in a community during daytime, but must leave by sundown.
Sundown towns included prohibitions against Jews, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Latinos and other minority groups, but focused mainly on Black people.
Decades later, South Pasadena is now looking into restrictive housing covenants that may exist on city-owned properties. The covenants prevented a particular group of people, usually Black people, from purchasing, leasing or occupying a piece of property. By 1940, roughly 80% of property in Los Angeles and Chicago carried these covenants.
The city will review the deeds of city-owned properties and remove any racially restrictive covenants that may be found. Individual residents can remove restrictions from their own deeds as well, in accordance with Assembly Bill 1466.
The resolution also recommends that the city joins the Government Alliance on Race and Equity after attending an information session, which could be as early as Feb. 22. GARE is a national network of city governments that work together for racial equity. Local member cities include Pasadena, Glendale and San Marino.
There’s a renewed emphasis on hiring artists who represent a variety of cultural backgrounds to perform at Music in the Parks and the city plans to have an annual forum to show South Pasadena’s commitment to diversity, hosted by Binns.
In addition to unanimously passing the resolution, Mayor Michael Cacciotti proclaimed February as Black History Month in the city. The proclamation was presented by chief city clerk Tamika Cook.
“Black History Month,” Cook said, “is a time where all citizens are encouraged to reflect on past successes and challenges of Black communities, and to look to the future to ensure freedom, equity and inclusiveness.”