The Santa Clarita branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People celebrated its inception with A Night Out, its first in-person event, at California Institute of the Arts Tuesday.
“We were overwhelmed by your response and your support to our invitation to come out this evening and meet us,” said Valerie Bradford, president of the Santa Clarita branch, as she welcomed everyone to the event.
Around 200 people signed up to attend the newly formed branch’s first event, which allowed new members to meet — some for the first time — and others to learn more about the organization, with the help of committee tables set up around the venue.
“We realize as a new branch that our work has just begun, but we are looking forward to supporting, working with and adding to the work that some organizations already here on the ground are doing,” Bradford added. “But we share one goal, and that goal is that we want to work to improve the lives of African American residents and communities of color here in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
These sentiments were mirrored by Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda, who described himself as “a new kind of mayor.”
“My family is a mix of so many races I can’t count them — and that’s a good thing,” Miranda said. “I am the 14th mayor ever in Santa Clarita. I’m the first mayor of color, and I’m the first Latino mayor.”
Miranda went on to say that though Santa Clarita is a great city that has had a lot of people work hard to get it to this point, he wants to break the mold and bring the SCV into the 21st century, “where everybody’s welcomed, where everybody not only has a seat at the table, but has a say at the table,” he said.
“I’m working to take Santa Clarita to a place where we embrace multiculturalism, where we embrace ethnicity, where we embrace equity and diversity,” Miranda added. “That’s not going to happen by itself.”
Tuesday’s event was CalArts’ first community event since the pandemic, and CalArts President Ravi Rajan said he’s proud that it was held at the university.
“I want to thank each of you who’ve become involved in this chapter towards making the Santa Clarita Valley more inclusive, diverse and equitable community,” Rajan added. “The establishment of a branch of the NAACP connects this SCV community with a century’s worth of hard work that’s come before us today, and it helps us organize ourselves around how we’re going to continue that work moving forward tomorrow.”
CalArts also values these practices, Rajan said, adding that he is grateful for the opportunity to assist the NAACP in its efforts to do the same for the SCV community.
“The protests last summer that galvanized many in this country cannot be the only actions that those who now recognize our societal biases anew are compelled to take,” Rajan added. “Indeed, this moment would not have happened if the decades of efforts of organizations like the NAACP hadn’t preceded it. Sustaining growth and the recognition of how societal biases are baked into everything that we do, including how we are organized, has never been more important. Today, the demographic changes that the SCV is experiencing are parallel to so many places around this country, so now is the time to pull our efforts together so that we can sustain that work.”
Both Miranda and Rajan were also presented with awards of appreciation Tuesday as thanks for their support of the new Santa Clarita branch.