Santa Clarita Valley residents, artists and community leaders hosted a Black History Month exhibit to highlight art depicting significant Black leaders, including a special memorial tribute to local civic leader Louis Brathwaite.
The art exhibition Saturday at the Glowhouse Studios featured 12 artists depicting iconic Black leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Barack Obama and Muhammad Ali.
Many art pieces displayed various scenes from portraits, landscapes, abstract, animé and realism art pieces.
In an opening ceremony, SCV community leaders were acknowledged for their contributions and spoke briefly about their memories of Brathwaite and his work for the city of Santa Clarita.
Valerie Bradford, president of the Santa Clarita branch of the NAACP, spoke about the legacy of Brathwaite and how he was able to find resources to help found the city of Santa Clarita.
“He was known as a man of strength and integrity, and courage, but I also see him as a caring man because he learned to advocate for seniors, and as a visionary, he pushed for the formation of this city,” Bradford said.
Brathwaite, born in 1933, moved to SCV in 1969, where he quickly became involved and in 1977 became the first Black member of the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board. Later, he would be a member of Santa Clarita’s first Planning Commission after the city incorporated in 1987.
Additionally, Brathwaite, a Korean war veteran, served on the boards of the Committee on Aging and the SCV Boys & Girls Club. He was the first Black candidate to run for office in Santa Clarita.
Exhibit curator Gloria Locke was happy to see the celebration of Black History Month and applauded the City Council for its work issuing a Black History Month proclamation and producing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Walk.
Locke is part of the Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable and has pushed for recognizing Brathwaite and his contributions.
“I would want people to know that Louis Brathwaite came here with his family, immediately got involved and was instrumental in the planning, preparation and the promoting of Santa Clarita as an official city,” Locke said. “That being said, most of those committee members are considered founders of the city and have bridges and roads named after them, but he has been left in the shadows for over 20 years since he died in 2000.”
In producing the event, Locke said many artists came forward to contribute their works for the show and sale at the Black History Month exhibit. She said her heart was satisfied with all the help in bringing attention to Brathwaite’s legacy.
Cecily Willis, one of the featured artists, said her choice of subject matter is to help bring attention to the iconic Black leaders who have impacted the country. Willis said it’s important to keep images of Lewis, King and other leaders so people can remember the history and struggle, and learn from the experience.
“It’s so important to keep these images in the public eye,” Willis said. “It’s so important to tell our stories and tell the truth.”
SCV resident Emily Owens said she wanted to support the exhibit and its purpose to highlight Black leaders.
Owens purchased a painting of Obama with the American flag and a portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris. She said meeting Harris made her want to purchase the painting and she looks forward to placing the works of art in the Angel Wings Agency offices.
Additionally, Owens mentioned her encounters with Black leaders and her family’s history in Alabama during the civil rights movement.
“My family comes from Alabama; they marched for rights in Selma, my mother was on that bridge in Selma,” Owens said. “So my family has that history, and I just love history, and I love my history.”
Jeffrey Thompson, a member of the Human Relations Roundtable and a commissioner on the Los Angeles County Workforce Development Board, said he was excited to attend the art exhibit and was honored by how the event highlighted Black leaders.
Additionally, Thompson added the roundtable organization is working with the city to highlight other minority groups in addition to the Black History Month events.