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Home / Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Huntington Beach theme month plan draws calls for boycott

A prominent radio talk show host said Friday he and civil rights leaders are calling for a boycott of Huntington Beach following the City Council’s approval of plans to have a monthly program of events that critics said excludes Black, Latino or LGBTQ history.

City officials responded with a news release Friday that it would mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January, Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. They said the plan was to have a 2024 Celebration Calendar that includes “various celebrations and acknowledgements of historical events significant to the city of Huntington Beach and the United States, city anniversaries, cultural heritage months and other special celebrations.”

City officials also established a new committee of residents who will work with city staff to add to the calendar.

“There is always an opportunity to do more in the city of Huntington Beach and I am looking forward to having even more ways to celebrate not just our city’s history, but the history of our country,” Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said. “I welcome the addition of a resident committee to work with city staff on this program, and I am confident that they will create a year full of meaningful celebrations and tributes.”

But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, founder of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, author and host of a Saturday program on KPFK-FM 90.7, said he and a coalition of other civil rights groups called for a boycott of the city’s business and public facilities.

“They were pretty clear they were not going to do anything special for Black, Hispanic or Gay Pride (events) and so forth, so that’s a recurring theme,” Hutchinson told City News Service.

Hutchinson said it was “alarming. We’re not talking about a city in Mississippi. It’s a city in Southern California. They gave the impression they’re not going to commemorate or celebrate these events which are mandated by the state.

“And it might give other cities the same idea. That’s the big concern. They may be horsing around, but somebody is going to start taking them seriously. Will it be Stockton tomorrow? Or Bakersfield? Could it be Lancaster, Simi Valley? They need to be called out and that’s why I called them out.”

He added, “It’s a civil rights issue, no question about it.”

Hutchinson said he invited Van Der Mark onto his radio show “but, of course, they declined.”

City Councilman Dan Kalmick said he was surprised at Friday’s news release, saying it appeared to indicate different priorities than what was approved at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I hope they misunderstood what they were saying and, of course, we’re going to celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month,” Kalmick said. “I hope to see an item (for the January council meeting) to rectify what I thought was a new policy of the city.”

Kalmick said when he directly asked if Black History Month or women’s and gay pride historic moments would be honored he was told no.

“I don’t know how you confuse that,” Kalmick said. “But if they want to make a correction I’m happy to support that correction in January.”

Kalmick said he wished city officials had other priorities.

“Instead of this where’s a task force on balancing the budget,” Kalmick said. “Where’s a homeless roundtable. … When was the last time the downtown committee met? But we’re doing a theme month listing that my 4-year-old did in her pre-K class last month.”

Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, issued a statement Monday saying, “Diversity has and always will be our strength in California. At a time where too many communities, especially in Huntington Beach, are feeling under attack, this proposal to try to cancel Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month and other heritage celebrations — and replace them with a whitewashed revisionist history that unabashedly lionizes Big Oil and indulges in Civil War nostalgia — is embarrassing and shameful.

“This is a disgraceful departure from the ideals we should be championing and once again illustrates that his particular HB City Council is more interested in earning cheap headlines than in actually addressing the issues affecting the lives of Surf City residents.”

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