Long Beach’s African American Cultural Center to debut Black athletics exhibit at new temporary site

The African American Cultural Center of Long Beach will kick off a set of exhibits at its new temporary site at the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls Friday night.

As the Olympics wrap up for the year, the cultural center will feature historic Black athletes, including Olympic medalist John Rambo and Martha Watson, Long Beach Poly High School and Jackie Robinson, the first Black athlete to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, according to organizers. Other athletic features will include the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, cowboys, boxers, football players and prints sold by SG Conversation Art.

Sharon McLucas, co-owner of Forgotten Images, a traveling museum of African American artifacts, said she’ll show an “early period” jockey uniform from Arkansas. This uniform is one of several new artifacts added to her Forgotten Images collection, which she plans to fully debut next year, she said.

The exhibit will run from 6 to 9 p.m. in the South Gallery of the Expo Arts Center, AACCLB President Tasha W. Hunter said. At the same time, photographer Duke Givens will showcase photos of Snoop Dogg’s early days in Long Beach at the North Gallery of the art center, she added.

The galleries will be free and open to the public. No RSVP is needed.

A fresh logo of the African American Cultural Center of Long Beach is adhered at a window at the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

The cultural center will occupy the North Gallery under a lease for the next three to five years as their new long-term, but temporary space, Hunter said. The center just moved in on Wednesday, she said.

Previously, it was housed at a space on Long Beach Boulevard near 21st Street. While Hunter said that it was hard to leave that “amazing facility,” the cultural center wasn’t “able to program it the way we needed it to.”

Now at the Expo Art Center, Hunter recalled she’s back at the same place where she helped create the first Black History Month event in Bixby Knolls 10 years ago.

“To return here is just phenomenal,” Hunter said.

Black Long Beach leaders have focused on the creation of an AACCLB in Long Beach following support by the city’s Black council members. Hunter said it took eight months for the visioning process of this cultural center to come to life. Now, she hopes the cultural center can be an educational space for Black history. Hunter said the search for finding a permanent home for the cultural center is still in the works.

That home will be a place for live music, Black history classes and art, she said. She wants to find a permanent space “where folks can come and land.”

“Though we are a cultural center, we hope to one day be a museum,” Hunter said.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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