By Joseph Baroud
Although our campus is located in the South Bay, and many California State University, Dominguez students live, shop, work and hang out in the area, a great deal of its history may be unfamiliar to them.
For that reason, on Nov. 3, The Gerth Archives at CSUDH, along with The Compton 125 Historical Society, is hosting a symposium on the history of the South Bay, which includes some 15 cities along with parts of the city of Los Angeles and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles.
This event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the archive room on the fifth floor of the library. An array of speakers will share stories and information about the history of the South Bay, which includes beach cities like Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, working-class San Pedro, ritzy Rancho Palos Verdes, industrial hubs such as Wilmington and El Segundo, home to Los Angeles International Airport, and Carson, where CSUDH is located.
Speakers will host panels and answer questions, as well as provide vital information. Additionally, CSUDH history students will present posters that will further elaborate on the South Bay’s overlooked but crucial history.
Greg Williams, the director of the Gerth Archives, said that the South Bay has an interesting history, but people perceive it as too local in its significance and it is too often focused on the majority population residing within the area.
“On the other hand, it’s still legitimate history,” Williams said. “I think our speakers go way beyond what the interpretation of local history in a negative way is.”
Speakers will discuss topics ranging from the role Mexican-American baseball played in the region to a Compton woman who faced difficulty in receiving a valedictorian award because her school did not want to award it to a woman.
Speakers include Richard Santillan, who wrote an array of books regarding Mexican-American baseball in the U.S.; James Allen, the publisher of Random Lengths News, a bi-weekly publication whose office is located in San Pedro; Dr. Donna Nicol, an associate professor and the department chair of the Office of Africana Studies at CSUDH; Robert Lee Johnson, the author of “Compton” and “Notable Southern Californians in Black History”; and Jim Osborne, a Lawndale city council member.
The symposium is an outgrowth of an idea derived from the Archives Bazaar, an annual event at the University of Southern California.
“Each year there is something called the Archives Bazaar at USC, where close to 100 archivists come together, sit at tables and talk about their archives to people that come through the door,” Williams said. “Reverend Charles Brown, the head of Compton 125 Historical Society, came to me and said we should have something like this for the South Bay. We won’t have a bunch of vendors but they’re welcome to bring their stuff.”
The second annual symposium kicks off with Santillan’s presentation about Mexican-American baseball and softball in the South Bay. Following that, Allen will give a speech regarding free speech and labor rights in the Los Angeles Harbor during the century between 1913 and 2013. Then, Dr. Nicol will talk about the black and Filipino communities living in Compton and Watts.
From 12:30 to 1 p.m. the audience will have the opportunity to take a short intermission and eat lunch. Excerpts from Cle Bone Sloan’s film “Compton’s Finest” will be briefly screened.
Following lunch, Lee Johnson will discuss the story of “Some Things Haven’t Changed: One Pioneer Women’s Education in the South Bay.” And to conclude the symposium, a panel on South Bay history will take place.
“It’s interesting in that you could have shipbuilders, port workers and the labor union and then you could go down the street and you could see aviation workers in El Segundo or the auto industry that happened [after World War II],” Williams said.
Students are welcome to attend the free event, which Nicol said will be informative and enlightening.
“I think the symposium, in general, is an important event because it focuses on our local histories,” Nicol said. “So, we can see what impact that the South Bay and adjacent areas had on our economic, political and social lives. It helps to heighten awareness of micro-history, that is, history of everyday people as opposed to kings, queens and military rulers.”