California town votes to nix month-long celebrations of identity groups

One of California’s few conservative bastions has decided to axe month-long tributes celebrating specific identity groups.

“Huntington Beach leadership is ending the city’s current heritage and identity commemorations, such as Women’s History Month, and in their place will create celebrations focused more on the community’s history,” reported the Orange County Register last week.

Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Pride Month will get no special recognition in 2024. Staffers were directed by the City Council’s majority in a 4-3 vote “to develop a history program, with monthly themes that include the founding of the city, the discovery of oil and celebrating local libraries,” according to the outlet.

However, Councilmember Casey McKeon clarified that in the future, some heritage or special celebrations may still be celebrated.

“Nothing precludes those events from being a part of that future calendar,” said McKeon, one of the three councilmembers behind the new policy.

The new focus “would be intended to be free of any identity politics and political agendas,” according to the proposal submitted by McKeon and fellow councilmember Pat Burns along with Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark.

The conservative Huntington Beach, also known as “Surf City USA,” has a “rich, historic heritage that we all share,” McKeon said, explaining that the 12-month program is “designed to honor the rich, historic heritage of not only Huntington Beach, but the United States and California as well.”

“Myself, as a third-generation Huntington Beach resident, I’ve just been amazed to learn how much of our rich history that I was unaware of, and I can only imagine that the majority of our residents are unaware of as well,” McKeon said. “That was essentially the genesis for this calendar of historically themed months … the monthly celebrations [now] are fragmented, inconsistent and relatively unorganized within the departments.”

Not everyone was on board with the proposal, however.

“I think that this proposal, while perhaps rooted in good intention, raises fundamental questions about the role of our council and priorities of our city,” Councilmember Natalie Moser said.

The chair of the city’s Historic Resources Board, Kathie Schey resigned during public comment on the policy.

“God knows I’m all about celebrating history, right?” Schey said. “This is just peculiar, for want of a better word. Both the approach of the plan and the items that are listed here.”

“This is not public policy,” council member Dan Kalmick said. “This is an Eagle Scout project. This is what we all learned in fourth grade and 10th grade and 11th grade. I do apologize if you didn’t know some of these things; a lot of folks in town do … So, February of 2024 we’re not going to celebrate Black History Month. Why not?”

“This is meant to be a fun exercise that brings the community together,” McKeon responded to critics. “You’re totally over-complicating it.”

Frieda Powers

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