OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Theatre Company is kicking off its new Arts Unite series with events offering historical information and panel discussions on Oceanside’s lowrider culture and performances highlighting the city’s first Black pioneers.
Partially funded by a Prebys Foundation grant, the new Arts Unite series will present community-focused events throughout the year with the goal of bringing people of different communities and backgrounds together, building empathy, revealing shared values and generating learning and dialogue.
The first program is free and will present, “Culture of Lowriding: History, Culture and Community,” featuring a panel discussion on Feb. 4 at 2 p.m., followed by “Generational Black Pioneers – Featuring Oceanside Firsts” on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. Both programs will be at the Brooks Theater, located at 217 N. Coast Hwy. in Oceanside.
OTC partners with locals Mad Strange and the Members Only Car Club to present the live community conversation and panel for “Culture of Lowriding: History, Culture, & Community,” in which members from the North County lowrider community share the history and culture of lowriding in North San Diego County.
Developed by Mexican-Americans in Southern California after World War II, lowrider culture showcases cruisers modified to be lower to the ground and other customized features.
Hosted by OTC Board Advisor Jimmy Figueroa, the lowrider event is particularly relevant at this point in history, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 436, which went into effect Jan. 1, prohibiting lowrider bans and anti-cruising ordinances across California.
The bill effectively repeals a 1988 law, which allowed local jurisdictions to make cruising or driving lowriders on city streets a traffic offense. Speakers will discuss more about the cultural impact of both laws at the panel among other topics.
“Generational Black Pioneers – Featuring Oceanside Firsts” is a multimedia theatrical program featuring powerful and impactful moments from the 1960s to the present focused on depicting the turmoil and challenges that brought long-awaited change.
Presented by Oceanside Theatre Company, Oceanside Historical Society and Bliss Tea and Treats, tickets for the performances range from $15 to $20 and are available at www.oceansidetheatre.org, or by calling the box office at 760-433-8900.
Additional performances will be held at Oceanside High School and El Camino High School on Feb. 27.
According to OTC Managing Director Alex Goodman, the new series builds off last year’s successful Black Pioneers performance series.
“Last year’s collaboration for Black Pioneers was such a beautiful, fresh experience, and so well-supported by the community, we knew that there was an opportunity to build upon the 2023 model to engage many more people in 2024,” Goodman said. “We were fortunate to present a compelling proposal for program expansion to the generous folks at the Conrad Prebys Foundation. With their funding, we will now be able to serve thousands of Oceansiders year ‘round with innovative and engaging programs that will hopefully speak to them in ways our traditional theatre and music offerings had not previously been able to.”
Rushell Gordon, owner of Bliss Tea and Treats, Kristi Hawthorne, director of the Oceanside Historical Society, and Linda Bisesti, professor emeritus in the Department of Theatre and New Dance at Cal Poly Pomona will collaborate to bring to life real stories of struggle and triumph.
While set in the 1960s amid the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, the production draws a comparison to the struggles still faced by Black Americans today. Stories will encompass the history of the early black church in Oceanside, the first Black teachers in Oceanside’s school district, the first black mayor Terry Johnson, the first and current Black police chief Kedrick Sadler, and the first Black president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce Robbie Hass.
Additional cultural pioneer programs are planned to celebrate Oceanside’s Latino community, Asian Pacific Islander Community and LGBTQ communities throughout the calendar year.
Along with the new Lived Experience series hosted by Jimmy Figueroa and an Artist Talkback series hosted by OTC Artistic Director Kevin ‘Blax’ Burroughs, Arts Unite aims to bring people together.
Businesses interested in co-sponsoring opportunities should contact Alex Goodman at [email protected]. Sponsorship is tax deductible through the Oceanside Theatre Company, a nonprofit organization.