Black History Month Takes to Rural Northern California Small Town “Placerville”

Scarlet Schwenk, Political Editor

By Scarlet Schwenk, POLITICAL EDITOR
PLACERVILLE, Calif. –In a small town where race has never dominated the mainstream political conversation, minority groups have been left to fend for themselves in the predominately white town. Since the wake of George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter spreading their message of social justice nationwide, the townspeople of Placerville unify to stand against injustice in their town.
A point of contention within the town is the name “Hangtown” along with its display of a noose, viewed by some as just a part of their history. Black Lives Matter El Dorado County challenges the status quo of race relations in their hometowns.
The growing gentrification of Bay Area neighborhoods is pushing Black and Brown families to retreat to the Sierra Nevada Foothills for more affordable housing. BLM EDC views the noose as a symbol of hate and is uninviting to the families immigrating from the greater Bay Area.
Elizabeth DuBose, one of Placerville’s activists and artists, says “The noose is something that is a part of black history before it became a part of [Hangtown’s history]… it’s my history… it is deeper than putting it on [notecards] and calling it Hangtown… it is glorifying [violence]… [we] can put it in a museum.”
The 2016 election of Donald Trump put the “America First” politics at the forefront of El Dorado County politics. Recently, a member of the far-right nationalist group The Proud Boys has been elected to County’s Veterans Affairs Commission.
In a predominantly white community, activists and young people in Placerville are joining together to celebrate Black History and honor the lives lost to police brutality. On Feb. 20, Black Lives Matter El Dorado County organized an art fair to honor and celebrate Black Lives.
Community members received packets of wildflower seeds to beautify the town and were encouraged to take stickers, postcards, and poetry print-outs to increase awareness about Black History Month and police brutality.
DuBose says BLM EDC has had a “Ripple effect… in a rural community like this where people do not celebrate Black History Month every day…it is a great thing that [people] know this is a welcoming… all-inclusive community.”
The ripple effect of grass-root efforts is echoed across the country in small communities in the push for social justice.

Art display of Osmel Almora Miros’ George Floyd painting, former President Barack Obama, and pop art painting of Jimi Hendrix outside the Placerville county courthouse on Feb. 20.

Elizabeth DuBose’s original artwork on display.

DuBose performs lyrics from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” alongside her original artwork saying her “ancestors inspired [her] painting” using “death” as “a subject of [her] painting since the death of George Floyd in 2020.” “My ancestors are the strange fruit hanging from my popular tree,” says DuBose.

Roger Wilson recites Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America be America Again.” “America never was America to me” bellows Wilson.

Elizabeth DuBose (right) and Dalila Shepherd (left) share a tender moment during Wilson’s performance.

A basket filled with note cards depicting Hangtown’s noose, bringing awareness to the issue. Postcards include city-council member’s names, detailing the noose as an issue.

Artwork displayed by local artists encapsulating the Black Lives Matter movement across the nation.

DuBose and Shepherd spread joy, dancing along to music in celebration of Black History Month.

DuBose reciting her poem “Dear Black Girl.”

Small towns such as Placerville are not alone in the fight for social justice. The Black Lives Matter protests in the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor set off a firework of protests across the country. The power of small towns unifying against injustice has the power to promote positive social change, creating new narratives of what acceptance means in their towns.
Black Lives Matter El Dorado County aims to achieve awareness of issues of racism within their small town. BLM EDC brings together both allies and activists in the community to continue on the path of social justice.
DuBose says “Art and history go together” creating the perfect opportunity to celebrate what it means to be Black in America through the art of physical and verbal expression.
Rural towns across America have the potential to bring fundamental change through increasing voter participation in local, state, and federal elections. Grassroots movements have proven successful in increasing voter turnout throughout American history, most recently seen in the election of Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff. Unity has the power to create positive change for all living in the United States.

“Your black is beautiful.
Your black is something to be proud of.
Do not feel ashamed of the color of your skin.
And do not apologize for it.
You did not get to choose the color of your skin.
Or the curl of your hair.
The kinks, the naps, the fros.
Your hair and your skin is not up for debate.
Your skin is not too dark.
Your skin is not ‘too light to be black.’
You are not ‘pretty for a black girl.’
You are pretty, girl.
Understand the difference and correct them every time.
Tell them your full name and correct them every time.
Speak up and let the people in the back hear your voice.
You know you’re loud so be proud of it.
You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders and the world sees you.
We all see you.
You are no longer silence.
Be free and free others.
Be free in your skin.
Be free.”
Original poem by Elizabeth DuBose