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O’side Cultural Institutions Celebrate Black Entrepreneurs

NONPROFITS: Event Slated for Feb. 11 at Brooks Theater

Did you know that the course of Oceanside’s history was impacted by Biddy Mason? Mason was the first Black woman to own property in California and she later became one of the richest women in Los Angeles.

Or that Charles Etta Reece came to Oceanside in 1937, started the first catering service in town and opened her own restaurant in 1948? And then Reece founded the North County NAACP, established the Oceanside Girls Club and was awarded the Sojourner Truth Award in 1969 by the San Diego Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club.

Those bits of history and other little-known but important facts will be presented as part of a collaboration by the Oceanside Theatre Company and Oceanside Historical Society as a way to celebrate February as Black History Month.

The two nonprofits are holding a one-night-only event at the Brooks Theater on North Coast Highway.

“Generational Black Pioneers, Featuring Oceanside Entrepreneurs” is an interactive, multimedia exploration that showcases Black entrepreneurs in Oceanside throughout the years. The nonfictional narrative and fictional dramatization will be held at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11 at the theater at 217 N. Coast Highway.

The account spotlights stories of Oceanside Black business owners past and present.

The unique experience will feature live actors depicting Black historical figures who played important roles in Oceanside’s history throughout several generations.

The Oceanside Historical Society (OHS) and the Oceanside Theatre Company (OTC) have collaborated to bring to the public the vision of Rushell Gordon, owner of Bliss Tea & Treats in downtown Oceanside.

Alex Goodman
Interim Managing Director
Oceanside Theater Company

“I met (Oceanside Historical Society Director) Kristi Hawthorne within the first few weeks of starting at Oceanside Theatre Company (and) I was impressed with her work at the (OHS) and I knew there was some collaboration that needed to happen,” says Oceanside Theatre Company Interim Managing Director Alex Goodman.

“OTC and OHS began producing ‘Histories and Mysteries’ in August 2022, a series of successful public presentations on untold stories from Oceanside’s archives. When Rushell Gordon approached OTC a few months later inquiring about ways that she and her business, Bliss Tea & Treats, could support our work, I could tell we had several ingredients to make something special happen.”

Gordon connected with Hawthorne to inquire about Black-owned businesses in Oceanside. They both discovered that there has not been enough Black history documented – and that something needed to happen in order to change that trend. So the two started a campaign to collect data with the intention to use the information to build a database at the Oceanside Historical Society.

But the effort is also being used to honor Black-owned businesses past and present, some of which will be presented at the Feb. 11 event.

The show is directed by Linda Bisesti, professor emeritus from Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Theatre. Bisesti is an Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists actor, director and the artistic director of Southern California Shakespeare Festival Guild.

Tickets are $15 and available at www.oceansidetheatre.org, or by calling the box office at 760-433-8900.

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