This September, in an historic vote, the City Council of Glendale voted unanimously to adopt a resolution acknowledging the city’s racially exclusionary past as a “sundown town.” This makes Glendale the third U.S. city and the first city in California to pass such a resolution.
It started in 2019, when Glendale City church (GCC) began to grapple with the city’s history and their role in supporting the city’s enforcement of racist policies. “We talked about what took place in our city and shared stories from current and former church members of color on how they were treated by white church members,” recalled Todd Leonard, GCC senior pastor. “The executive director of YWCA Glendale viewed our worship services on this topic and asked me to share our history and stories at its first Summit on Racism later that spring. Without my knowledge, my sharing at this event was the first time many city residents in attendance heard about our sundown town history and led some to begin doing more research and begin planning how to bring this to the attention of our city’s leaders.”
Then, in May, the murder of George Floyd brought about a social awakening. “Our church was one of two congregations that partnered with local non-profits, community organizations, and concerned residents to launch the Coalition for an Anti-Racist Glendale and organized a rally at city hall that drew more than 2,000 people to peacefully but forcefully demand our city to change its ways regarding its racist past and present,” Leonard said. “From there, we wrote a resolution admitting to our city’s sundown town history, something it had never admitted to before. Without too much pushing, our city council members, sensing this as a moment of destiny, adopted much of the language we had suggested in putting together its own resolution that was eventually voted.”
“This moment wouldn’t have happened without our congregation’s expressed commitment in 2019 to right the wrongs of our city’s and congregation’s past,” Mike Kim, GCC associate pastor, shared. “Leading by example inspired other kindred spirits in our community to work together to push our city’s leaders toward justice.”