February’s city theme for Huntington Beach will be “We Love Our Libraries” in 2024, while the city will make no mention of Black History Month.

In June, the city theme will be focused on the history of Independence Day, but the city will not be recognizing (LGBTQ+) Pride Month.

The City Council voted 4 to 3 on Tuesday night to approve a 12-month calendar that will see each month dedicated to a specific theme but would remove other familiar months from the recognition list.

The item, introduced by Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns and Councilman Casey McKeon, states that it is designed to honor the rich historic heritage of the country, state and Surf City itself. Each month’s theme will highlight significant events, landmarks and influential figures.

Tony Strickland voted to approve the item, while Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton all voted “no.”

McKeon said that over the past year, city archivist and historian Kathie Schey has sent him about 20 chronological photos of the history of Huntington Beach that he has hanging in his council office.

“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.”

But Schey, earlier in the meeting during public comments, said she would be resigning as the chair of the historic resources board and as member of the design review board in protest of the item.

Another seven- to nine-member committee would be created to decide the calendar of events for each year, which she saw as usurping the power of the historic resources board.

“I think it’s a pretty thinly veiled, stinging vote of no confidence both in my role as a historian and leadership of the historic resources board,” Schey said.

“The members of that board include a history professor, two history authors, two of the great-grandsons of our first mayor ... and this is unfair to them.”

The item states the committee could be assisted by the historic resources board or city staff, as needed.

McKeon said the board was not consulted before the item was put on the agenda, though he did have a conversation with Schey over the weekend.

Monthly themes for 2024, as proposed and amended Tuesday, include celebrating the city’s origins and remembrance of the Holocaust in January, California’s history in March and the history of Huntington Beach’s railroad in April. But the item also states that any previous monthly themes or celebrations approved by earlier City Councils would be repealed and superseded.

These federally recognized celebrations include Black History Month, Women’s History Month in March and Pride Month in June, among others.

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month runs from mid-September to mid-October.

The item states that the new Huntington Beach celebrations are intended to be “free of any identity politics and political agendas.”

Kalmick questioned both the item itself and why the previously approved celebrations need to be disregarded.

“This is not public policy,” he 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?”

McKeon said the previous themed months could be added back in future years.

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

Moser, who has a bachelor’s degree in history from Cal State Long Beach, said that presenting a comprehensive historical narrative is complex, and she cautioned against over-simplification or inadvertent sanitizing of the past.

“I love history and I want us to know more about history, [but] our immediate role as council members is to prioritize the needs of the community that directly impact them,” she said.

Don Han is the director of community partnerships for Groundswell, formerly known as OC Human Relations.

He said he had been working to support the Huntington Beach Human Relations Task Force/Committee, which the council voted to ax over the summer, since 2005.

“It is kind of disheartening to see that the nationally recognized heritage months are being removed from the city of Huntington Beach,” Han said Wednesday.

“The history of Huntington Beach is the history of these people. If Huntington Beach wants to continue to celebrate its diversity, it has to embrace and be inclusive of all people, so that they feel that they belong. Removing the Black History Month celebration, imagine if you identify as a Black person in that community, to see your city’s elected officials say, ‘We’re not going to recognize you and your history.’ That can be disheartening.”

State Sen. Dave Min also released a statement that was highly critical of the item.

Burns said that the federally recognized months were already well known and being celebrated.

“Just not in Huntington Beach,” Kalmick said.