Best Ways to Experience Culture and Diversity in Pasadena

Allen Edson is one of the Pasadena’s greatest changemakers.

Allen Edson is one of the Pasadena’s greatest changemakers. But before becoming president of the Pasadena branch of the NAACP (, the Pasadena native moved up north to pursue a BA in economics from UC Berkeley. After working in the aerospace industry for 15 years, and over 20 years in nonprofit management with a focus in environmental justice, Edson formed his own environmental remediation company that was awarded “Emerging Business of the Year” in San Francisco in 2006. Several years later, the father of three returned to his hometown, where he advocates for the much-needed acceleration of civil rights and social justice to create a better, more inclusive Pasadena.

My favorite historical site is the Ruby McKnight Williams Bench, located at Westgate and Arroyo. The bench is in a tranquil setting, great for contemplation or meditation, or just a fun spot to relax. My favorite cultural experience is the Pasadena Black History Parade. The parade has been presented for 34 years and is a must-do event during Black History Month. Vintage cars transport elected officials and public figures on the parade route; marching bands and civic groups make up the parade participants; and the parade makes way for a festival with entertainment and food.

Speaking of food, the best sandwiches in Pasadena are from Perry’s Joint, at Lincoln and Montana. Perry’s sandwiches are prepared with love and are a must-taste experience.

I am a member of Civitas, a club for creative and civic-minded thinkers who are passionate about improving our community in innovative and positive ways. It is a place for civil discussion among a diverse and dynamic group of people who want to make a difference in the community. The school program STEAM:Coders inspires underrepresented and underserved students and their families through science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

The best way to experience diversity in the city is to attend the annual NAACP Ruby McKnight Williams Dinner and Awards Banquet. The audience is a mix of elected officials, business leaders, and community members, and our awards are given to a diverse group of community members that provide services in Pasadena.

Circa 1948, my grandparents hosted formal parties [at their home] for my dad, his brother, and his sister, where the women wore evening gowns and the men dressed in tuxedos and suits. Everyone had an opportunity to practice their social graces. A piece of Pasadena history that most people don’t know or have forgotten about is that, due to segregation in Pasadena, African Americans were not allowed to have these types of events at local hotels or event centers.

An under-appreciated cultural gem is Alkebulan Cultural Center. The center hosts

cultural activities and classes, including African dance and drumming, and art from local artists is on display. One of the people making a difference in Pasadena is Florence Annang. She has her own after school/summer program targeting local youth called Thrive!!! Learning Lab, is active in civic affairs, and has been selected to represent the NAACP on the Community Police Oversight Commission.

One of my favorite cultural monuments are the busts installed in Centennial Plaza in front of City Hall to honor two Pasadena icons, the Robinson brothers: Jackie, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, and Mack, a silver medalist in the 200-meter dash in the 1936 Olympics.

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