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Stories of Diversity Across California

Across California, Black, Indigenous and People of Color have created cultural cornerstones reflective of their countries of origin - bringing with them rich food, beautiful literature, creative narratives and vibrant art. It’s easy to see why the state’s diverse businesses, communities and experiences have come to play such an important role in shaping California’s history and culture. Visitors are encouraged to dig deeper and experience this collection of cultures themselves.

Northern California

San Francisco 
The Golden City comprises 36 neighborhoods, each defined by its own unique community. The city’s South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood is home to the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District, the fastest growing Asian-Pacific Islander community in California. Recently, Kultivate Labs, a nonprofit organization within the district, raised $2 million with the intent to uplift the community through economic development projects and incubating emerging Filipino businesses. The highly successful Undiscovered SF created an opportunity for the neighborhood to showcase its culture with a Filipino-inspired night market. Further plans include Republika, the first innovative retail and event space in the U.S. dedicated to supporting Filipino businesses in the city.

As the birthplace of The Black Panther Movement, Oakland is filled with multicultural gems that explore the heritage of African American history through the preservation of a community from its art and culture to food and literature. Betti Ono, named by Essence magazine as one of the five reasons to visit Oakland, is the global headquarters of the cultural arts venue, gallery, and arts and design store in the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBM). Founded by Oakland native, Anyka Barber, the Black-led and operated organization named after Betty Mabry Davis and Yoko Ono is dedicated to uplifting Black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ artists and communities.

Artistry continues to play a pivotal role in storytelling with painters like Felicia Gabaldon, whose work is influenced by her American Indian of the Choctaw Tribe and Spanish heritage. Sprinkled throughout the Bay area, Gabaldon’s murals range from Mexican folklore to beautiful women and animals in traditional tribal adornments touching on self-discovery, culture and the history of Indigenous people.

As one of the 10 most diverse cities in California, Sacramento’s food and beverage scene is seeing an increase in the number of minority- and Black-owned businesses. Newly opened Fixins, an elevated soul food restaurant, celebrates the heritage and culture of African Americans by Sacramento native and former NBA All-Star and Mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife Michelle. The couple is committed to supporting the community by increasing local employment and economic wealth, and partners with Edible Sac High to encourage disadvantaged youth to pursue careers in the restaurant industry.  

Oak Park Brewing prides itself on not only creating an environment where people can enjoy quality craft beers but also giving back to the community with events and concerts to recognize local artists (as seen on their 16 oz. cans of beer) and raise funds for local nonprofits. Similarly, Rob Archie and Peter Hoey, co-owners of Urban Roots Brewing & Smokehouse encourage guests to spark conversations with others while dining at one of their many oversized picnic tables. Hoey also owns Pangaea Bier Café in Curtis Park, which is consistently recognized as the “best burger” in Sacramento.

Best known as the “Garlic Capital of the World,” Gilroy is also known as a destination for delicious, authentic and affordable Mexican food. Over 55% of the residents are Hispanic or Latinx, which is reflected in nearly 30 family-owned Mexican restaurants and shops along the Gilroy Taco Trail. From casual taquerias Gaeta’s and Los Pericos Restaurant & Taqueria to sit-down restaurants Cielito Lindo and Victoria’s Mexican Restaurant, these restaurants are longtime favorites of locals and visitors alike.

Central California

With its easy ocean access and downtown revitalization, Seaside is a growing destination. Among the new businesses taking up shop, Deja Blue - a new bar-club-restaurant - offers a taste of New Orleans-inspired cuisine.  Recently, Babaloo Cuban Café’s owner, Gladys Parada, moved her Cuban-inspired sandwich and soup food truck into a brick-and-mortar business. Visitors can also taste their way through fried catfish, hushpuppies and more at Michelle’s Soul Food Kitchen.

Ivy League-trained and internationally recognized vegetable seed scientist and chef, Hutton “Bobby” Jones is the owner of Caribbean Haven, a fast-casual dining establishment offering Caribbean, Filipino and vegan food. Inspired by his Guyanese heritage and flavors of the Caribbean and Philippines, Jones recognized the lack of diversity among neighborhood restaurants, particularly Caribbean, and changed that by introducing Ventura to his authentic high-quality dishes.

In Fillmore, just outside of the city, Corky’s Nuts is a female- and Black-owned organic walnut farm, owned by Nicole Facciuto. Named after her father, Facciuto’s farm aims to educate and transform people’s understanding of the healthy and vitamin-rich nut.

Southern California

Los Angeles

With a population over 12 million people and counting, Los Angeles is one of the largest cities rightfully considered an international melting pot. It’s easy to experience what makes the City of Angels so unique - from Thai Town in East Hollywood, Little Ethiopia in the Fairfax District, Chinatown’s Twin Dragon Towers Gateway in downtown Los Angeles to Historic Filipinotown between Silverlake and Echo Park, the city’s diversity is limitless. 

Leimert Park is a vital part of South L.A.’s diversity as a cultural hub for African American communities. Known as “Black Greenwich Village,” the historic and contemporary neighborhood is home to art and cultural organizations Art + Practice, KAOS Network, and The World Stage that aim to educate and uplift the community’s youth and residents through art, music and spoken word. The area is also home to several family-owned eateries including Afro-Caribbean restaurants Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine and Hot and Cool Cafe, Soul Food-inspired Dulan’s on Crenshaw and Delicious Southern Cuisine, plus Baba’s Vegan Café and plant-based Ethiopian eatery Azla. Bibliophiles find solace at Eso Won Books, one of the oldest independent bookstores in the area known for highlighting the African American experience and African diaspora. Nearby, Malik Books has also become a great resource for those looking to expand their list of Black authors.

The city is filled with cultural magnets built around family, food and sharing with others. Porto’s Bakery & Café, known for its deliciously baked Cuban desserts and savory dishes, draws people from all over town, including tourists, for its famous mouth-watering potato balls, guava cheese rolls and desserts almost too good to eat.

Long Beach
The coastal city of Long Beach is recognized as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in America, including the highest concentration of Cambodian descendants outside of Cambodia. Cambodia Town plays an important role in Long Beach’s cultural enrichment with a mile-long stretch of shops, restaurants, temples and more.

San Diego
Award-winning African American artist and sculptor, Manuelita Brown, creates figurative bronze sculptures reflecting the strength and beauty of her own people, descendants of African survivors in the Americas. Brown’s pieces can be found throughout the city including Triton, an 8-foot rendering of the “messenger of the sea” majestically immortalized on the University of California San Diego campus, as well as a statue of Sojourner Truth and a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The Barrio Logan Cultural District is home to Chicano Park, a cultural mecca filled with 80 nationally recognized murals in one of San Diego’s oldest Mexican American neighborhoods, Logan Heights. The vibrant multigenerational community is home to a growing number of art galleries, pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. 

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.