By Mia Wiggins
LEIMERT PARK — The Juneteenth festival in Leimert Park June 19 put the spotlight on Los Angeles’s Black culture.
The festival highlighted style, art, food, rhythm and all things Black.
More than 300 vendors arrived early to display their businesses. Local chefs fired up the grills and prepared food, while disc jockeys like community activist DJ Battlecat played hip-swaying tunes.
The park featured several main attractions: three large stage areas for live performances, food trucks, local fashion stores, a skate park, a children’s park, and a visual artist area that featured paintings and live art.
The most popular attractions at the festival included well-known Black-owned food trucks like Happy Ice and Vegan A.F, and live performances by mainstream artists like Smino, Masego, Terrance Martin and local artists like L.A native Kenyon Dixon.
The food trucks had long lines with customers ready to try some of the city’s favorite recipes. Vegan A.F is a new food truck that features classic soul food dishes with a healthy twist. The truck has a growing social media following that attracts a diverse crowd, from health conscious industry models and artists to foodies who just love a good snack. Vegan A.F is known for its variety of egg rolls, like the vegan cheeseburger roll and the crispy apple pie roll.
The Happy Ice food truck was another fan favorite. Its desserts have the texture of ice cream with fresh, fruity flavors similar to that of shaved iced and it’s vegan.
Though the food trucks seemingly stole the show, the neighborhood chefs demanded just as much attention from the crowd. The smell of Jamaican jerk chicken on a grill was hard for many to pass by.
Apart from the food, the three large stage areas featured live performances that attracted a large portion of the festival attendees.
The Live On Leimert stage featured mainstream artists like Masego, Kamasi Washington, Buddy Price, Jordan Ward and more. The Party In My Living Room, Pray For The Hood Stage highlighted modern hip hop culture and neo soul with artists like Overdoz, Alex Isley, DJ Smiley, Jimetta Rose & The Voice Of The Creators and more. The Elevate Culture Stage featured contemporary music artists like House Music is Black Music, Malachiii, Bryce Savoy and conscious rap artists and poets like Honey Blu and Aja Monet. One of the crowd favorites was a preteen girl with pigtails named DJ Aye Jay. The little girl was charismatic and entertaining and seemed to know exactly when to play a crowd favorite.
Other attractions included local vendors like Sassy Vegan, a skate park, a kids zone, and a visual artist display.
While the parents enjoyed adult areas like private bars, the kids hung out at the skate park or the kids zone. Many dads were out celebrating Father’s Day with their families.
This year marked the first time that Juneteenth was an official city holiday, following an executive order by Mayor Eric Garcetti that was ratified by the City Council.
The day commemoration the end of slavery specifically in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Enforcement of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation generally relied on Union troops.
“The journey for Black Americans has been long and windy, filled with a bruised and a shameful past,” City Councilman Curren Price Jr. said in a statement. “However, embracing the pain and remembering and honoring our sacrifice strengthens and unites us.”
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson spoke before the council voted June 17 on the Juneteenth resolution.
“I am struck by the irony of where we are today … as we’re discussing Juneteenth, a man stood 20 feet from me at a podium holding the battle flag of the Confederate Army, the most deadly struggle in the history of the United States,” Harris-Dawson said.
City News Service also contributed to this story.