Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival back on schedule

Wave Staff and Wire Reports

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Organizers of the annual Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival announced June 6 that this year’s celebration was being scaled back due to lackluster fundraising, rising costs and safety concerns. 

But the Leimert Park Merchants Association announced June 12 the event was still on for June 19 with a celebration themed ‘Black Family Reunion.” 

“The event is a pivotal moment in our history,” said Queen Amina, president of the association. “Celebrate our vibrant culture and pay homage to our ancestors, underscoring the significance of Juneteenth in Leimert Park.”   

The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with drum circle dancers, musical performances, line dancing, poetry readings, double Dutch jump ropes and a dedicated kids’ zone. 

Rizza Islam will give a speech on “Why We Must Celebrate Juneteenth,” and City Councilwoman Heather Hutt will make a special announcement, naming the “Sika Corridor” in Leimert Park in honor of Sika Dwimfo, the longest tenured resident merchant on Degnan Boulevard.

Organizers of the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival announced on its website last week that this year’s festival had been canceled because organizers said they could not meet fundraising goals necessary to “ensure a footprint that would be safe and hold the integrity of the event at scale,” but pledged that the festival would return in 2025.

“The festival is just resetting herself, so she can come back stronger than ever, better than ever,” Alfred Torregano, owner of Still Rising, which was producing the festival, told City News Service June 6. “We’re meeting, we are discussing and we are organizing.”

The Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival dates back to 1949 when Texas native Jonathan Leonard moved to Los Angeles and started celebrating Juneteenth, 72 years before it became a federal and California holiday.

“Juneteenth is a holiday in which the Leonard family has been assembling families in a picnic-style fashion inside Leimert Park for 75 years,” Torregano said. “So, we have a privilege to tack on to what they’ve doing and turn it into a festival that people could take to the next level.

“We do welcome the community to come out and still celebrate. The businesses on the block will still be open and some vendors too.”

Torregano cited the festival’s growth over the years as a result of the Black community — and how they value “our culture, our community and Black joy.”

He noted the festival has helped small businesses, and the event has generated more than $10 million in the last three years.

“This has become a record selling day for Black businesses in the area. That’s why we can host up to 300 to 400 vendors at a time,” Torregano said. “It’s an important day. This is an intersection of culture and commerce. This is our economic catalyst moment.”

Torregano said organizers considered moving the stages to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but that would require time to come to an agreement with the property owners. He also felt that the festival should stay in Leimert Park.

Organizers said the Leimert Park is one of the “largest Black community events in the Los Angeles, second only to the Taste of Soul.”

“We want to keep it in Leimert Park. That’s what makes it special,” Torregano said. “But it is a residential neighborhood, and it creates so much impact on these local residents, and so with respect to that, we want to be responsible stewards of community and culture, and we want to make sure that we can do this safely.”

Other Juneteenth celebrations also are being planned in surrounding communities.

The city of El Segundo will partner with the Los Angeles College of Music for a Black in Mayberry Juneteenth celebration June 15 from noon to 6 p.m. at El Segundo Recreation Park, 401 Sheldon St. 

Culver City will celebrate Juneteenth from 1 to 4 p.m. June 22 at Town Plaza at the Culver Steps, 9300 Culver Blvd. The event will include live music, kids; activities vendors and resource services.

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell will host a Juneteenth  celebration and resource fair from 4 to 8 p.m. June 21 at Victoria Community Regional Park, 419 Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Carson.   

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were informed that they were free, marking the end of slavery.

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