Los Angeles gears up for Juneteenth celebrations

By Ural Garrett

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — While Congress was in the process of passing a bill that would make Juneteenth, the celebration that marks the end of slavery, a federal holiday, organizations in Los Angeles were preparing to celebrate the with a variety of events this weekend.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill June 15 that would make June 19 a holiday. The House of Representatives voted in favor of the measure June 16, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Though slavery supposedly ended in 1863 following President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, it remained in Texas and other southern states for another two years. That ended when a union general rode into Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865, and announced that the Civil War had ended and slaves had been freed.

Some organizations have already started celebrating Juneteenth such as Community Build, which is holding an exhibit featuring more than 100 pictures, memorabilia and documents on emancipation, civil rights, politics and art.

as part of its African American Heritage Month Legacy Project at its headquarters in Leimert Park.

“Black men and women’s contributions to this country really can’t be overstated,” said Community Build President Robert Sausedo. “On the heels of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the [100-year anniversary of the] Oklahoma Wall Street Massacre, we need to acknowledge the historic and cultural contributions of African Americans in making this country what it is today.”

Also in Leimert Park, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas will mark the reopening of the Leimert Park Plaza in a special Juneteenth ceremony at 11 a.m. June 19 and Black Arts Los Angeles, a collective of organizations making up the Cultural Services Alliance and Special Events Task Force, Earthseed Coalition and Juneteenth Heritage Festival will collaborate for the two-day Leimert Park Rising Festival.

The weekend event will feature food trucks, vendors representing the community, technological exhibitions from popular local tech organization TecLemiert and more. There also will be performances from nationally recognized talent including Grammy Award winners Terrence Martin, Robert Glasper and collective 1500 or Nothin.

Assisting with festival duties ranging from marketing to finance, recording artist and event coordinator Yannick “Thurz” Koffi said the event is a celebration of Los Angeles’ Black mecca.

“In Leimert, we see Black business and fellowship on a day-to-day basis along with a history of Black programming at the World Stage, Good Life, Project Blowed, Bananas, etc,” Thurz said. “Juneteenth represents Black liberation and Black liberation is a product of Black imagination.”

Juneteenth Heritage Festival founder Gail Jennings said that she hopes Leimert Park Rising Festival will help popularize the area for tourism and economic growth.

“I think that it is very significant that they are assigning a space there in the community that will give definition to that place as a cultural destination,” Jennings said.

Jennings also will work with Black Arts Los Angeles and ThinkWatts to bring a Juneteenth Heritage Festival to Watts at Ted Watkins Park, 1335 E. 103rd St. June 19.

The event will feature community vendors, food trucks, live entertainment and family activities. ThinkWatts founder and community activists/artist Stix will be receiving a key to the city on that day as well.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell will hold a Juneteenth Celebration and Resource Fair at Earvin “Magic Johnson” Park, 905 E. El Segundo Blvd., in South Los Angeles.

High school students from the Sheenway School & Culture Center will serve up homemade baked goods throughout South Los Angeles in a food truck.

In Burbank, Maroon Arts and Culture will hold a Juneteenth event from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19 at 2524 W. Magnolia Blvd. Activities for the event include yoga, medication, vendors, music, art, performances and an open mic. The event also will be streamed simultaneously on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.

Maroon Arts Culture founder Lindsay Jenkins wanted to make sure individuals outside of Los Angeles proper had a chance to celebrate the holiday.

“Juneteenth is not only our anniversary as an organization, it’s personally my favorite holiday,” Jenkins said. “I feel passionately that people should be able to access Juneteenth programming anywhere in the county and I wanted to make sure we had a Juneteenth event here in the valley. My fellow Support Black Theatre members felt the same way and I’m grateful for their support in making it happen.”

The city of West Hollywood and Dignity and Power Now will present a virtual panel discussion about racial injustice at noon June 19 in recognition of Juneteenth.

The panel discussion can be viewed via the Zoom platform at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SVOQzfbPS-GZ0Bt7VqHR8A. Community members may live-stream the panel by visiting the city’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/wehotv.