Black Culture Celebration hosts first Juneteenth festival in Vancouver: ‘Be joyous’

Hundreds of artists, fans and allies gathered at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Sunday to mark the city’s first annual Black Culture Celebration on Juneteenth.

The music festival brought together musicians and performers of all backgrounds for an outdoor celebration of Black talent, art, culture, and excellence, meant to be shared and enjoyed by all.

“It’s important because it’s reminding people that Black Lives Matter is more than just a social trend,” explained Black Culture Celebration founder Nova Stevens.

“It’s more than just protesting and marching. We are evolving from that. It’s about celebration. You can fight for what’s right for you and also be joyous.”

Read more: ‘Beginning to speak our truth’: Sixties Scoop exhibit arrives in Vancouver from Alberta

Stevens, who is also Miss Universe Canada 2020, said Juneteenth — June 19 — is a celebration of community, unity and freedom, and that’s what the festival represents.

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“We want you to celebrate our culture with us,” she told Global News. “Being an ally is more than just posting a hashtag or writing a message on social media, it’s about showing up.

“Your actions have to align with your words as well, so make sure that when you do support us, you support Black businesses, Black talent, Black artists.”

Click to play video: 'Juneteenth commemorated across Texas cities with symbolic walks and celebrations' 1:34 Juneteenth commemorated across Texas cities with symbolic walks and celebrations

Juneteenth commemorated across Texas cities with symbolic walks and celebrations

Juneteenth is an important day for Black people worldwide, especially Black Americans. The U.S. national holiday is what many call a “second independence day,” celebrating the abolition of slavery and the sacrifices made by Black people to obtain freedom at the end of the Civil War.

Festival performer Orene Askew, also known as DJ O Show, called on the Canadian federal government to make it a national holiday as well.

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“Juneteenth isn’t just an American celebration, it’s an everybody celebration,” she said. “Just celebrating a day of freedom, not just exclusive to Black people.”

Read more: Nova Scotia schools celebrate first Black Excellence Day

The non-profit, crowd-funded event included musical performances, vendors and food trucks. The majority of artists volunteered to perform.

Public contributions to the event paid for its expenses, including stage and lighting equipment, and honorariums. Remaining funds were donated to Go Supernova, an organization committed to supporting socioeconomically disadvantaged youth.

Click to play video: 'Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’' 2:05 Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’

Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’ – Jun 19, 2020

“I would love to see Vancouver celebrate Black culture on a level that is community-based, not about attention, not about making money,” said Massiah, an artist and member of the board for Go Supernova, of how he hopes to see the momentum expand.

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“Today is incredibly important because it’s not a protest, it’s a celebration. We’re done protesting. The war is over.”

Jean Louis Hardy, a supporter and consultant for the Black Culture Celebration festival, said the event is celebrates “something that’s been around for thousands of years,” permeating fashion, music, art and literature around the world.

He hopes it gives people a greater understanding of one another, he added.

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