‘Black joy is a form of resistance.’ L.A.’s Juneteenth is partying with purpose

The small group converged Tuesday evening on the wide alleyway in downtown Los Angeles’ warehouse district. The young Black men and women filed out of cars and dapped and hugged the way you would any other day before the great pandemic.

Then they got down to business.

The meeting was a walkthrough for a block party they were planning to celebrate Juneteenth. It was dark out, but the unconventional venue was illuminated by street lamps and the bright security lights on nearby loading docks. So was the colorful graffiti on nearly every inch of the surrounding buildings.

“I️’ve literally driven down almost every dark corner in this city, at 2 and 3 a.m., looking for a space where we can bring some light and joy via our block party,” said Brian Henry, the party’s creator and lead organizer. “I happened across this space in 2019 and said, ‘Wow! This would be incredible.’”

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 People are preparing for a Juneteenth festival to be held at Leimert Park Plaza.

Alexandrie Johnson holds her 2-year-old son, Novah Booker, as Christopher Wilkinson plays in a drum circle in Leimert Park Plaza.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In the past, the group had hosted the block party in parking lots. “This is the first time we’re hosting in what feels like a city block,” Henry said triumphantly.

Juneteenth will be the first major opportunity to party in public after the city opened back up Tuesday with the rest of California. There are celebrations underway all over the L.A. area, including a parade in Inglewood and a block party in Leimert Park on Saturday.

For younger Black Angelenos, the celebrations are a much needed cleanser after a devastating year. COVID-19 struck the Black community across the U.S. harder than most other groups. Many lost businesses and jobs; others lost their health — or their lives. There was the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the protests that swept across the country.

After so much sadness, something else was needed.

“Black joy,” Henry declared, “is a form of resistance.”

The prominent L.A. deejay started the annual block party in 2014 to celebrate something simpler: his birthday. Davon Johnson, a production designer and architect, joined him in 2016. They were on track to grow the “B-Hen Block Party” last year until COVID-19 hit.

They took a moment to regroup and decided that they wanted to have an even bigger celebration when the world opened back up.

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“We wanted to do this on Juneteenth,” Johnson said. “This is a moment where we can showcase that Black people are doing amazing, beautiful, positive things.”

On Tuesday night, the group of friends and collaborators walked the length of the alleyway together, each team member sharing new ideas and noting concerns aloud. Johnson had security on his mind. Naydea Davis, the event’s logistics manager, was trying to imagine the flow of traffic and how to control it.

“We can use this to our advantage,” she said about a chain-link fence before moving on to how many bike racks they might need to block entrances. Lulit Solomon, Henry’s manager and the director of operations for the event, kept a running tally of how much every idea and concern would cost.

Henry showed off the space to Nico Craig, another deejay he’d invited to spin alongside him, motioning with his hands where Craig would stand. Henry planned an eclectic set that’ll keep everybody moving, “not your typical Top 40, or your trap set.”

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“I’m gonna play music from across the diaspora to ensure that everyone feels welcome — New Orleans bounce, Afrobeats, Baltimore club, Bay Area hyphy,” he said. “It all lends to a sense of community.”

Johnson said the party was also an opportunity for younger organizers and event planners to share new ideas on how to celebrate the holiday. The result this year? A Saturday night dance party with LED screens, livestreaming and projection mapping.

The team is expecting 800 to 1,000 people, at a cost of $40 per ticket, to show up and party.

Tylynn Burns, Ashlee Cartznes, Kayla Valentine, Rebecca Magett, Tai Spears and Amanda Scott — the women of House Party Creative — were all exhausted by Friday afternoon. They spent the week organizing a slate of Juneteenth events. One, a yoga session and sound bath to promote wellness and healthful Black fatherhood, went off without a hitch Wednesday.

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A few days later, the ladies were shuffling around hurriedly to set up a fundraiser at the California African American Museum.

It was Burns, the founder and chief executive of the group, who first brought the women together as friends. They didn’t plan to work together at first. But then the spring of 2020 happened.

The COVID-19 pandemic was starting to ramp up and the protests over Floyd’s killing by Officer Derek Chauvin — who was convicted of murder in April — were sprouting across the country. L.A. was under a shutdown aimed to prevent the spread of the virus. But Burns didn’t want to let the Juneteenth holiday pass unnoticed.

She organized a car parade through Inglewood. There were no major preparations or permits secured. In a way, it was a protest as much as it was a celebration. They sent out invitations via text and people came out in droves.

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“We learned a lot about what we can create and accomplish as a unit under pressure,” Burns said. “This year, we are coming back greater and Blacker than ever.”

The women, most of whom have day jobs in marketing and public relations, organized officially as House Party Creative soon after. This year, the group’s Juneteenth celebrations include a return of the Inglewood car parade Saturday and a yacht party Sunday in Marina del Rey.

“This is a team of all girls, all twenty-somethings really doing things for their community, for no real financial gain or clout,” Scott said.

Of all of the events planned for Juneteenth, the celebration in Leimert Park Village is perhaps the most anticipated. Not only is the neighborhood one of the city’s hubs for Black culture, but it’s also been the epicenter of its Juneteenth festivities since 1949 when businessman Jonathan Leonard began hosting traditional barbecues in his backyard.

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Starting in 2011, a group called Black Arts Los Angeles began staging the Juneteenth Heritage Festival, a two-day celebration that fanned out through the village from Leimert Park Plaza. The plaza was fenced off in March 2018 for renovations, placing a strain on the festival, and it was canceled last year because of COVID-19.

Still, neither the lack of a plaza nor the threat of the virus was able to shut down Juneteenth in Leimert Park.

Two entrepreneurs, Tony Jolly and Elijah Simmons, organized their own event called Leimert Park Rising x Pray for the Hood, and plenty of people came out, albeit in masks. Last year’s success marked a passing of the torch, with Black Arts Los Angeles stepping aside and a new generation of organizers coming together under the name Leimert Park Rising, led by a coalition of local groups and initiatives.

Friday afternoon, Camille Davis, director of Leimert Park Rising, was putting out administrative fires. The vendors her group invited to sell their wares during the neighborhood’s Juneteenth festivities needed safety permits in a matter of hours.

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They were also behind schedule setting up their booths because drivers had removed signs that held their spots and parked their cars along Degnan Boulevard, Leimert Park’s main drag. Davis could have them towed, but she wouldn’t dare.

That’s not “the village way,” she said. The village way, it turned out, was less forceful but perhaps just as effective. “You see Dorothy,” Davis said, pointing to collaborator Dorothy Pirtle on the sidewalk. “She has a bullhorn.”

Despite having equipment donated by actress, writer and producer Issa Rae, the group felt it had to receive the blessing and cooperation of community members and merchants.

For weeks, Davis and others drove early in the morning to the village before the first shops opened. They walked up and down Degnan Boulevard, door to door, speaking to people about what they were planning.

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It felt like the right thing to do after the roller coaster of the pandemic.

“We had to confer with each and every merchant, every staple in the village, just to get their blessing to move forward with plans,” Davis said. “It’s really an honor that our elders and even other young people in the village trust us to do something that’s going to be mutually beneficial for everybody…. We really couldn’t have done it without the community. There’s no working around them or without them.”

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With Houstonians ready to get back outside, Juneteenth 2021 events take center stage

With the nationwide GOP attack on Black educational perspectives, the 100-year commemoration of the Tulsa Race Massacre and voter suppression antics running wild, Black people are wide open for something positive.

This openness comes with COVID cases decreasing and a nation ready to get back outside, making Juneteenth 2021 potentially the most participated and celebrated in recent memory.

Here are a few ways to commemorate the holiday.

On Juneteenth with Annette Gordon-Reed – Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annette Gordon-Reed speaks on her new book On Juneteenth which examines the Texas roots of the holiday.

  • Thursday, June 17; 7pm
  • To Register: http://www.lbjlibrary.org/events/on-juneteenth-with-annette-gordon-reed

Juneteenth Weekend Fun

  • Friday & Saturday, June 18 & 19
  • The Heritage Society
  • 1100 Bagby St., Houston 77002

Missouri City Juneteenth Celebration 2021

  • Multiple days, multiple events
  • For More Info: https://www.missouricityjuneteenthcelebration.com/event-details/juneteenth-celebration-2021-vendor-registration

Emancipation Park’s 149th Annual Juneteenth Celebration

  • June 17 – 19
  • For More Info: www.epconservancy.org or contact: Patrina Johnson, 346-319-3033

BLCK Market Houston Juneteenth Celebration

  • Saturday, June 19, 11am – 5pm
  • Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
  • 3816 Caroline, Houston 77004

Gulf Coast Juneteenth Blues Concert

  • Saturday, June 19, 8:30pm
  • Miller Outdoor Theater (Hermann Park)
  • 6000 Hermann Park Dr, Houston 77030

Juneteenth in the 5th

  • Saturday, June 19, 10am-2pm
  • Deluxe Theater
  • 3303 Lyons Ave. Houston 77020

Juneteenth Weekend Food Truck & Zydeco

  • Saturday & Sunday, June 19 & 20
  • Shrine Cultural & Events Center
  • 5313 MLK Blvd., Houston 77021 

Juneteenth Black Art Exhibit Opening Day

  • Saturday, June 19, 1pm – 5pm
  • Primary Paint Party – Prime Art Gallery
  • 11002 Westheimer Rd, Houston 77042

Concert in the Park: Missouri City Juneteenth

  • Saturday, June 19, 1:30pm
  • Hunters Glen Park
  • 1340 Independence Blvd., Mo City 77489
  • For More Info: www.missouricityjuneteenthcelebration.com

Juneteenth Family Fun Day

  • Saturday, June 19, 12noon – 3pm
  • Bienvenue Events
  • 9630 N Sam Houston Pkwy E, Suite C, Humble 77396

Freedmen’s Town Juneteenth Chili Cook-Off

  • Saturday, June 19, 5pm – 10pm
  • 1108 Victor St., Houston 77019

Juneteenth & Black Music Month at Moonstruck Drive-In

  • Saturday, June 19, 7:30pm & 8:30pm
  • DJ Red’s Juneteenth Chopped and Screwed Mixtape, 7:30pm
  • Showing of “Miss Juneteenth,” 8:30pm
  • Moonstruck Drive-In Cinema
  • 100 Bringhurst St., Houston 77020
  • For More Info: www.hmaac.org/miss-juneteenth

OTHER JUNETEENTH DAY EVENTS

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David Jonsson: ‘Lena Dunham thinks British people eat scones every day’

There were kids riding past on scooters, like: ‘Nah man, I don’t know what they’re filming, man! Move!’” David Jonsson dials his London accent up, laughing breathily as he recalls a film shoot a few weeks earlier in south London. He was working on a new romcom created by two of the writers of the BBC comedy Famalam, soaking up the culture in the sweltering city, and – somehow, despite being 27 and looking precisely nothing like him – being mistaken for another actor by a group of teens. “They were like, who is that … is that Idris Elba?”

It is one of many bountiful laughs that pepper a conversation with the star of the BBC/HBO TV series Industry, a rare show to live up to the hype that prefaced it in 2020. We meet at the Almeida Theatre in north London to speak about And Breathe … , his new one-man play.

Self-possessed, funny and “quite a quiet person” (I nudge my Dictaphone closer to him to make sure it picks up his voice), Jonsson is an “east London boy” who grew up in a working-class family of Afro Creole descent, near London’s Docklands. His life is worlds away from the character that brought him to critical attention last year: Industry’s Old Etonian Gus. Set in the hyper-competitive world of City banking, Industry is a show that makes The Apprentice look like kids’ TV. Drawing comparisons with everything from This Life to Skins and Mad Men, it also pulled the rare trick of making viewers feel nothing but anguish for its lead characters – even the one earning a £50,000 bonus.

Jonsson was in Morocco when he first heard about the role. He was making a spy series, Deep State, “playing an MI5 officer, shooting guns in the desert each day. I remember getting the email and being like: ‘What is on this page?!’ It was grounded in a reality that I knew was real but hadn’t seen. My family have always looked at bankers sceptically – money means deception. I thought it would be an interesting thing to challenge.”

Challenge it he did, bringing complexity and humanity to Gus, the cocksure City boy forced to deal with heartbreak, via a relationship with a closeted university friend, and a toxic workplace where he had to prove he was more than a ‘diversity hire’. “Talking to people about the show always surprises me,” he says. “We filmed it for six months in rural Wales. I was doing this character – trying to understand him and get under his skin – but when people say he was this or that, or he felt so true [to life], I’m like: ‘Wow!’ I think it’s very relatable to young people in their 20s trying to figure out who they are or who they’re meant to be, let alone being black, let alone being gay.”

If filming a London-based drama in the countryside sounds unorthodox (“You walk off the trading floor, and there’s one guy outside on a tractor”) it also came with its perks, not least getting to know Lena Dunham, who relocated to Wales to act as executive producer (“She had teacakes and scones, which she thought British people ate every day”). Working with the Girls creator made its mark: she spoke “in a language young people can understand”, and guided the cast, having made her hit series at a similar age. And, one night, in the company of Jonsson and his co-stars Myha’la Herrold, Harry Lawtey and Marisa Abela, she even introduced them to an A-list friend. “We heard this American voice and she was like: ‘Hey, meet my new cast,’ and turned the phone around. And it was Brad Pitt. On FaceTime. Just casually. I was like: ‘All right, mate?’ He was lovely, although I’m pretty sure he had no idea what show we were doing.”

While Industry announced Jonsson’s arrival as one of the UK’s most promising young actors, it had been a long time in the making. As a teenager he had a period of getting into fights at school, and was excluded. “I remember the moment when my mum asked me: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I was like: ‘I want to ACT!’” he jokily shouts. After his GCSEs, Jonsson convinced his parents to let him move to New York, alone, when a rare opportunity arose to study at a conservatory on a scholarship. He ended up staying in the city for two years, learning about the finer points of Greek tragedy, indulging his passion for skating, and living off instant noodles. It was “a real special time” he says, even if he refused to drop his accent in acting classes. When he returned home, his friends studying at college, Jonsson beavered away in shops and pubs before the National Youth Theatre and Rada beckoned. On graduating, he soon landed impressive theatre roles, including in Mary Stuart at the Almeida alongside Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson.

Pre-pandemic he should have been on stage again at the Almeida in the play Daddy, the London transfer of Slave Play writer Jeremy O Harris’s acclaimed melodrama about a relationship between an older white art collector and a young black artist. Jonsson was set to play the latter role when Covid struck and the theatre had to deconstruct the lifesize swimming pool it had set up on stage, and around which much of its narrative revolves. The cancellation was difficult but, he says, “incredibly humbling. I find it really hard to pull away from my characters. And then here is this thing in real life, happening to everyone. Here’s me chasing human experience inside the theatre, and there’s one happening around us.”

Chairman of the boards ... David Jonsson and Miranda Cromwell in rehearsal for And Breathe ...
Chairman of the boards … David Jonsson and Miranda Cromwell in rehearsal for And Breathe … Photograph: Isha Shah

Daddy is sadly still to make it to the stage, but Jonsson is happy to be back at the theatre with another production. When we meet, he has just finished a day’s rehearsals for And Breathe … , based on poetry by the Nigerian-British writer Yomi Sode. A story of blackness, family and grief, rooted in London, it fizzes with youthful energy but is also touched by trauma. While technically a one-man show, on stage Jonsson will be joined by the jazz musician Femi Temowo, with the pair taking cues from one another and adapting the show with each performance. Reading a draft script, the profundity of Sode’s words – about the death of a matriarch, and being a black man in London – feels all the more poignant in the time of Covid-19, a pandemic that has disproportionately claimed the lives of people of colour.

Jonsson sees the present moment as a time of rebirth for the arts, but is keen for culture to acknowledge the pain and trauma of the past year. “If theatre acts like [the pandemic] never happened,” he says, “I think it’s wrong. With this, it was about honouring that shared experience that we have as human beings. And this is one of those: it’s about grief and guilt, and all the things that we all go through, told through the eyes of this young poet.”

Representation in the arts was pivotal for Jonsson growing up – even if he only realised it later – and remains so. “If we’re talking about the wider sense of theatre: what do we see on the stage? Who do we see?” says Jonsson. “How do we relate to it? For me, that was really important.”

And Breathe … is, he says, “frank and raw”, and the kind of theatre audiences won’t forget in a hurry. But, really, everything Jonsson does is pretty memorable. Industry series two has been commissioned; I tell him that Gus will surely be on to bigger and better things, away from the poisonous culture of Pierpoint; indeed, at the end of the first series, he seemed to have checked out of the company, purposely sabotaging his own pitch for a permanent role. “I can’t say too much,” he says with another laugh, before adding tentatively: “But I think you’re on to something … ” As with his character, there’s clearly a lot more that Jonsson has to show us. He might not be Idris, but seriously: watch this space.

And Breathe … is at the Almeida Theatre, N1, to 10 July

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Google Doodle commemorates Juneteenth with illustrations of Black joy

Google is spotlighting Juneteenth in its latest Google Doodle. 

Detroit-based artist Rachelle Baker created the art to honor the true end of slavery in the U.S. on June 19, 1865. On Thursday, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. 

Baker’s illustration symbolizes Juneteenth through images of Black joy such as parades, music, food, and Black community. It also weaves in details such as decorative ironwork to honor Black artists’ contributions to southern architecture, which both enslaved and formerly enslaved people often created. 

Baker drew from photos and art that depicted the first-ever Juneteenth celebration, which took place in Texas in 1866, to create her Google Doodle. She was also inspired by her own family’s photo albums and celebrations. 

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Google Doodle commemorates Juneteenth and abolition of slavery in US – CNET

google-doodle-juneteenth-2021

Google’s Juneteenth Doodle features images of celebrations past and present.

Google

In 1865, Union troops arrived in Texas to inform Black slaves they had been freed from bondage by federal order two years earlier, a historic moment now commemorated every June 19 with a new federal holiday called Juneteenth.

To mark this year’s celebration, Google dedicated a Doodle on Saturday — this year’s Juneteenth — to the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Union Army Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to read a federal order abolishing the institution of chattel slavery in the state.

Slavery was abolished in the Confederate states two years earlier when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “all persons held as slaves … shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” But Texas, a holdout state where enslavement continued, was geographically remote from Washington, DC, at a time when news traveled slowly.

While Lincoln’s order abolished slavery in Confederate states, it was still legal and practiced in the Union border states of Delaware and Kentucky until the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865.

The Juneteenth holiday is marked by celebrations and block parties around the country, and hundreds of companies have added Juneteenth to their calendars as holidays. This year’s celebration comes just days after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act to law, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, added in 1983.

The Google Doodle, created by Detroit-based guest artist Rachelle Baker, uses rich images of parades, music, food and community to illustrate Black joy and artistic contributions through the ages.

The Doodle’s images are framed by decorative ironwork like that found in Southern architecture, paying homage to Black artistic contributions often forged by slaves.

Google is also celebrating Juneteenth with a handful of new features across its platforms.

  • On Friday, Google launched a new Google Arts & Culture exhibit to share the history of the holiday and portraits of newly free men and women.
  • Google Assistant is joining in with new responses to help people learn more about Black historical figures and moments by saying, “Hey Google, what happened today in Black history?” Google worked with civil rights activist, author and lecturer Carl Mack on the project to raise awareness of many important cultural events and leaders. 
  • Google Maps created a list of historical landmarks and local Black-owned businesses in New Orleans. April Hamm, a New Orleans-based Local Guide, educator and musician, curated the list by visiting historic places around the city — such as Congo Square and the Free People of Color Museum — and adding information about them to the map, making history more accessible.
  • Google Play has launched a special campaign featuring apps created by Black developers and an interview with Julio Rivera, the founder of Liberate, a meditation app designed to support the Black community.

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Juneteenth events underway in Pittsburgh

For the first time, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh are observing Juneteenth as an official holiday and there are multiple events happening around the area to celebrate. The events include a three-day festival at Pittsburgh’s Point State Park. Juneteenth Freedom Days opened with a consecration service on Friday afternoon. (See it in the video player above.)The Ohio Players took the main stage on Friday night; Big Daddy Kane and Rakim are scheduled to perform on Saturday night.”It’s a great thing. You know, I’ve always said we’ve got to celebrate each other’s culture,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey, the Democratic nominee for mayor. “The world is diverse now. The more that we learn about each other, the more we remove bigotry and racism, and there’s more love and tolerance, and that’s what the day represents when I talk about independence. Independence is the ability for everybody to celebrate culture.”More events: Click here for a list of Juneteenth events from VisitPittsburgh.Fans of Billy Porter were happy to meet the Pittsburgh-born Tony and Grammy winner at the Point on Friday.”I think that everything is incremental. We’re in a space in this country, and in this world, where real significant change has to happen or we’re going to implode,” Porter said. “Our government doesn’t even want to talk about it. They want to act like slavery didn’t even exist. You can’t heal from a thing until you look at the thing, right?”William Marshall is the organizer for the event at Point State Park. He said he is grateful for the respect Juneteenth is receiving in Pittsburgh and across the state. Juneteenth is now a federal holiday as well. The Emancipation Proclamation is at the heart of the Juneteenth celebration, marking the official end of slavery. Marshall said the holiday is a blend of celebration and education. “America’s independence really has no significant meaning for African American people. In 1776, when Europeans won their freedom from British rule, they kept Black people as slaves, Americans that is, so we were not free. We did not gain our freedom until 1865, after the Civil War,” Marshall said.

For the first time, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh are observing Juneteenth as an official holiday and there are multiple events happening around the area to celebrate.

The events include a three-day festival at Pittsburgh’s Point State Park. Juneteenth Freedom Days opened with a consecration service on Friday afternoon. (See it in the video player above.)

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The Ohio Players took the main stage on Friday night; Big Daddy Kane and Rakim are scheduled to perform on Saturday night.

“It’s a great thing. You know, I’ve always said we’ve got to celebrate each other’s culture,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey, the Democratic nominee for mayor. “The world is diverse now. The more that we learn about each other, the more we remove bigotry and racism, and there’s more love and tolerance, and that’s what the day represents when I talk about independence. Independence is the ability for everybody to celebrate culture.”

More events: Click here for a list of Juneteenth events from VisitPittsburgh.


Fans of Billy Porter were happy to meet the Pittsburgh-born Tony and Grammy winner at the Point on Friday.

“I think that everything is incremental. We’re in a space in this country, and in this world, where real significant change has to happen or we’re going to implode,” Porter said. “Our government doesn’t even want to talk about it. They want to act like slavery didn’t even exist. You can’t heal from a thing until you look at the thing, right?”

William Marshall is the organizer for the event at Point State Park. He said he is grateful for the respect Juneteenth is receiving in Pittsburgh and across the state.

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday as well.

The Emancipation Proclamation is at the heart of the Juneteenth celebration, marking the official end of slavery.

Marshall said the holiday is a blend of celebration and education.

“America’s independence really has no significant meaning for African American people. In 1776, when Europeans won their freedom from British rule, they kept Black people as slaves, Americans that is, so we were not free. We did not gain our freedom until 1865, after the Civil War,” Marshall said.

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Juneteenth is in its 156th year. Many Americans are just beginning to celebrate it

Growing up in Philadelphia, Toyah Whitehead remembers the day in late June each year that brought crowds of Black residents to the streets and parks in celebration. There were block parties, cookouts, street performers, book sales and pan-African flags — three big horizontal stripes of red, black and green — but she never paid all that much attention to the meaning.

“I knew there were celebrations of Black people,” said Whitehead, 29, herself Black. “I had no idea it was our Independence Day.”

This year, Whitehead, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and runs a fashion label for Black women, is giving herself a day off of work. She’s designed shirts that say “Black is the new Black” to carry with her on the flight back home to Philadelphia, where she’ll take her 8-year-old niece to Juneteenth festivities in the city that’s long held celebrations but just recently started to mark them officially.

“A lot happened last year in our country with the protests for racial justice. It made me want to learn about Black history. I spent the pandemic year reading books, watching Netflix documentaries about Black America,” Whitehead said. “I’m a little embarrassed that I’m almost 30 and just doing my first Juneteenth. But better late than never.”

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Toyah Whitehead in a dress she designed for her label, Labella Blondie.

Toyah Whitehead in a dress she designed for her label, Labella Blondie.

(Toyah Whitehead)

On Thursday, President Biden signed a law making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. It comes 156 years after the June 19, 1865, arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas, when enslaved people in the region were freed more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. (In 2014, President Obama made Cesar Chavez’s birthday, March 31, a commemorative holiday in which federal employees do not get a day off from work, as they now do for Juneteenth).

While many Black communities across the country have long celebrated the day, others — such as Whitehead’s family — are just beginning to embrace it. In the wake of the racial justice movement after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, thousands of corporations, small businesses and cities across the nation have also put the day on their vacation calendars, raising its profile.

Still, according to a Gallup survey released this month, more than 60% of Americans know “nothing” or only “a little” about Juneteenth. Knowledge was highest among Black people, at 69%, and lowest among those who are white, at 31%.

It’s a lack of knowledge that was among the reasons Pearl Brunt, a 38-year-old business consultant in the suburb of Pittsford, N.Y., outside Rochester, pulled together the town’s first Juneteenth celebration last week, where poets and historians spoke to a crowd of about 100 at a park along the Erie Canal and residents took part in an exchange of books by Black authors.

“Growing up in small-town Kansas, my mom would take us to Juneteenth but to me it was like doing Christmas without really knowing about Jesus. It was a fun day to celebrate, to have cake, to go swimming,” said Brunt, who is Black and organized the event a week early to avoid conflicts with high school graduations. “But it wasn’t until I went to [a historically Black] college … that I really came to understand my history as a descendant of enslaved people.”

A speaker at the Pittsford, N.Y. Juneteenth celebration this month.

A speaker at the Pittsford, N.Y. Juneteenth celebration this month.

(Pearl Brunt)

After spending much of her adult years in Europe, where she married and had two children, Brunt moved to Pittsford five years ago on account of her husband’s job. She found herself living in a majority-white town of 30,000 where she said she knew “just a few” Black people.

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Heartened by racial justice protests last year that took place in the region, she decided it was time for residents to have a local observance of Juneteenth. She said she sometimes “felt alone” this past year as a reckoning with the nation’s racist history imbued American culture and politics and felt called on to “be the representative” of what it means to be Black.

At the Pittsford Juneteenth, she invited speakers to tell the story of the Underground Railroad and had a local singer perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — known as the Black national anthem. She asked the only Black member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, a trumpet player, to speak. At a book exchange, she gave away a copy of one of her favorites, the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Douglass lived in Rochester for more than two decades.

Pearl Brunt, second from left, organized the first Juneteenth festival in Pittsford, N.Y.

Pearl Brunt, second from left, organized the first Juneteenth festival in Pittsford, N.Y.

As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, some Juneteenth gatherings will be firsts for communities stepping out of isolation and social distancing.

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In Houston, a short drive from Galveston, Jaison Oliver will host his first in-person event in more than 18 months to commemorate Juneteenth. An organizer with the BLMHTX/ImagiNoir Collective, Oliver has set up a pop-up shop at a Black-owned bakery to host a free photo booth run by a Black artists group, a Black women’s book exchange and a literature sale operated by a Black-owned bookstore. The bakery is across the street from Emancipation Park, a site established in 1872 for Juneteenth celebrations that is a headquarters of commemorative events in the city.

“For us, it’s a time of love and remembrance,” said Oliver, 33, who is Black. “There are a lot of challenges and forces still working against Black people today. But we can embrace what has allowed us to nonetheless flourish and thrive. In the fight for justice, we also have to think of moments like this where we can make time for joy and celebration. We’ve had lots of protests over the last year, and rightfully so, but for me this day is not about protest but a day to be in the community with each other.”

Not every Juneteenth celebration is taking place in person.

In Lynchburg, a city of 80,000 in southwestern Virginia, Sarina Gordon took Friday off work to relax at home and, on Saturday, largely planned to observe virtually by streaming a small in-person program broadcast from the city’s Academy Center for the Arts. Later in the day, she wants to make her first visit to the city’s Legacy Museum of African American History.

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“The closest I could go to do something in person is hours away,” said Gordon, 29, who is Black and grew up along the rural border with North Carolina.

She first encountered the holiday while in middle school during a visit to a former plantation where emancipation celebrations took place.

“My work doesn’t automatically give us the day off, but they had no problem giving me a vacation day for Friday. I’ve been here 10 years and never been to the African American museum, so I thought this would be the perfect time to go.”

Gordon, an academic advisor at Liberty University, said she was glad to see the day gain a greater following in the U.S.

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“There is some urge sometimes to gate-keep and protect traditions that are close to us as Black people. Things we care for deeply that have deep meaning to us,” she said. “But I think it’s perfectly fine to welcome people in, including those who aren’t Black, to help them grow their understanding of history. There are still people who have no idea what this day is.”

D'Neika Lopez, right, at a family reunion in Tennessee in 2018.

D’Neika Lopez, right, at a family reunion in Tennessee in 2018.

(D’Neika Lopez)

In Louisville, Ky., D’Neika Lopez, who grew up traveling with her family for Juneteenth festivals across the state, also has the day off for the first time as part of a campuswide holiday at the University of Louisville, where she is a coordinator for an apprenticeship program in the College of Education and Human Development. For a day she describes as “our version of July Fourth,” she plans to join her extended family on Saturday for a barbecue in her dad’s backyard.

Lopez, 36, said she, too, was happy to see a new federal holiday recognizing a moment her family has long cherished. But she was also cautious.

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“I’m worried about the commodification of the day. Will it become something like [LGBTQ] Pride, where every corporation slaps on a rainbow sticker on their logo?” she asked.

“It’s important to understand the history of where we are and where we are going. I am definitely not against it being a holiday. But it cannot just be performative,” she added. “You can’t give people a day off and that’s it. We have to keep thinking about those who were enslaved and their descendants because the story of racism is far from over.”

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Celebrating Juneteenth, Cleveland style!

Events are planned all across the city to commemorate a monumental day in American history.

CLEVELAND — Tomorrow is Juneteenth – a celebration of the full emancipation of slaves in the United States.

Cleveland is pulling out all the stops with plenty of events and activities planned to commemorate what is considered the longest-running African-American holiday. June 19 is a day not only of celebration, but a day to reflect on the triumph of freed slaves. 

The largest Juneteenth event in the area – The MetroHealth Cleveland FreedomFest – promises family-friendly fun, food, music, art, even fireworks – rain or shine.

“Tomorrow we want the entire community to come down and be a part of this joyful gathering,” Tony Sias, President and CEO of Karamu House (which will be performing at the event) said. “So many people don’t know about what Juneteenth is and this is the opportunity for us to educate them.

“We have new works, and then we’re doing a couple of Nina Simone songs and stuff like ‘What’s Goin’ On’.”

“This event is a celebration, but also a realization that the fight has not finished,” Alan Nevel, Chief Diversity Officer with MetroHealth Medical Center, added.

LIST: Juneteenth events and programs held around Northeast Ohio

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in ALL states, but Texas hung on to the practice for 2 more years, until June 19th, 1865 – now known as “Juneteenth.” 

“We look at inclusion, diversity, and equity,” Nevel said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

“There are over 20 black vendors down here, a wealth of activities for young people,” Sias stated. “It’s a family-friendly even.”

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Looking for a job? FreedomFest has that covered, too.

“We will have a number of booths,” Nevel told us. “We’ll be doing some interviewing. We have plenty of job openings.”

MetroHealth Cleveland FreedomFest is Saturday, June 19 from noon-10 p.m., downtown on Mall C. 

“Bring a friend,” Nevel said. “Bring somebody that doesn’t know about Juneteenth, because we can’t assume that everyone, including people of color, know the significance of Juneteenth.”

LEON BIBB REFLECTS: Cleveland ready to celebrate Juneteenth with Freedom Fest

JUNETEENTH EVENTS IN CLEVELAND: 

    • June 19 & 20, join Djapo Cultural Arts Institute to celebrate culture, identity, and Juneteenth with a two-day workshop held at Inlet’s headquarters and a LIVE performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
    • Cleveland’s Freedom Fest is set to become an annual destination event in the heart of Downtown Cleveland, poised to position our community as a national leader in celebrating Juneteenth. Set to take place on Saturday, June 19 from 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm on Mall C in the heart of Downtown Cleveland, the city-wide, family-friendly celebration and commemoration of Juneteenth will feature headline performances from by GRAMMY Award-winning performers Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science with special guests Ms. Lisa Fischer and Maimouna “Mumu Fresh” Youssef; “Freedom on Juneteenth: Songs of Liberation,” a mainstage performance by Karamu House, the country’s oldest Black producing theatre; and a fireworks finale made possible by #CL3Alliance, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns, and Cleveland Indians.
    • Join Coventry Village and Safer Heights in supporting black-owned businesses and artists at our Juneteenth celebration on June 19th! Led by local black artists/organizers, this event is for our WHOLE neighborhood to celebrate the freedom and contributions of the black community in Cleveland Heights and beyond.
    • Mx. Juneteenth: A Black & Queer Liberation Celebration. A free event with a suggested donation of $5; $10 for non-Black attendees. No one will be turned away for inability to pay.
      Juneteenth: Party With a Purpose! Hosted by: Sevynteenth Foundation. The money raised from this event will go directly to fund scholarships for our summer campers!
    • #JuneteenthOnBuckeye: The Buckeye Summer Soul Series in partnership with NAACP Cleveland Branch, Black Lives Matter Cleveland and New Era Cleveland, will host the 4th Annual 
    • #JuneteenthOnBuckeye, Saturday, June 19, 2021, 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM, at the Art & Soul park located at 11802 Buckeye Rd, Cleveland, OH 44120. The celebration will include live entertainment, giveaways, food, vendors and various support resources for residents.
    • Land Before Rhyme – Juneteenth Show. Location: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland 2728 Lancashire Road Cleveland, OH 44106 “On this day we will honor our ancestors with our truths, our stories, our hopes, our tragedies and triumphs with the spoken word. Don’t miss it”
      Juneteenth Bicycle Ride Around the Circle: Celebrate Juneteenth 2021 with Juneteenth Freedom Rides for a casual family-friendly bicycle ride through the University Circle area.
    • Juneteenth Unityfest: is a national Livestream event conceived by Grammy-nominated African-American artist Robert Randolph, that will bring together people of all backgrounds in a day of unity to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth and Black culture with musical performances, inspiring remarks, films, comedy, storytelling, and appearances by civic leaders and influencers. SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2021 5PM ET / 2PM PT.
    • Interconnected Liberation: Art and Conversation on Juneteenth and World Refugee Day; People’s Park 760-762 Elma Street Akron, Ohio 44302
    • Deep Roots and BLM Cleveland Juneteenth Art Show. Friday, 9:00 PM – 1:00 AM: 3100 E 45th St #320
    • Juneteenth Block Party & Vendor Fair – UnBAR Cafe, 12635 Larchmere Blvd, Cleveland OH, 44120 12 PM-4 PM
    • Celebrate Juneteenth at GlenVillage Pavilion – GlenVillage, 1400 E. 105th St, Cleveland OH, 44106 5:30PM-8PM (June 18th)
    • Juneteenth Cleveland Cultural Gardens Centennial Peace Plaza, Harrison Dillard Trail, Cleveland OH, 44108 11AM-3PM
    • Juneteenth Bluesfest Lakeview Park, 1800 W. Erie Ave, Lorain OH, 44052 3PM
    • Celebrate Juneteenth Cabaret Style 4600 Carnegie Ave, Cleveland OH, 44103 12PM-4AM

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

ABUSUA Organizes Block Party for First On-Campus Juneteenth Celebration

ABUSUA, Oberlin’s Black Student Union, and the College’s Juneteenth committee will be hosting Oberlin’s first Juneteenth Celebration in the form of a block party this evening from 3–7 p.m. in Wilder Main Space. 

The event will include games, music, and food catered by The Arb at Tappan Square and will mark the start of several more events occurring in town, including tonight’s celebration of Black art, Light In The Tunnel: Reflections on Freedom, and a parade to be hosted tomorrow by the City of Oberlin. The party will also serve as a way for students to gather in commemoration of the historical significance of the day.

Food for ABUSUA’s Juneteenth Block Party was catered by The Arb at Tappan Square. (Gigi Ewing)

The event has been advertised on various social media platforms and in the Campus Digest to increase anticipation and participation: Everyone is welcome to enjoy the cookout’s activities and music.

Juneteenth is the oldest national commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed a law that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday on June 19. 

“These celebrations exemplify a commitment to celebrate, in moments of pure joy, Black people’s right to live as free human beings,” wrote the co-chairs of Oberlin’s Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity Meredith Gadsby and Bill Quillen in a June 11 statement to the campus community. “Despite the ongoing challenges of a nation still wrestling with a recognition of this right, Juneteenth allows African Americans to reflect on the resilience of their ancestors, even as they take up the charge, as Americans, to maintain a sustained conviction to equity and social justice.”

The event comes at a particularly important moment when second and third-year students are on campus together for the first time this academic year. College second-year and ABUSUA Chair of Organizational Affairs Fafa Nutor points out that the Juneteenth celebration brings these groups together after a particularly difficult year. 

“I think there’s just a sort of gratefulness that at least we can be together,” Nutor said. “The second-years and third-years, even though they’ve been kind of separated in these past semesters … can come together and just celebrate. … There is a power in just joy and freedom and peace, and to be able to see your neighbors — to see people you haven’t seen in a while — to all be in one place and to enjoy, but also reflect on Juneteenth and reflect on the freedom. The freedom that’s been hard-won and the freedoms that are not there yet, obviously.”

As COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on campus a little over a month ago, planning for the gathering was not an easy feat. One of the organizers of the event, College second-year and ABUSUA co-chair of Community and Communication Affairs Jillian Sanford, spoke about the complications of planning during this time.

“We started planning during the spring semester when we didn’t know what the summer semester would look like with the restrictions in place,” Sanford said. “With COVID, things could change very quickly, but [the] administration worked well with us, making sure our needs were met.”

Despite the rapidly changing guidelines, the ABUSUA Board members worked to ensure that a safe event could go forward.

“Things were uncertain and I know my board members and I were just really purposed to make sure that we were able to do at least something for our community — for something to bring us together, something that let us have spaces of joy — just because [it] can be very hard to find … [a space] for the entire Black community on campus and in the community as well,” Nutor said. 

While the Juneteenth celebration will provide a space for Black joy on campus, allies are also welcome at the event. However, Nutor urges these students to also look beyond these types of celebrations when considering their activism. 

“I think this is a really good time for allies and other members of communities to support us, join us and such but I would just like to remind them, this is not just where it ends,” Nutor said. “It’s not just the celebrations and the happy times and the moments of enjoyment that center Black voices that we should be thinking about when …  we should also be ready to help and ready to be allies and accomplices when there are harder moments as well.” 

Sanford hopes that alongside the festivities, the true meaning of the event will be recognized and honored by all who attend. 

“The big freedom day for America is July Fourth, but the big freedom day for Black people is Juneteenth, so I hope people become more aware of the history and the reason for the celebration in the Black community,” she said. “It’s not only about the food and games — I’m also hoping to bring awareness to this day through the event.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Black Lives Matter mural unveiling at Cincinnati City Hall

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