Juneteenth an opportunity for all Angelenos to celebrate

Juneteenth Independence Day. Freedom or Emancipation day. Annual american holiday, celebrated in June 19. African-American history and heritage.

scoutori

Juneteenth Independence Day. Freedom or Emancipation day. Annual american holiday, celebrated in June 19. African-American history and heritage.

Gracie Sandman, Editor-in-Chief

Virginia native and Mayfield Mathematics teacher Kenneth Fisher recalls first hearing about Juneteenth in college. He says he had not celebrated the event while living in Virginia because Juneteenth was more-widely observed in Southern States until recently. This year, Mr. Fisher plans to participate in the Los Angeles Juneteenth festivities. 

“This is going to be my first full-blown year of celebrating Juneteenth though I’ve known about it,” Fisher said in an interview via Zoom “…the first year that I attend cookouts or things like that to celebrate Black history,” 

Cookouts in the backyard. Shopping at Black-owned businesses. Coming together for prayer and to recite the Emancipation Proclamation which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. Now, nearly 156 years later, the Los Angeles African American community has taken celebrating Juneteenth to the next level in keeping with the recognition by President Joe Biden of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

Many Americans today are unfamiliar with what Juneteenth stands for and the history behind it.

Black Americans had commemorated Juneteenth, the combination of “June” and “nineteenth — since the late 1800s. Many hope that the formal recognition of the date will highlight the strides America is taking to acknowledge its history of racial injustice and systemic racism.

“Juneteenth marks both a long hard night of slavery subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come,” President Joe Biden said at the signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day. The day is a reminder of the “terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take.”

Present at the signing ceremony, Vice President Kamala Harris reminded the nation that “the White House was built by enslaved people,” and said the holiday would be an occasion to “reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”

Black Americans agree that they would like to see more progress but are looking forward to celebrating. 

“Making [Juneteenth] a national holiday provides not justification and not, authentication, but it acknowledges that America is built upon the blood, the sweat, and the heartfelt contribution that Blacks have made,” Albert Lord, Vice President of the Governmental Relations and Arts Program for Community Build INC. told the Crier on the newly proclaimed national holiday. 

“It’s not going to atone for the behavior that occurred back in the day,” said Lord, “And it’s not going to atone what is occurring now because we are still being subjected to the same issues and occurrences.” 

With the recent implementation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, others in the community are hopeful that the occasion will be  a stepping stone to highlight Black history.

“There might be a thing in Leimert Park that I’ll go to. I’ll probably read some history to get more information on the Black history we tend to skip over,” said Logan Johnson, an African American performing artist and music educator on how he will observe Juneteenth as well as Black Music Month. 

According to Johnson and Lord, South Los Angeles neighborhoods, Leimert Park specifically, will be going all out for Juneteenth with “Leimert Park Rising”. The event, described as a two-day celebration of Black liberation, was designed to educate, entertain, and promote racial justice through art, music, dancing, and discussion. Organizers say that it will be the first-ever intergenerational educational arts and music festival.

The African American Heritage Month Legacy Project, designed by Lord, will be on display between Degnan Blvd. and 43rd Street in Leimert Park Village through July 31. 

Lord gave the Crier a virtual tour of the exhibit that holds over 100 photos about influential African American artists, inventors, and politicians. Visitors can see artifacts from Barack Obama’s campaign visit while running for president, copies of emancipation documents, including the 13, 14th, and 15th amendments as well as the Emancipation Proclamation which was originally hand-written by former President Lincoln, and works of influential Black writers such as Amanda Gorman. 

“The AAHM Legacy Project shines a light on Black history, and showcases the City of Los Angeles’ recognition of the incredible achievements of African Americans and the role Black culture has played in shaping America,” said Lord.

Lord hopes that Juneteenth is the beginning of enlightenment for the entire community, not just for Black Americans.

“We have an opportunity to join together regardless of our color,” said Lord. “We have an opportunity to come together regardless of economic status and share the values of being an American and find a happy place.”

The signing of the Juneteenth Independence Day Act was timed perfectly as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in the city days prior. Mr. Fisher told the Crier that he plans to walk 2.5 miles in The Colfax Meadows Juneteenth Walk from June 18th through June 20th. 

“It was a group of white Americans in Studio City that decided to band together to fight for the cause,” Fisher said.” Instead of celebrating the 4th of July, they decided to celebrate Juneteenth. So each year they have a three-day ceremony, which I’m going to for the first time this year.” 

##

A listing of area celebrations published by the Los Angeles Times can be found here