Thousands gathered at Rainbow Lagoon Park Saturday for the Long Beach Juneteenth Celebration featuring live performances, food and commemoration of Black culture.
“It feels good to see as many people gathered here today, as far as Black and brown people,” said Shyhiem Holland, a member of the Dorsey High School Drum Line. “When I come here, it’s people here like me, and I don’t have to worry about my surroundings.”
The event was founded by local leader and former City Council candidate Carl Kemp, who never celebrated Juneteenth until he was inspired to put on the celebration by someone he met while incarcerated for filing a false tax return.
“If I had never been to prison, none of us would be here right now,” he said as the crowd cheered.
The sold-out Juneteenth event in Long Beach changed venues this year, moving from Pine Avenue in Downtown Long Beach to Rainbow Lagoon Park, where the open space allowed for attendees to dance freely and visit a variety of food trucks in between performances.
Live shows included West African drums and dances, Black Greek step shows and jazz collectives among several more.
David McLucas, who collects Black Americana artifacts was also at the event with countless items of his own memorabilia, including several chains that were used during slavery.
“It means a lot to me because what we experience is the emotion,” said McLucas, who has traveled all across the southern part of the United States looking for more pieces to add to his collection. “We want you to feel and handle the emotional burdens of these devices that used to be used on our people.”
Juneteenth observes the delayed announcement of the end of slavery in Texas in 1865. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers marched into Galveston, Texas where they announced that the Civil War was over and the slaves were now free despite—Abraham Lincoln having signed the Emancipation Proclamation over two years earlier.
Born in Belize, 18-year-old Jason Cain never experienced a Juneteenth celebration and had only heard stories growing up about why the holiday was created. But being at the event and performing in front of an audience emphasized why representation matters, he said.
“It feels humbling,” Cain said. “These are the people that are able to enjoy what we have [to offer].”
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