Celebration to mark Juneteenth with performances, vendors and other festivities 

Long Beach will mark Juneteenth with performances, vendors and more at one of the city’s first large, in-person events following the coronavirus pandemic.

The event on Saturday, June 19 will include outdoor performances and activities ranging from traditional African drumming, poetry, modern dance, vendors, emceeing by Aundrae Russell of KJLH Radio, and more, will be located on Pine Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The headliner has yet to be announced.

“Our goal is to give (attendees) something that makes them walk away feeling good about Juneteenth and excited to come back and celebrate Juneteenth with us next year,” said organizer Carl Kemp.

For Kemp, the idea to create an innovative Juneteenth celebration was two years in the making, ultimately putting the plan into action following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

“I think it’s always been important to celebrate Juneteenth. In this country, oftentimes, the things that force us to look at some of our ugly past are buried,” he said.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, commemorating June 19, 1865, the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, announcing that the Civil War had ended and those who were enslaved were now free, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

“I think it is an opportunity for America, and all Americans to pause, acknowledge what makes America great and made America great, was 400 years of free labor and unimaginable terror inflicted upon Black people, and still from that experience was extracted a level of joy, culture, innovation that defines America to this day, whether it be through rock ‘n’ roll, or jazz, or peanut butter, or any number of other huge contributions that Black people have made to this country despite always being treated in some unfortunate ways,” said Kemp.

Kemp hopes that this year’s Juneteenth will be a model for other cities and future Long Beach celebrations to follow, and he emphasized the event will be coronavirus-safe.

Some of the event’s supporters include the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, Antioch Church, the Long Beach Post, the Port of Long Beach, Boeing, and the YMCA which will provide kid-friendly activities, and its newest sponsor, Amazon.

“Oftentimes Black History Month is a more pensive sort of thoughtful opportunity to look at our history, and in ways that alternatively Juneteenth offers that opportunity, but I think really should be embraced as a time to celebrate Black culture. We have an opportunity to make this holiday on par with Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day … where we celebrate the culture of a fundamental American population,” said Kemp.

The Long Beach City Council recently recognized Juneteenth as an official “day of celebration,” and the city agreed to advocate that it become a state and federal holiday.

For those unable to attend in-person, the celebration will also be livestreamed across various social media platforms. Tickets are free, and registration in advance is encouraged here.

Other Juneteenth celebrations around Southern California are also planned:

  • Presented by Black Arts Los Angeles, a Juneteenth Virtual Heritage Festival on June 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The event includes panel discussions, music, and food demonstrations. Register for free tickets here.
  • Enjoy a day of tributes, education, and entertainment, culminating with fireworks over the water at the Port of  Los Angeles on June 19, from 1 to 8 p.m. The port is located at 425 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro.
  • Attend a two-day Leimert Park Rising event at Leimert Park Village in Los Angeles. On June 19 and 20, from noon to 7 p.m. enjoy live music, art, storytelling, and idea-sharing in honor of Juneteenth. View more information and donate here. Leimert Park is located at 4343 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles.
  • Celebrate Juneteenth with Afro GoGo, the African Fiesta at Catch One. Enjoy Afrobeats and more with music by Blaq Pages, Juan G, and Vonnie Mack, and live performances by Soko7, Kobi Jonz, among others yet to be announced. Doors open at  9 p.m, and the event is 21+ only. For additional information, email [email protected] or message on Instagram here. Purchase tickets here. Catch One is located at 4067 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to remove a reference to the possibility of vaccine distribution at the event.

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