By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer
Los Angeles- President Biden signed a bill designating Juneteenth a Federal holiday, on Thursday 17, 2021. This is the 12th Federal holiday and was immediately honored on Friday, June 18, 2021, several days before Juneteenth celebrations were held all across the United States.
Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, has been celebrated by African Americans on June 19 every year since the late 1800’s.
Juneteenth is a day of remembrance and reflection. Juneteenth is also a day where African Americans commemorate not only the freedom of all enslaved African people but also celebrate the strength and resilience of Black people in this country. As I write this Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise,’ and Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb,’ comes to mind. I’m reminded of how far we as African Americans have come as we recognize and celebrate Juneteenth as a Federal holiday, and to remind us that the struggle isn’t over. We still have a ways to go. Still We Rise!
This historic weekend, we celebrate the re-opening of the State of California, Juneteenth as a newly established Federal holiday, African American Music Appreciation Month, Father’s Day and the start of summer.
There were two dozen Juneteenth celebrations that were scheduled throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, in person as well as virtually.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s Juneteenth & Resource Fair
Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, 2nd District, presented the inaugural Juneteenth & Resource Fair, Friday, June 18, 2021 at Ervin “Magic” Johnson Park. This free community event honored the history of Juneteenth with a day of fun-filled activities, musical entertainment, food trucks, COVID-19 vaccinations, and vital resources and services such as workshops on record expungement, tenant protections and immigration.
The day could be summarized as educational, engaging, entertaining, all combined to add up to Empowerment.
It was a wonderful day to be in Ervin “Magic” Johnson Park on this historic weekend. DJ K Fresh provided the beats while manning the ones and twos. Contra Tiempo got the crowd worked up with some interactive dance lessons: modern jazz, old school r&b, soul, the wobble, salsa and do your own thang-soul train line.
Artist Shelley Bruce wowed the crowd with live installation art entitled “Always Free.’ Poet Natalie Patterson recited a special poem in honor of the occasion ‘Tribute to Our Ancestors.’ Victory Dancers thrilled the audience with an energetic set of traditional African dances, infused with some hip-hop steps, and some Praise dances.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell welcomed all to the celebration and recognized the elective officials in attendance, thanked her staff for the contributing to the success of the event. Over 300 people were in attendance. Supervisor Holly Mitchell acknowledged and thanked all of the participating organizations on site. It is encouraging to know that this will be amongst the annual signature Juneteenth celebrations in Southern California. Blue Shield of California and Reyes Coco Cola Bottling were the sponsors of the event.
Los Angeles Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas Leimert Park Re-Opening Ceremony
The spotlight shined brightly on historic Leimert Park Village on this historic weekend in American history. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, District 10, hosted a Grand Re-Opening Ceremony for Leimert Park. The ceremony served to re introduce the utilization of the area and is also symbolic to the restoration of the Leimert Park Village legacy.
The program got underway with traditional West African drumming provided by SHINE Muwasi, led by Rene Fisher, “Mama Nae Nae.’ DJ QwestCoast served as Master of Ceremony. JJ Kabasa presented the Opening Libation.
Several Leimert Park stakeholders spoke in support of the occasion. Banch Abegaze, Azla Ethiopian Eatery; Queen Aminah, President of the Leimert Park Merchants Association; Rene Fisher, SHINE Muwasi; Isaac Bryan, California State Assembly-54th District; Anthony-Paul (AP) Diaz, Executive Office and Chief of Staff, for the Department of Recreation and Parks and an Assistant General Manager.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas spoke on “bringing the resources to bear to uplift the Village and celebrate its rich history and resilience.” Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas stated that “he is committed to working with local stakeholders to not only celebrate the rich cultural and social legacy of Leimert Park Village, but create a future for the Village that is safe, clean and welcoming for all members of the community to enjoy.”
The official Ribbon-Cutting was followed by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas leading the community on a tour of Leimert Park. This served as the perfect segue into the Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration.
Leimert Park Rising: Upward Trajectory
Every year since June 19, 1865, the Black community has gathered in the spirit of Freedom. A freedom that still prevails despite systemic threats to existence. Forty years ago, visionary and community leader Jonathan Leonard began the tradition of Juneteenth of in Leimert Park Village. Moza Mjasiri Cooper and Gail Jennings, Black Arts Los Angeles took the baton and continued the tradition for 11 years with the Juneteenth Heritage Festival.
In 2018, a few dedicated creatives came together to put on the first ever Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration. True to the essence of Leimert Park, this event celebrated Black freedom by honoring the ancestors and our community through art, music, food and education.
Thousands of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds showed up and showed out for the annual Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration, Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20, 2021. The event was held both day from 11:00am-9:00pm. This years celebration doubled in size, encompassing Crenshaw and 43rd Street, around Leimert Park Boulevard, 43rd Street and through Degnan Boulevard.
2021 Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration has already established itself as the largest Juneteenth celebration in the Los Angeles area, if the not, the largest of its kind in the state of California. Look out America!
The diverse, multi-cultural crowd felt united by the energy of love and joy resonating throughout Leimert Park Village, as they strolled along the Village to sing jubilantly and dance joyously in the streets.
A plethora of vendors were spread out amongst Leimert Park, selling one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, Juneteenth memorabilia, clothing, jewelry. A smorgasbord of food trucks and food vendors served up some tasty cuisine. DJ’s and artists laid out an eclectic soundtrack of original beats or cover tunes that kept the crowd rhythmically moving their feet.
I was fortunate to witness royalty in performance on day one of the festivities. Internationally renowned jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison performed superbly on the stage, just steps from the entrance to The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center.
Singer/Songwriter/Producer Alex Isley come from an esteemed family of musicians. Ernie Isley is her father, of the world famous Soulful R&B group The Isley Brothers. She graced the stage to thrill the crowd with some original tunes.
Musician Six-Sev, also known as the “unofficial-official Mayor of Leimert,” represent a rising tide of talented artists and creatives in L.A’s Crenshaw District. Many of the artists performed on stage throughout the weekend.
I capped off my attendance listening to several royalty members of African American on-air radio personalities/activists. Tavis Smiley, veteran TV host spoke to the crowd about the launch of KBLA Talk 1580. Los Angeles first Black-owned talk radio station took flight on June 19, 2021. Yes, ladies and gentleman our voices will be elevated with popular on-air personalities, Dominique DiPrima, and Don Amiche to name a few.
The Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration continued on Sunday, 20, 2021 with a full day of activities and outstanding musical lineup.