Juneteenth — or June 19th — honors the emancipation of enslaved people. It commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This will be only the second year Juneteenth is a federally recognized holiday, and it’s being observed on Monday, June 20.
In Sacramento, there will be a number of celebrations, including ones in Land Park, Oak Park and Downtown.
But Juneteenth hasn’t always had wide recognition. Before 2020, the city had hosted a Juneteenth celebration held in Land Park for nearly two decades. But community members say that year was a turning point.
“You know George Floyd’s public murder was a reckoning for our entire nation,” said Mia Settles-Tidwell, Vice President of Sacramento State’s Office of Inclusive Excellence. “More people outside of the African diaspora began to recognize the importance of these types of conversations.”
Gary Simon is the executive director of Sacramento Juneteenth Inc., the organization that has put on Sacramento’s longest-running Juneteenth celebration. Simon said interest in his event has increased since 2020, but the event’s goals remain the same.
“We want to educate folks on American history and also let them know that this is an American issue,” Simon said. “Folks began to realize that we still have a problem with race relations in America.”
But others, like community activist Berry Accius, said that while Juneteenth gained recognition in 2020, he is concerned that overall interest in equality for Black people has waned since.
“I just wish that the energy could be like that 365, not just on Juneteenth,” Accius said. “Because when you really look at it, when you shoulder as much weight as I shoulder in the communities, you don’t really get the sense that anyone is really worried about Black people’s plight.”
This year’s Juneteenth comes less than a month after California’s Reparations Task Force released its first report on the history of slavery and racist policies. And on Juneteenth weekend, a controversially named state park in Folsom will be holding a discussion about giving the park a more modern name.
But this year’s celebrations also come after a tragic mass shooting of 10 Black people in Buffalo, N.Y., and increased tensions around Pride-related events, which have put those in the Black LGBTQ communities on edge.
Ebony Harper is a Black trans woman who is the executive director of California Transcends. She said she will be looking to recognize Pride month and Juneteenth together this year.
“Black liberation and queer liberation are inherently connected. As a trans person, sometimes I’m excluded from my Blackness and sometimes I’m excluded from participating in queer circles because I’m Black,” Harper said. “So it’s important that we create spaces where we can live between our intersections of being Black and queer, and divinely state, ‘Hey, I’m Black, I’m queer, and I demand that you stand up for us, speak out for us.”
Harper said she’ll be attending private Juneteenth celebrations this year, as she is concerned for her safety at public events following recent attacks during Pride Month. In Idaho, extremists disrupted two Pride events, and in the Bay Area, a Drag Queen Story Hour event was disrupted by Proud Boys. State Senator Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco) said he has also received threats after making legislative moves to protect trans youth. The organizers of the celebrations in Land Park and Oak Park have said they will have security at their events.
For those interested in attending, here are some free Juneteenth events happening around Sacramento this weekend:
Friday, June 17
Where: William Land Park
Time: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
What: Sacramento’s 19th annual Juneteenth festival kicks off with a Gospel Under the Stars Concert, featuring artists Melinda Watts, Yardley Griffin, James Jackson.
Saturday, June 18
Where: Negro Bar Folsom Lake State Recreation Area Entrance, 9698 Greenback Lane
Time: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
What: A celebration at the park where Black miners first discovered gold, featuring live music and vendors, and a chance for attendees to learn a bit about Black history.
Where: William Land Park
Time: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
What: Sacramento’s 19th annual Juneteenth festival’s second day will feature live music, food vendors, an art showcase and a keynote speaker.
Where: Esther’s Park, 3408 3rd Avenue
Time: 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.
What: The Oak Park Juneteenth Block Party at 40 Acres, presented by St. HOPE is throwing a block party in celebration. Join for live music, food and shopping provided by local Black-owned businesses. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. This year’s headlining artists are ‘The Return of James Brown’ Band and ‘The Curtis Family.’
Sunday, June 19
Where: California State Capitol Park, 1300 L Street
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
What: The California State Capitol Juneteenth Freedom Extravaganza invites all Sacramentans to come out to the Capitol steps to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and the history of enslavement and its legacy in California.
Where: Arden Fair, 1689 Arden Way
Time: Starts at 3 p.m.
What: Under the Arden Fair UnchARTed public art’s program, The Heart of Sacramento invites residents to join for a very special Juneteenth Celebration on the gallery’s last day! In addition to celebrating the anniversary of African-Americans’ emancipation, we will be honoring the life and legacy of one of Black art history's most important figures, Dr. Samella Lewis (February 27, 1922 - May 27, 2022).
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