LOS ANGELES — In commemoration of the end of slavery more than 150 years ago, Black Arts Los Angeles will host the eighth annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and June 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Leimert Park Village.
The celebration will feature health and technology tents, arts and crafts, a fashion show, dance, food and other entertainment. Sunday’s closing act will feature a performance by international artist Najite and Olokun Prophecy Band. Admission is free and open to the public.
June 19, 1865, which has come to be known as Juneteenth, marks the official day when slavery in the United States ended. Though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, the lack of Union troops to enforce the executive order delayed blacks’ liberation for two-and-a-half-years.
On that summer day in 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, the leader of Union soldiers, arrived at Galveston, Texas. Once there, he established that the people of the state were now under the Union Army’s jurisdiction.
General Order Number 3 that Gen. Granger issued would make history:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Rev. Mark Whitlock, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, said that Juneteenth is as relevant today as it was in 1865.
“There is so much tension that exists in the public as a result of the Trump administration, where there is the possibility of the loss of civil rights, the loss of the Voting Right’s Act, the loss of freedom because of tensions between the police and communities … loss of women’s rights.… Juneteenth is as relevant as Bill Maher feeling comfortable using the N-word, failing to remember what the N-word represents,” Whitlock said.
Ariela Gross, professor of law and history at USC, said that for the first 40 years, Juneteenth celebrations only took place in Texas.
A revival of the celebrations began in the late 1960s, Gross added, but it has seen a resurgence within the last decade.
“Juneteenth is relevant now because people are recognizing how important that history still is,” Gross said. “The emancipation of slaves 150 years ago is still unfinished business. For the descendants, there is still a long way to go.”
Whitlock added that the public must not forget the gains of the civil rights movement nor lose an inch of what African American communities have gained.
“The celebrations are a method to remind children what took place in 1865, and remind them how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go,” Whitlock said. “Because if you don’t remember what happened to you yesterday, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.”
Leimert Park Village is located on Degnan Boulevard between 43rd Street and 43rd Place. For more information on the Juneteenth Heritage Festival, contact: (323) 412-0811 or (323) 291-2024.
The Miracle Missionary Baptist Church also will host a Juneteenth celebration on June 17 from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Food will be sold and entertainment begins at noon. The church is located at 8318 S. Central Ave., in South Los Angeles. Information: (323) 582-3534.
The Young Black Contractors Association will hold its ninth annual Juneteenth Roundtable Breakfast June 16 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Inglewood Airport Chamber of Commerce, 330 E. Queen St., Inglewood.
Information: (323) 385-0639.