Lead Story West Edition

Leimert Park makes Juneteenth a cultural celebration

By Simone Grant

Contributing Writer

LEIMERT PARK — There were booths displaying artwork, fashion and jewelry designs.

There were food trucks and entertainment stages featuring dancers and musical performers. People sat at shaded tables playing dominoes.

It was all part of the ninth annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival June 16 in the Leimert Park Plaza.

Organized by Black Arts Los Angeles, the festival also included a history and inventors area, a health village and a technology tent, all in celebration of an event that took place more than 150 years ago.

Jennifer Johns sings with her band on one of the many entertainment stages during the Juneteenth Heritage Festival June 16 in Leimert Park. (Photo by Kristina Dixon)

Juneteenth is all about the end of slavery.

Most people know that President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation — a presidential order that ended slavery in the northern states — on Jan. 1, 1863, almost two years after the Civil War started.

But communication technology wasn’t what it is today and the southern states had all seceded from the union and paid no attention to Lincoln’s presidential orders.

Fast forward to June 1865. The Civil War had ended with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox to Gen. Ulysses Grant in April.

In Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his soldiers delivered the news to local black people that they were no longer slaves. The Union had won the war and Lincoln had freed the slaves.

In some ways, Texas is still celebrating Juneteenth. It is the one state in the union in which June 19 is an official state holiday.

In Leimert Park, Juneteenth is just another day for a celebration.

The music could be heard from miles away and the smell of food lingered throughout the neighborhood.

There wasn’t a frown in sight as children gathered to get their faces painted. DJ Battlecat and the G-Funk All-Stars featuring Jairus ‘J-Mo’ Mozee kept the crowd on their feet dancing to the live music.

Two people sit at a table engrossed in a game of dominoes during the Juneteenth Celebration June 16 in Leimert Park. (Photo by Kristina Dixon)