Juneteenth and Int’l Day of Drumming
By Dianne Anderson
On any given Saturday, Trudy Coleman has been on the phone in recent months with fellow representatives from across 30 different states to collectively promote this year’s national Juneteenth theme of “Remembering Our Ancestors.”
The tribute is all the more important because this is the 400th year since the first enslaved Africans were forced to American soil.
“If it wasn’t for our ancestors, we wouldn’t be here and have the freedom we have today,” said Coleman, regional director of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. “Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and in particular, the ones that came over on the ships. We’re the survivors of the strong that survived the slave ships.”
On Saturday, June 15, the City of Pomona and J.E.T.M.A.C. Inc. presents its 29th annual Pomona Valley Juneteenth Family Arts and Jazz Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It will be held at Ganesha Park, located at 1575 N White Ave, Pomona.
Coleman is a long time partner with community leaders who pushed for legislation to establish every third Saturday in June, and June 19 as “California National Juneteenth Freedom Day.” It was signed by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002.
For nearly three decades, she has organized the Juneteenth Festival in Pomona along with co-founder John Thompson. Since then, many petitions and bills have made it through legislation, but the last hurdle is getting Juneteenth established at the federal level. “That way it will be recognized like Flag Day, and other holidays that are observed and on the calendar. We are still working collaboratively,” she said.
Right now, 45 states have written bills. She commended the late Dr. Ronald Myers, chairman and founder of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, for pouring a lot of personal energy into spearheading the charge to get Juneteenth recognized in Washington DC.
“Forty-five states have resolutions signed by all the legislators in their state, they’re actual bills, but we still need one signed at the presidential level,” said Coleman, who is also CEO/Founder of the Juneteenth Education Technology Mobile Arts Center, Inc.
Across the nation, Juneteenth organizations began raising Juneteenth flags in celebration from the first week of June, along with flags honoring the Buffalo soldiers. At the facility where Coleman and Thompson are hosting the event, she said there isn’t actually a flag pole, but they will make do with what they have, for now.
“At the community center, we’re going to do our flag raising ceremony but it won’t be the big flag, it will be temporary,” she said.
The VIP flag reception runs from 10-11:30 a.m., followed by a lineup of entertainment, including gospel concerts, African American and Latin jazz.
“The gospel is going to be off the chain, so I’d like to get the churches out there aware of what’s going on,” she said. “The music is going to be something else this year, and there’s more of it.”
In San Bernardino, Linda Hart, with the African American Health Coalition, said these types of events serve for awareness and allows the community to decompress from so many daily stressors.
“We’re inundated with so many challenges that you have to find a balance within yourself and your family, regaining that balance within your home.”
On June 19, AAHC is partnering with Akoma Unity Center student drummers to celebrate the International Day of Drumming, part of numerous ceremonies that will be held at venues across the nation.
Hart said the legislation, “The 400 Years of African American History Commission Act,” (H.R. 1242), is in recognition of the arrival of Africans to Virginia in 1619, and represents generations of the struggle.
“This is emotional because I’m thinking of the 400 years that we’ve been here, the trial and tribulations and we’re still fighting for the same things that we were fighting for when we first got here – freedom and liberation.”
Kimberly Calvin, director of the Akoma Unity Center said that drums are inseparable from African culture, and a big part of many celebrations at the center. But, this one, she said, holds deeper significance.
“We’re drumming in our ancestors,” she said. “Drums play an important role in every aspect of African life, including physical, emotional and spiritual. African hand-drums are played to communicate and celebrate, to mourn and inspire.”
About 15 students from the Akoma Unity Center will perform, age seven to 17. Calvin said that most have trained for dance and drums under UCR Professor Makeda Kumasi.
On Saturday, June 15, Akoma is also collaborating with David Okonkwo, director of the Diocesan Ministry of Catholics of African Descent, who is taking the lead to the annual Juneteenth celebration to the community. That event has fun for the family, free food, entertainment from 3:00 p.m. To 7:00 p.m., located at Anne Shirrells Park, located at 1367 N. California St. in San Bernardino.
On June 21, Akoma Unity Center invites all out to enjoy its quarterly soul food dinner.
“Last year we had over 500 in attendance, we’re looking again to have a real successful evening where families on the Westside are able to come out and enjoy community day together,” she said.
The center will showcase their scholars who will be graduating, and thank their many sponsors who have supported their scholars throughout the school year, she added.
This year, the students are performing Henry “Box” Brown, the hip hop musical.
“Henry “Box” Brown was a slave who actually mailed himself to freedom,” she said. “The kids are doing a live performance that day. It’s going to be absolutely wonderful.”
To learn more about the location for the June 19the International Day of Drumming, contact the Akoma Unity Center at 909-217-7956 or, http://akomaunitycenter.org