Juneteenth Events Celebrate Freedom, Push for State and Nat’l Holiday
By Dianne Anderson
A lot of people don’t know about the backstory of Santa Ana and how much it had in common with Texas.
But growing up, it was obvious to David Shipp. He said Santa Ana looked very different than it does today. There were a lot of Black folks.
“Not 100%, but all my neighbors and school were Black. It started in the 50s with 433 black families, by the 80’s it was 10,000 so they would always call Santa Ana Little Texas,” said Shipp, president of the Orange County Heritage Council.
Shipp, whose mother Helen Shipp started the city’s Black History Parade four decades ago, has continued the parade.
He is now spearheading Juneteenth with a vision for the future, and wants to bring the community back together, supporting local business, and preserving Black history in the process.
On June 19, the event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Centennial Regional Park in Santa Ana, and is sponsored by Orange County Heritage Council and the city of Santa Ana. Booths are at a great price, and he said they are still looking to get vendors signed up.
Headliner is Daniel Michael Lynem, former Black Panther from the Santa Ana chapter, and one of the original Black Panthers in Orange County. Lynem will speak to the little-known history of the city and Juneteenth.
The event also pays tribute to Barbara Junious, executive director of OC Learning Black History, who had held the Juneteenth celebration in Huntington Beach for several years. Junious was the first African American family in her area of Huntington Beach when she moved there in 1980.
In taking the reins of the event, Shipp hopes to revitalize it. For years, the local branch NAACP had also intermittently held the event.
“Were stepping in to say we’re going to grab this thing, pick it up and dust it off, let’s get back to our community and back to building, networking, growing and loving one another and marching forward so we can succeed,” he said.
Some of Shipp’s fondest early memories were with his mom, and how she created arts and crafts that they would sell at local events.
“Everyone has their own design and everybody wants something different,” he said. “We are encouraging entrepreneurs to come out. When you look at our history, that’s where we come from, creating our own things,” he said.
Other communities are also planning good family fun with the upcoming holiday.
In San Bernardino, Juneteenth is getting folks back on the move, giving way to a great summer break away — physically, socially and emotionally.
“That’s exactly how we all feel, that we’re ready to get out and this is also a time, we’re bringing out the kids too. We’ve gotta’ start somewhere,” said Jacquetta Green, host of the Black Family Reunion Juneteenth Soul Fest.
On Saturday, June 19, the Junteenth event will be held 127 West 40th Street in San Bernardino, and runs from noon to 6:00 p.m.
“We’re planning to have a festive time as far as food, a kids’ corner and entertainment,” she said. “We’re going to have a good time, we’re going to have stuff for the kids, jumpers, face painting, snow cones.”
They are also focused on helping local businesses set up. Tents and tabling include nonprofits, local authors, merchandising, clothing, arts, and some big-box chains will offer merchandise or information.
“Basically people will be able to cross the street, just come, enjoy the music we’re putting out, enjoy the food. We’re just going to have a good time,” she said.
The event pays tribute to Rev. Mother Louise Shropshire. A keynote speaker will address “The Spiritual Force behind the Battle Cry We Shall Overcome,” and the true meaning of Juneteenth.
“Louise Shropshire was one of Martin Luther King’s right-hand women. She wrote a very famous song that she didn’t get credit for. Her Foundation won the rights back for her song and we’re having a special dedication for her and a speech by her estate,” said Green.
For her part, Green will talk about the importance of community awareness and engagement to change the political system, starting with learning more about civics to get society to a place of more justice and equity.
“Civic engagement is definitely top tier when it comes to even understanding the racial things that are happening,” she said.
In Long Beach, Carl Kemp is hosting the Juneteenth Celebration downtown. He also sees strong connections of how much community engagement can change local and national government.
The Long Beach City Council unanimously passed the motion to make Juneteenth an official celebration in the city. They are asking the Governor to make it a state holiday, and the President to make it a national holiday.
“It’s just really cutting edge. I also want to honor the folks who came before me in doing Juneteenth, folks like Connie Oden, Ahmed Saffir, and John Malveaux. These are the folks who have carried the tradition in the community at King Park,” he said.
The event will be on Pine Avenue between 4th and 5th street, and runs from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
“We’re going to attempt to do it in a way that brings honor, dignity and celebration to the holiday itself and provides an opportunity for everybody that loves Black culture to come out and celebrate with us,” he said.
The holiday is the oldest celebration of freedom for Black people in America, but he said these times are especially exciting as communities push at the local and national levels for change.
“It really is starting to come into its own. I believe we’re on the brink of something big. I believe it won’t be long before we see this as a national holiday,” he said.
For information on events:
In San Bernardino, contact Jacquettagreen22@gmail.com
In Orange County, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In Long Beach, see www.lbjuneteenth.com or contact email@example.com