LB Juneteenth: Celebration of Culture, History & Dads
By Dianne Anderson
Long Beach parks will be brimming this weekend as friends and family converge for neighborhood reunions, bringing the old cultural landmark into the here and now.
All the fun, good food and entertainment will also no doubt spark some deeper historical conversations on the real meaning of Juneteenth.
For small business owner, Tosha Joseph, the event helps sustain Black businesses like her own, but it’s not just economics. The experience is about building community and being with the many thousands of her extended family.
This is her second year participating and she is proud of what she sees.
“It means the best of us, you look out at the sea of us, we are all different shades, sizes and styles. We’re a beautiful people. The way we express ourselves, the way we are together. Juneteenth for me means resilience,” she said.
Her food truck, Comfort Wingz has wings in seven different flavors. Last year, Juneteenth was her first time as a vendor and she said it was special that everyone understands and is drawn together because of historic sacrifices.
She said there is power in recognizing the endurance of those that came before, and Black resiliency today.
“Everyone is so kind and everyone kind of gets the importance of why we’re there, who we are, and the fact that we’re being celebrated and doing it together,” she said.
On June 17, the Rainbow Lagoon celebrates the time-honored tradition with a multitude of entertainers taking the main stage. Among them, a Black Greek step show, DJ Jiji Sweet, Phylicia Hill, Dembrebrah African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Greater Los Angeles Community Choir and Divas of Compton. Also performing, Piece of Paradise, Michah Bournes, Ayanna and Acacia Greenage, Brandon E. Owens and Friends, and Gee Mack & Asia Raye.
“Black culture is foundational to what makes America great, and Juneteenth is the perfect holiday to celebrate Black freedom in all of its expressions,” said Carl Kemp, local Juneteenth event producer and founder.
Among the event’s other nonstop activities, the Kings & Queens Village for children is cosponsored by the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, foodies will get a taste of soul with many Black-owned food trucks and businesses.
Forgotten Images will feature their African American traveling memorabilia collection with rare memorabilia dating back hundreds of years.
“This event would not be possible without our hardworking team, generous sponsors, and beautiful community, and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to bring joy to the Black community and those who love our culture,” Kemp said.
On June 18, the celebration of tradition carries over at Martin Luther King Jr. Park with a combination Juneteenth and Fatherhood event, co-hosted by Keith Lilly of the youth-based nonprofit Developing Future Leaders, along with Love Beyond Limits.
Not long ago, he learned that his own grandmother came in on the last slave ship in 1858, which he said brings more meaning from his family history perspective.
“They were indentured servants, she wasn’t in the slave group, but she worked,” he said, adding that her oppression was great. “My grandmother picked cotton in Alabama for a penny a day.”
A lot of energy went into getting the community into resources this year to learn about housing help, and healthcare. He said they have opened opportunities to numerous vendors with information, resources, and the same goals as in the beginning 17 years ago in the Sixth District when he first started participating in Juneteenth.
“The beautiful thing about it is that we’re still in the Sixth District. We’re doing this for health and awareness of the community, the history of the community and the history of America at the same time,” he said.
Hometown favorites will be there, including Alvin Hayes, Jr.
On Sunday, June 18, the event also recognizes Father’s Day, and dads and the kids all eat free, although they will have a couple of food trucks on-site at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, located at 1950 Lemon Avenue. The event runs from 9:00 a.m., includes free breakfast, followed by Church at the Park, and the Juneteenth celebration runs to 3:00 p.m.
At the event, Lilly said it’s an honor to recognize John Malveaux for his work with MusicUNTOLD in providing free excursions and tickets for local youth over the decades to have the opportunity to experience top performances, such as the world-renowned Black ballerina Misty Copeland.
Because of Malveaux, he said local kids have attended classy events to partake of the classic greats that they would not have otherwise experienced.
He said that Malveaux always reached out to give back with free tickets so the community was not forgotten.
“The system doesn’t want our kids to grow,” he said. “All those kids that went [the events] are going to colleges and universities now,” said Lilly, executive director of Developing Future Leaders.
John Malveaux, president of Long Beach Central Area Association, grew up in Texas, the home of where Juneteenth started. He learned the real backstory of the reason for Juneteenth while visiting the African American Civil War and Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
The traditional story is that Blacks first learned of their freedom in Texas over two years after slavery was abolished because slaveowners didn’t want to risk losing their profit from forced labor.
But, Malveaus contends there is another side that’s always glossed over.
Somehow, he said historians fail to mention that Black troops were in the area, and were a force to be reckoned with. When the governing state of Texas refused to acknowledge that slavery ended, the Lt. Governor made a run for the Mexican border to avoid humiliation.
“When they got to Mexico, then they wired back to put up the flag and surrender. The reason is it would have been too embarrassing to surrender to Black troops. That’s the real story, it’s Black troops that saved the Union.”
For more information on the Rainbow Lagoon, see Tickets for the Long Beach Juneteenth Celebration are free, but reservations are required. Reserve your tickets at www.lbjuneteenth.com
For more information on Developing Future Leaders, see https://www.developfutureleaders.org/
For more information on Love Beyond Limits, see https://lovebeyondlimits.org/