12 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth in Los Angeles This Year
From Inglewood to the valley, all of LA is celebrating.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived with 2,000 Union troops in Galveston Bay, Texas, breaking the news that the Civil War had ended and the 250,000 people who remained enslaved in the state were now free. This announcement came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but due to a small number of Union troops, his Executive Order was largely not enforced in Texas. The day became known as Juneteenth, though it is also referred to as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day.
Around the same time the following year in Texas, celebrations began to take root, mostly held by local church groups. In the decades that followed, these festivities extended across the Southern states, often involving large spreads of food, gospel choirs, and dancing. Juneteenth gained even more momentum with the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 70s, with celebrations happening in Black communities all over America.
Yet despite being the oldest holiday that celebrates the freedom of people enslaved in the United States, outside of Black communities, Juneteenth was not a widely recognized holiday before last year. When the video of George Floyd’s murder was released just before Memorial Day 2020, it spurred a nationwide reckoning and a call for greater accountability into how racism has entrenched itself throughout American society. When Juneteenth arrived in the following weeks, many took it as an opportunity to learn more about the little-known historical event, even though lockdown orders prevented us from celebrating together in person.
Thankfully, Juneteenth is finally getting the attention it deserves, with the Senate unanimously voting to designate it as a federally-recognized holiday. And with Los Angeles fully reopened for the first time since before March 2020, there are plenty of ways to celebrate at actual, in-person events happening all over town. But among all of these celebrations, let’s not forget the commitments we made to show up for our local Black communities and support their fight for equality and justice. We still have so far to go and we need everyone’s participation if we hope to create real and long-lasting change.
Here are 12 ways to celebrate Juneteenth in and around LA this weekend, from a free barbeque to Black-owned marketplaces, live music, and more:
UNI Fest is a celebration of you and I (get it?) and our ability to come together and make great things happen. The all-day block party will include a morning yoga flow led by Walk Good LA, wellness kids fair from YogaLittle, group dance class from Old Skool Skinny, produce market from Summa Everythang Community Center, BIPOC marketplace from Our Piece of the Pie, and art installations from Halsey who teamed up with music curator Barrington Darius to create visuals for a live music stage, with sounds by Soulection. The produce market opens at 7 am, the yoga flow is at 10 am, and the block party runs from noon to 10 pm.
Wood Urban Kitchen BBQ (Inglewood)
In partnership with the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce, The Wood Urban Kitchen BBQ will be giving out free barbecue to celebrate Juneteenth. Last year they fed over 1,300 people and this year their goal is to feed 2,000 hungry folks. Pull up and grab a plate beginning at 1 pm until they run out, with music by Mak-ski. To donate towards the food, cash app $thewoodbbq or venmo @thewoodbbq.
Leimert Park Village
Leimert’s Juneteenth celebrations have been going strong for 40 years, and in 2018 it shifted to become Leimert Park Rising, a celebration of Black freedom that honors ancestors as well as the community. It stands out as the only two-day Juneteenth celebration in the city (from 11 am–9 pm on Saturday and Sunday), featuring art, music, and discussions with community leaders, with the intention of building a more cooperative neighborhood. Volunteers are still needed and donations are encouraged.
Watts Historic Train Station
During the Great Migration, many African Americans coming to LA from the South arrived at the Watts Train Station. Then, in 1965 after the Watts Riots, the Watts Train Station was the only structure that remained intact along 103rd St, and came to serve as a symbol of hope and resiliency to the surrounding community. Learn this history and more at this heritage festival that’s being put on by Build Plus and Black Arts Los Angeles, with live entertainment, food trucks, arts and crafts, vendors, rides, and a Kidz Corner from 10 am–6 pm.
If you’re still feeling a little hesitant about celebrating Juneteenth in person, you can take part in the closing reception of this year’s African American Composer’s Series that will be held on Juneteenth from 3–6 pm at the William Grant Still Arts Center and live streamed online. Bandleader and musician Marcus L. Miller is organizing a retrospective concert that will highlight musicians from the past while inducting new talent, featuring Kamau Daáood, Dwight Tribble, Gregg Wright, Maiya Sykes, Dexter Story, Mark Broyard, Derf Reklaw, Dale Williams, Sandra Booker, and many more. To watch, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and await further instruction.
Maroon Arts & Culture (Burbank)
This outdoor fest isn’t just a Juneteenth celebration, it’s also the anniversary of Maroon Arts & Culture, an arts organization that celebrates the culture, history, rituals, and traditions of the African diaspora. The theme this year is “Performing Heritage,” and they’re kicking off the day at 10 am with yoga and a guided meditation where they’ll sit in gratitude for their ancestors. Afterwards, they’ll be hosting a Black-owned marketplace with vendors, live music, and art installations from 11 am–4 pm, and will close their jubilee with an open mic event that begins at 5 pm. If you need a boost of confidence before taking to the stage, rest assured that they’ll have an open bar from 4:30–5 pm. Performers of all types are encouraged to sign up. All of the activities will be streamed on YouTube for those who prefer comfortable joining at home.
Calvary Baptist Church (Santa Monica)
Celebrate Juneteenth at the oldest African American Baptist church in Santa Monica, with live entertainment, a drum line, step show, spoken word, gospel line dances, West African drumming and dancing, plus other vendors and food trucks. The event runs from 11am–3 pm, but food trucks are only available from 12–2 pm.
Comfort LA (DTLA location)
This Juneteenth concert is a celebration of the past, present, and future of Black culture, with live performances from indie artists and a marketplace featuring Black-owned businesses. Plus, it’s hosted by Comfort LA, so you can grab some of their famous fried chicken wings or cornbread to munch on while you listen and shop. They’re also encouraging attendees to bring packs of unworn socks that will be donated to the nonprofit Sock It To Me. The concert and pop-up runs from 2–6 pm.
1921 Blake Ave, 90039 (Frogtown)
This pop-up features over 70 Black-owned vendors ranging from candles and crystals to clothing, cosmetics, and more, plus a photo booth, games, and music by DJ Looney and Toney Handsome. Three fully-stocked bars are available, along with Jamaican food, soul food, tacos, and gourmet burgers to help fuel your shopping.
Sip & Sonder (Inglewood)
Black-owned Sip & Sonder coffee shop is hosting a Juneteenth celebration that highlights four Black entrepreneurs: Chef Rashida of Bridgetown Roti with freshly prepared Caribbean street food, florist Amber May with flower bouquets, For the Love of Us with mind and body essentials, and DJ Big Baby Ash providing the tunes. The event is sponsored in part by the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Rams and ongoing from 9 am–3 pm.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (Long Beach)
The Juneteenth festivities will continue on Sunday, June 20, from 1 to 4 pm with this educational event that serves as a dual celebration of fathers and Juneteenth. Co-sponsored by the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach, Love Beyond Limits, and the Port of Long Beach, this celebration will educate attendees about the history of Juneteenth and will highlight Black elected officials and Civil Rights leaders. You can expect gospel performances, art displays, prizes and giveaways, as well as health education about the COVID vaccine to help combat hesitancy.
San Manuel Stadium (San Bernardino)
The Inland Empire 66ers will face off against the Lake Elsinore Storm this Juneteenth in a minor league baseball game that will also commemorate the 101th anniversary of the formation of the Negro League, which gave us baseball legends like Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, plus scores of other players who never got the major league recognition they deserved. The event will include fireworks and special on-field jerseys and hats. The game begins at 7 pm.