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Black Los Angeles June festivals

Photos by Jason Lewis

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Photos by Jason Lewis
 

By Ayanna Bonds

With the summer months finally arriving, vibrant, colorful, and Afrocentric festivals will give locals many opportunities to experience the many cultures of the African Diaspora that thrive in Black communities of Los Angeles.  

Juneteenth has become Black America’s premier holiday.  Black people are at the forefront of celebrations such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, but King Day is also about racial inclusion.  Juneteenth is a day that is specifically devoted to African Americans and their history, and the most Afrocentric experiences of this holiday happen in Black communities.

This year Juneteenth falls on Wednesday, June 19, and there will be events that entire week in several areas of Los Angeles to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States of America.    

Later in the month, Leimert Park will feature two very colorful and festive parades/festivals on the same day on June 30, as the Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks will take place early in the afternoon and the L.A. Carnival on the Shaw will take place later that afternoon and into the evening.  

 

Juneteenth events

-California African American Museum Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday, June 15, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 600 State Drive in Exposition Park.  There will be a full day of wellness and family activities including yoga, a sound bath, storytelling, and art.

-African Village Vendors Association’s Juneteenth Festival will take place on Sunday, June 16, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Leimert Park Village on Degnan Boulevard between 43rd Place and 43rd Street.  


This Black empowerment event will feature a discussion with 2024 U.S. Presidential candidate Dr. Cornel West and Vice President candidate Dr. Melina Abdullah, who is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

“They will share their platform of truth, love, and justice,” said Billion Godson, one of the event’s promoters.  “In addition they will be signing people up for their Justice for All party.  They need to have 73,000 signed up by July 5.  So we are looking to sign as many people as we can.”

There will be panel discussions featuring members of the California Reparations Task Force and Californians Organizations for Reparations, as there are three bills going through the California state legislation process on reparations.  Other Black community service organizations will also be on hand.

“We will feature a lot of the organizations that are doing the groundwork to better the conditions for those of us who are still here, as a number of us have been pushed out over the last decade,” Godson said.

This festival will have a wide range of food options and 100 Black small business vendors who will be selling designer clothes and other Afrocentric products.  Music wise, there will be live performances.

“We will have the rich culture of Africatown (Leimert Park) showcased with the many different artists,” Godson said.  “It’s a hub for jazz artists, hip hop artists, R&B artists, we’ll have comedians.  All of that will be on display.”

-Juneteenth Father’s Day Celebration in Inglewood, Sunday, June 16, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Market Street between Manchester Boulevard and Nutwood Street. Hip Hop legend and Inglewood native Mack 10 will be honored with keys to the city.  This event will have vendors, music, and food.

-Leimert Park Merchants Association Black Family Reunion Juneteenth Celebration will take place on Wednesday, June 19, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., in Leimert Park Village.  

Over the last several years, this has grown into the largest Juneteenth festival in Los Angeles and one of the largest in the nation.  The rapid growth has caused logistical and security issues as massive crowds have poured into an area that is not designed to hold large scale festivals.  The festival was initially canceled because event promoters were unable to secure the funds to provide a safe environment for festival attendees and the residents who live close to the village.  The event promoters have scaled back the festival and it will take place.  

The festival will not have the big stages with headlining musical acts, but the celebration of Black ancestors will still be as festive as ever.  

-KBLA Talk 1580’s Juneteenth Backyard BBQ, Wednesday, June 19, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, 4100 S. La Cienega Boulevard.  KBLA will provide music, food, and drinks.  Bring your own lawn chairs, blankets, and personal picnic baskets.  

“Juneteenth is about freedom,” said Tavis Smiley, chief visionary officer at KBLA Talk 1580.  “But what does it mean to be free if we are still shackled by the climate maladies our community confronts daily? It is time for Black folks to have their say about the impact of climate on our community.”

-The Wilfandel Juneteenth Celebration of Community & Culture, Wednesday, June 19, 12 noon to 4 p.m., 3425 West Adams Boulevard.  Hosted by Wendy Raquel Robinson.  This event features live performances, youth choirs, and spoken word.  There will be food trucks and vendors.

-LA Cali Fest Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday, June 22, 3811 Slauson Avenue, 12 noon.  

 

Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks

LA Commons’ Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks features a libation ceremony, procession, and a lineup of dance and musical performances with larger than life artwork walking throughout Leimert Park Village.  The festival takes place on Sunday, June 30, at 12 noon.  

The blessing and libation ceremony are designed to invoke a healing and reflection process in the community.  The procession through the streets symbolizes the people's power and capacity to take ownership over their community, address challenges, and create change.

“Communities thrive when they have a sense of their history,” said Karen Mack, LA Commons executive director.  “As African Americans, our connections to the Africa Diaspora is important in terms of our sense of identity and our ability to function in ways that are aligned with who we are.  Our Western culture is misaligned, which is why so much of our community suffered.  Because our systems are racist and don’t recognize the importance of culture and addressing community needs.  This festival gives us all a chance to affirm that connection and feel whole again.”

In the weeks leading up to the festival, there will be free workshops where community members learn West African and Diaspora music, songs and dance, and locals can help make the masks that will be in the parade.  These workshops run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at LA Commons headquarters, 4343 Leimert Boulevard.

“It’s a beautiful event because we have some fantastic artists working with the community to support the creation of masks and costumes,” Mack said.  “There’s a procession where people have the opportunity to showcase what they created, which is a big part of why people enjoy this.  Everybody comes out on that day in their beautiful creations and celebrates together.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to do that and to experience amazing talents.”

For more information, visit www.lacommons.org

 

L.A. Carnival on the Shaw

Crenshaw Boulevard will light up on Sunday night, June 30, from north of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza down to Leimert Park Village as the L.A. Carnival on the Shaw passes through.  To be clear, this is not a parade where people just stand around and watch.  This is more of an energetic and cultural experience.

“Carnival is not a parade,” said Marie Kellier, the event promoter.  “In a parade, you march orderly along.  A carnival is fun all along the way.  The heart of it is the crowd interaction.”

The festivities will begin with a gathering at 4 p.m. at the corner of Obama Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard.  As the drummers and dancers assemble, there will be impromptu music and performances to set the mood.  Observers are welcome to assemble there.  The group will start moving down Crenshaw Boulevard at 6 p.m., and complete their route in the village.  This is a masquerade type of event with Caribbean themes.

“Some people are very exposed in the way that they are dressed, and some people are very conservative,” Keller said.  “We have the large format costumes, which are the ones on wheels.  We’re all dancing along the route.”

For more information on the carnival, visit www.losangelescarnival.com.