How to celebrate Juneteenth in the Bay Area

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

On June 15, California and the Bay Area will loosen restrictions on outdoor gatherings, mask wearing and capacity limits at live entertainment venues and bars. Juneteenth is the first holiday celebrated after the end of many COVID restrictions, a welcome relief after a mostly virtual observance of the day in 2020.

Also known as Independence Day, Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth is traditionally celebrated on June 19 and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

2021 is the 158th year that Juneteenth has been observed in the U.S. Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the subsequent protests and racial reckoning brought about by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the holiday saw a resurgence during the socially distanced pandemic.

Why is it called Juneteenth?

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but the word did not spread everywhere until after the Civil War had ended. According to one account, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 — more than two years after it officially went into effect. As word of the end of slavery spread, Juneteenth was created as a way to honor that special day.

Why do we celebrate it today?

The end of slavery is certainly worth celebrating. While much has changed in the nearly 160 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, remnants of slavery’s effects on Black communities persist today in the form of disparate salaries, educational levels and incarceration rates.

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others at the hands of the police, and the subsequent protests and trials of the last year, showed us that society still has a long way to go in terms of reparations and interracial peace.

Celebrating Juneteenth helps empower Black communities as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and a year of social unrest.

Can white people celebrate Juneteenth?

Yes, anyone can and should celebrate the end of slavery and take steps toward healing.

Where is Juneteenth celebrated?

Juneteenth is now observed in 48 states and the District of Columbia. In 2020, companies such as Lyft, Uber, Best Buy, Target, Postmates, Twitter, Nike and the NFL implemented policies to make Juneteenth a paid holiday. Santa Clara County became the first California county to declare the holiday an official paid day off for county employees.

What are the two states that do not recognize Juneteenth?

South Dakota and Hawaii (legislation passed this year recognizing the holiday in Hawaii, but the bill has not been signed by Gov. David Ige as of press time.)

How is Juneteenth typically celebrated?

Like most celebrations, food, drink, speeches, parades, gatherings, music and education.

Many traditional events in the Bay Area, such as the Berkeley Juneteenth festival, have been postponed until 2022 because of fluctuating safety regulations in regards to large public gatherings.

How to celebrate Juneteenth 2021 in the Bay Area

Juneteenth week in Santa Clara County

The South Bay’s celebration of Juneteenth kicks off June 13, offering a mix of virtual offerings, discussions and more. In-person events include a comedy show Wednesday, June 16, at Metro City Restaurant & Bar (919 E. Duane Ave, Sunnyvale) featuring writer and stand-up comic Tahir Moore, open mike nights and the 40th Annual Juneteenth in the Park Festival from noon to  7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds (344 Tully Road, San Jose.)

Sunday-Saturday, June 13-19. Virtual events and various locations around Santa Clara County. Schedule and more updates at sjaacsa.org/juneteenth/home

2021 San Francisco Black Film Festival

The San Francisco event celebrates African American cinema by showcasing films from both emerging and established filmmakers. The 2021 festival marks the first edition since the death of its director, Kali O’Ray, in 2020. For schedule and programming updates, go to sfbff.org.

Thursday-Sunday, June 17-20. $75 all-access festival pass. sfbff.org

‘Monumental Reckoning’

Sponsored by the Museum of African Diaspora and the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce, the new art installation at Golden Gate Park will be unveiled on the eve of Juneteenth. Created by Oakland artist and See Black Womxn co-founder Dana King, the work will surround the site of the recently toppled Francis Scott Key statue with 350 statues representing the African ancestors who became the country’s first enslaved people. The public is invited to an unveiling ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 18.

On view at Music Concourse at Golden Gate Park, S.F. For more information, go to monumentalreckoning.org

Juneteenth on the Waterfront

Join MegaBlack SF, CUESA and the Port of San Francisco for a day of fun, community and delicious, handcrafted food at the Embarcadero Ferry Terminal Plaza. The event will spotlight local Black producers, celebratory Juneteenth food, music and learning opportunities. MegaBlack SF also unveiled an online store with special-edition educational materials, a Juneteenth Family Kit and branded merchandise in honor of the holiday.

8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 19. Free. Embarcadero Ferry Terminal Plaza and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market at the Ferry Building, between Embarcadero and Market Streets, S.F. megablacksf.org/juneteenth 

Music at Grace Presents: Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom

Grace Cathedral hosts a live-streamed presentation of Black music from the great altar, featuring Oakland DJ Nina Sol. Her selection of gospel, R&B, jazz, Afro-Caribbean and other celebratory sounds pays homage to artists and musicians who have helped shape American music.

Celebrate Juneteenth at MoAD

The Museum of the African Diaspora celebrates Juneteenth with a day of virtual programs highlighting Black women in rock ’n’ roll, Black social dances and more. From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the museum hosts a “Rock ’n’ Roll Heretics: Shredding While Black and Female” roundtable, focusing on Black female rock guitarists. Participants include author Sikivu Hutchinson, singer-songwriter Samantha “GhettoSongBird” Hollins, Atlanta performer Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan and 19-year-old musician Zorrie Petrus.

From 2 to 3:30 p.m., Oakland dance educator Traci Barlow hosts a part lecture, part dance party celebration of the different eras of the Black experience, highlighting the aesthetic, culture and liberation behind Black social dances.

The program wraps up at 4-5 p.m. with a panel discussion on the origins of Juneteenth and its historical and current political significance.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, June 19. Free, donations encouraged. Register in advance at moadsf.org

5th Annual Marin City Juneteenth Festival 2021

Celebrate the holiday with food vendors and a variety of live music and entertainment offerings. Support Black businesses during the event’s African Marketplace, featuring natural hair and body care products, art, jewelry and more.

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday June 19. Free, donations encouraged. George Rocky Graham Park, 850 Drake Ave., Sausalito. juneteenthcommunityfestival.info

Bay Area Mural Program Presents: Art Clash

The Bay Area nonprofit plans to host a street art competition and festival for guests of all ages. During the event, local artists will compete by creating spray paint and brushwork pieces around the theme “The Oakland Experience … What’s Your Imprint?,” vying for a $1,000 prize. Work created during the event will then be auctioned off, with 75% of profits going directly to the artist. The event is also set to feature DJ sets, live performances and food vendors.

Noon-6 p.m. Saturday, June 19. Free. 7th West, 1255 Seventh St., Oakland. linktr.ee/BAMPart

Juneteenth at Bayview Opera House

The Bayview Opera House presents its first outdoor event since the start of the pandemic, featuring live drumming from Batuci, a dance number from Feline Finesse, poetry from Queen Niyah, music by XPress and GoodBrutha, and blues and jazz by Pat Wilder and her band.

1-3 p.m. Saturday, June 19. $20, free for Bayview Opera House community members. Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St., S.F. bvoh.org

Sonoma County’s 51st MLK/Juneteenth Community Festival Celebration

Sonoma County invites participants of all ages for a virtual celebration of Juneteenth. Typically hosted at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in Santa Rosa, the event is known as a day for the community to come together to honor the civil rights leader’s contributions, as well as the significance of Juneteenth.

1-3p.m. Saturday, June 19. Free, registration required. sonomacountyjuneteenth.com

Juneteenth: A Rainbow Revival

Bluegrass Pride presents an evening of musical performances, curated by Brandi Pace of nonprofit Decolonizing the Music Room, highlighting the contributions of Black queer, trans and non-binary folks to roots music and the Pride movement. Scheduled performers include Sunny War, Jake Blount, Yasmin Williams, Jackie & Resa and Stephanie Anne Johnson.

3 p.m. Saturday, June 19. Free, donations encouraged. bluegrasspride.net

The Marsh Presents: ‘Not a Genuine Black Man’

The San Francisco theater company presents a one-night-only, live-streamed performance of the longest-running solo show in San Francisco theater history by award-winning actor, playwright and talk show host Brian Copeland. The show, streaming on the MarshStream platform, recounts Copeland’s struggles growing up in one of the most racist suburbs in America.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19. $15-$100, sliding scale. Registration closes one hour before the show. themarsh.org

San Francisco Juneteenth Weekend 2021

S.F. Black Wallstreet will host its second annual Juneteenth celebration. This is one of many weekend events taking place in San Francisco from June 17 to 20, including a kickoff event and rally on the steps of City Hall, (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, S.F.) from noon to 3 p.m. on June 17, and City Hall illuminated in red, green and black on the night of June 19 in honor of the occasion.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 20. Free. Gilman Playground, 903 Gilman Ave., S.F. sanfranciscojuneteenth.com

Story by Kiki Monifa.. Calendar producer Anne Schrager contributed to this story.

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