Downtown is set to host the Long Beach Juneteenth Celebration, a free event which commemorates the June 19th,1865 proclamation that signaled the end of the Civil War and the true end of African-American enslavement in the United States. The Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) is a key sponsor for the Celebration, which is being produced by local community advocate Carl Kemp.
Pine Avenue will be blocked off between 4th and 5th Streets from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. on Saturday, June 19, for an array of entertainment that, according to Kemp, will “really tell the story of the cultural contributions that Black people have made to America and the entire world. Black culture has come to define, in many ways, American culture.”
The stage at the Juneteenth Celebration will be filled with African drums, gospel choirs, jazz musicians, interpretive dancers, poets, and rhythm and blues artists. The Master of Ceremonies will be Aundrae Russell of KJLH, the preeminent Black radio station in Southern California.
In 2020, Kemp began contemplating the idea of producing a Juneteenth event. He had been speaking with former Juneteenth organizers and community elders about the significance of the holiday, and, after a dinner with Pastor Wayne Chaney of the Antioch Church on Pine Avenue following the murder of George Floyd, Kemp began planning the event in earnest.
DLBA became a Juneteenth Celebration sponsor after Kemp was asked by CEO Kraig Kojian to create questions for a Black History Month virtual discussion last February. The two men agreed that the celebration of Black history in the United States should be “an all-year thing.”
“It is our hope that the folks we bring Downtown for the event will really help invigorate the businesses on Pine Avenue that have struggled during COVID,” said Kemp. “Also, the event will provide a ‘full circle’ moment, a year after Downtown streets were filled with an international tapestry of folks who reflected the Long Beach population, protesting the murder of George Floyd and advocating for equitable treatment of Black people. The Juneteenth Celebration will give Downtown businesses a chance to build a bridge with those same folks.”
It is Kemp’s hope that the Long Beach Juneteenth Celebration will become an annual event and be known as the premiere Juneteenth event in Southern California. “I think we’re in a place where the Juneteenth holiday is finally going to receive its due,” said Kemp, a 31-year Long Beach resident. “To have the event entrusted to me is a great personal honor.”
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