On Saturday, June 16, Virginia Avenue Park was the location for the 26th Annual Juneteenth Celebration. Hosted by the City of Santa Monica, the event included live music, dance, food, art, as well as vendors and local service organizations. The event began at 11 a.m. and continued into the early evening with Reverend Shawn Amos.
Over the course of the day music and performances were peppered with musical interludes by DJ BigMace3000 and Bigg PWee, who served as Master of Ceremonies. Hundreds of people filled the park, and many flocked to the dance floor for live Salsa, Jazz, Blues and more. Inspirational speaker, Gerald C. Rivers, was among the showcase of artists that stepped onto the stage. Rivers recited a series of speeches written by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I started acting at the age of 17, I’m 52 now, you do the math,” said Rivers joyfully. He stated that he began acting with Voices of America and chooses to recite Dr. King’s speeches because they are “poignant and timeless.” For the Juneteenth Celebration he selected “The Best,” “The Dilemma and the Challenge,” and “We Shall Overcome.” Then as an encore, he recited an excerpt from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, prefacing the speech by telling the audience “I want you to listen with new ears.”
According to the City of Santa Monica, Juneteenth is a “jubilant celebration of justice and liberty in commemoration of the announcement of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans who lived in the former Confederacy.” During this year’s celebration, the City used the opportunity to conduct outreach for Wellbeing Microgrants applications. “The City will award up to $500 to support individuals who want to implement ideas that focus on small scale action to improve community wellbeing.” The application deadline is Wednesday, July 11, at 5 p.m.
From public servants to grass roots organizations, the celebration grounds were open to people of all ages, and residents of all backgrounds and ethnicities. The Cal Bennet Ensemble concluded their set with a rendition of Miles Davis’ “New Blues” before exiting the stage for Reverend Shawn Amos.
For more information, visit: https://wellbeing.smgov.net/