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Many of the large festivals and celebrations of previous years have been canceled due to COVID-19
restrictions. Here are a few virtual celebrations in the Bay Area:
The MC Arts and Culture collective offers “Celebrating the Diaspora” on Friday, June 19 th , with a larger
virtual festival planned for Saturday, June 27. Featuring musicians, poets, dancers and speakers, the
event also boasts a virtual marketplace highlighting black-owned business. Details at
San Francisco Public Library, Museum of the African Diaspora and Heyday Books will host a virtual
gathering in celebration of the legendary musicians of the Fillmore Jazz era. Noon-1:30pm Friday June
19. Free. Reservations required: https://bit.ly/HarlemWestJune2020.
An hourlong presentation and discussion with composer, bassist and bandleader Marcus Shelby, 4-5pm
Friday, June 19, Free-$25 sliding scale. Reservations at bit.ly/moadmarcusshelby.
Bay Area drag personality Nicki Jizz will host a virtual celebration of Juneteenth, 6pm, Friday, June 19.
Free, donations encouraged. Join the live stream at www.twitch.tv/dragalive. For more information and
updates, register at bit.ly/artpridejuneteenthparty.
A staged reading of “Polar Bears, Black Boys and Prairie Fringed Orchids” by Vincent Terrell Durham. A
production intended for mature audiences. 7pm Friday, June 19. Free, donations encouraged.
Reservations required. Playground-sf.org/Juneteenth/.
Hurmon Hamilton, founding pastor of New beginnings Church, hosts an online discussion of the role of
the church in the current movement for justice and healing. 7-8pm Friday, June19. Free. Register for
Zoom meeting at bit.ly/nbccbayareajuneteenth.
Sonoma County hosts the 50 th annual MLK/Juneteenth community festival via Zoom. 1-3pm Saturday,
June 20. Free with registration. www.sonomacountyjuneteenth.com.
The Grown Women Dance collective honors the legacies of Bill Withers, James Brown, Bobby Womack,
Nina Simone and Maya Angelou. 6-7:30pm Saturday, June 27. Updates and access details at
A Little History
Juneteenth does not celebrate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed slaves in the Confederate states. That order was issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. The Civil War continued for another two years, finally ending with the Confederate forces surrendering in April 1865. It took months for that news to reach the more remote areas of the south. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and issued General Order Number 3, which
read in part, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Continued oppression of African Americans made the commemoration of Juneteenth challenging. Celebrations waned through the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People’s March planned by Martin Luther King Jr was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. March participants took the celebrations back to their home states. Texas declared Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980.
There have been moves to make Juneteenth a national holiday, including by then senator Barack Obama who co-sponsored legislation which failed to pass. Change.org has a petition to make Juneteenth a National Holiday in 2020. At the time of writing, they have over 300,000 signatures.