Music, food, and blessings will mark the 20th anniversary of Berkeley’s Juneteenth festival on Sunday—reputed to be the longest running in Northern California.
According to Sam Dyke, organizer and chair of the Merchants Association of Adeline and Alcatraz, the celebration of Juneteenth in Berkeley has a life of its own, which evolves with every passing year.
“Community played a very important role in the success of the last 19 celebrations,” he said. “Every year city officials, corporations, community groups, businesses, churches, media representatives, educators, artists, and others contribute time and money which results in the conglomeration of a wide section of the Bay Area community in the celebration of a major African American cultural event.”
Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, has its roots in Galveston, Texas, where it was observed as the African American Emancipation Day on June 19, 1865.
Today the festival has spread across the country, crossing borders, ethnicities, colors and calling for the end of bigotry, hatred and racism among nationalities.
“It is on this day that we think about the time when those enslaved in Galveston received news about their freedom. We can only guess their emotions, their jubilant dances at being free again, at embarking on an adventure into the unknown,” said Dyke.
Last year the Juneteenth festival attracted a crowd of more than 10,000, and has established itself as a local tradition over the years. The festival is also celebrated in other countries, including Ghana, Israel, France and England.
Since Juneteenth falls during summer, it is considered an ideal time to have a barbecue, roast corn-on-the-cob and throw a yard sale. The event also provides an opportunity to listen to music. This Sunday, the festivities are scheduled to take place from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. near the Black Repertory Theatre on Adeline and Alcatraz streets and will include drummers, the singing of the Negro National Anthem, a performance by the Grass Roots Jazz Band, Ricardo Scales, Kito Gamble and Faye Carol.
For Children, there will be hands on art activities, face painting and a storytelling session by Griot-Tureeda Mikell. A two-on-two basketball tournament is also scheduled for the day.
For more information, seewww.juneteenth.com or call 655-8008.