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Juneteenth celebrations growing around the Valley

Posted 6/19/24

Since Juneteenth became a federal holiday, the popularity of planned events has grown faster than it took for the last enslaved people to learn of their freedom.

The message of freedom was …

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Juneteenth celebrations growing around the Valley


Since Juneteenth became a federal holiday, the popularity of planned events has grown faster than it took for the last enslaved people to learn of their freedom.

The message of freedom was delivered on June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved Blacks and African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were finally told they were free two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in the United States, loosening them from the grip of chattel slavery.

First celebrated in Texas in 1866, Juneteenth — a combination of the words June and nineteenth — is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S., according to published reports, noting the celebration acknowledging when Texas announced slavery abolished in 1865, which was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.

Since Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday in June 2021, the commemorative event has grown in popularity, especially in Arizona where events have been scheduled throughout the month.

The Arizona Informant Foundation hosted its annual Juneteenth celebration on June 15 in the Eastlake Park Community Center and out on park grounds in Phoenix. Several other celebrations happened throughout the Valley from Phoenix to Flagstaff and more areas.

Naming Juneteenth Day in Arizona, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs were among dignitaries at the Valley of the Sun celebration. They thanked Lanette Campbell, Valley of the Sun Juneteenth Celebration director/National Juneteenth Observance Foundation director in Arizona, for leading state and local efforts.

“Lanette Cambell has been bringing Juneteenth to Phoenix for 20 years,” said Gallego, reminding people of the importance of keeping up the tradition.

“It is fitting to keep this tradition at Eastlake Park, now Eastlake Park Community Center, as the park provided a gathering spot for local African American residents when Phoenix was segregated,” stated Campbell, noting why the Valley of the Sun Juneteenth celebrations in Eastlake Park, which opened in 1914, remains at the park since its initial return to the site in 2014.

Meanwhile, thousands enjoyed festivities, including family-friendly activities, guest speakers, food and more.

“Juneteenth offers a time to come together and celebrate the rich cultural history of African Americans,” added Campbell.

“I have to understand the importance of our culture,” said Raven McNeal, the CEO and founder of Heal Me Fit.

While perusing booths, she pointed out how Blacks are a small population in Arizona, but valuable nonetheless.

“We are a part of the community. We work in the community and we patronize the community. We would love for the community to have inclusivity and acceptance of us,” McNeal added.

“I like to celebrate Juneteenth and see all the businesses and see what they have to show to the Black community,” said Ajanae Rainey, 17, who will major in psychology at Grand Canyon University in the fall. “This is our Independence Day!”

Other Juneteenth events to check out:

• A storytelling experience on “Afros+Cornrows-When Did You Fall in Love with Your Hair?” starts 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 19, at Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. Third St., Phoenix. Doors open at 6 p.m. Cost: $25. Enjoy narratives from community members about when they fell in love with their hair whether Afros, cornrows, and experiences Black people have with their hair while embracing natural hair styles and the Black hair culture. See: https://museteaseprints.com/products/centered-storytelling-afros-cornrows

• Juneteenth Wine Tasting will be held 5-9 p.m. June 19 at West Alley BBQ, 111 W. Boston St., Chandler. West Alley BBQ partnered with Coronado Vineyards, Arizona’s only Black-owned Vineyard for a wine tasting. See: https://westalleybbq.com/

• Mesa Juneteenth Celebration: Rooted in Resilience 6:30-9:30 p.m. June 19 at Mesa Community College, Dobson and Southern Campus, Mesa. Hosted by the City of Mesa, Mesa Community College and the Mesa-East Valley MLK Committee, the event features activities, live performances, cultural art exhibits, children’s activities, food, community vendors and a show at MCC’s Planetarium. Details: https://www.mesaevmlk.org/juneteenth.html

• Breaking the Silence: Understanding Suicide in the Black Community, 6-8 p.m., June 19, at Community Design Studio, 7506 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale. Join Dr. Jacqueline Webster for a discussion on mental health equity and suicide in the Black community. The presentation highlights the prevalence, contributing factors, and prevention efforts surrounding suicide among Blacks.

• Avondale will host festivities to “Acknowledge, Educate, and Celebrate,” with activities, live music, dance performances, crafts, soul food, fashion, and educational activities, 5-8 p.m. June 19 at Avondale Civic Center Complex, Amphitheater and City Hall Building, 11465 W. Civic Center Drive, Avondale

• Goodyear’s Juneteenth Family Day activities are 6-9 p.m. June 19 at the Goodyear Recreation Campus, 420 S. Estrella Parkway, with performers, including Sandra Bassett leading a choir and the singing of the National Anthem and Black National Anthem, the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Prime Society Band, 40+ Double Dutch, Pretty Precise Step Team, Kawambe Omowale African Drum & Dance Theater, Elegant Rubies Dance Group and United Dance Group. The event also includes an AZ Rhythm Connection Interactive Drum Workshop, educational sessions by the Buffalo Soldier of Arizona and a mural paint-by-number project for all ages; plus food, and various local black-owned vendors.

• The city of Tolleson and partners will host its Juneteenth Celebration 6-8 p.m. June 19 at the Civic Center, 9055 W. Van Buren St., Tolleson, with guest speakers, live performances/music, art displays and crafts, family-friendly activities, food vendors. Free admission. Visit: www.tolleson.az.gov/events.

• Phoenix Professional Black Men’s Group presents Juneteenth BBQ at 2:30 p.m. June 22 at Tempe’s Kiwanis Park at Ramada 4 and 5 (near the lake). Cost: $10. BYOB friendly. RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/phx-black-mens-barbecue-tickets-925649461457?aff=ebdsshios