Oakland’s seventh Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration, organized by community groups and supported by local businesses, was held on June 28.

Jazz and dance were on tap, plus health screenings and a food truck serving ribs for those visiting the health agencies such as the Black Nurses Association and the California [Organ] Donor Transplant Network. It was a family-friendly event with games and face-painting for kids.

This event took place in a northern part of West Oakland at St. Mary’s Center for families and seniors. That location is just off San Pablo Avenue, near the almost-finished West Oakland Youth Center and a block south of the Causa Justa Office. A health fair at St. Mary’s offered free testing of blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol by the Black Nurses Association.

Unfortunately, the famous “Buffalo Soldiers,” although they had come to West Oakland’s Juneteenth in the past, had a conflict this year and were unable to attend. Making up for the missing men in Union soldier uniforms were the quick-stepping Chocolate Platinum Soul Line Dancers, which holds classes in downtown Oakland, and a jazz combo. There was also a fashion show featuring outfits designed by Grace Ogbu of Panache and Esther Fame of Fantabela.

MVI_5462-005The live wire behind the event is Barbara Howard, a long time resident of West Oakland and a host on Yal Radio in Berkeley. She arranged for the Alameda County grant that pays for many of the essential costs each year and and she arranged for the entertainment and free food. She also worked with staff at City Council member Lynette McElhaney’s office to close Brockhurst Street, and for some of the late afternoon raffle prizes.

Major sponsors of the Juneteenth event include Oakland City Church, The Black and Brown Committee, and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. Free food for the event, hot dogs and ribs, came from Men Over 40 Still Balling, a men’s group made up of professionals playing basketball together, and the family business World Class Steaks.

About Juneteenth

The holiday’s origin goes back to an event after the end of the Civil War. In Galveston, Texas, Union soldiers arrived on June 19, 1865, announcing the end of the war and the end of slavery. This was almost two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the last bastion of slavery in the South.

When General Gordon Granger landed there, he read General Order 3, which began, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

On the home page of the Juneteenth.com national web site, we find, “Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.”

Community Awards

Howard includes a broad list of community awards at each Juneteenth celebration. “I honor individuals and groups that do positive things in our community. I do this at Juneteenth and also at the Black History celebration,” Howard told Oakland Local. “I would like to honor them for the ongoing work  they do for our under-privileged youth and families.”

“In remembrance of my ancestors, I find it very important to honor the California Transplant Donor Network,” explained Howard. “Many of my ancestors lost their lives, but also gave life to others and this is a tangible way of giving back and giving life to someone else at a time when we have lost a loved one.”

“The Bay Area Black United Fund supports organizations that serve African-Americans and help them take their rightful place in this society,” Howard said. “By having the same resources as everyone else… we can make the playing field even.”

IMG_5569 (1)Melody Powers accepted an award for the Bay Area Black United Fund. The Bay Area Black United Fund participates in major fund raising campaigns in workplaces such as Port of Oakland, AC Transit, and the City of Richmond.

The award for the California Donors Transport Network was accepted by June Wallace [see video clip below]. The award for Yal Radio was accepted by Yolanda Littles. Other awardees included East Bay Dragons motorcycle club, Young Gifted and Black (see video clip), Kwame Nitoto Sr, Lateshya Johnson, Cesar Escalante Vazquez (see video clip), Ms.Yolanda Littles, Dylan Hamilton, Francine Carter-Harris, and the Simba-Lion Kings, a manhood training program at Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco. 

The Spirit of Love Jazz Funkestra played swinging jazz from the 60s and 70s during the late afternoon. Their Juneteenth lineup had Maestro Nola Curtis on keyboards, Larry Douglas on trumpet, Leon Williams on alto saxophone, Hanif on alto saxophone, and Tyrone Davis on drums.

 A YouTube video with clips of the celebration is here.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYVvG9xKh-0&w=480&h=360]


Below is a sampling of the photos from the full on-line album, accessible here.

5 Responses

  1. OaklandNative

    Wow. Looks like a great an important event. I’ll look for it next year!

  2. Francine Carter, RN, BS, MSN, PHN

    Eric Gider worte on July 9, 2014, “Are white people allowed to attend?” Yes! We encourage your participation. The more we learn about each other (Black vs White) the easier it is to break-down culture barriers. Education is the key to removing the sterotypes, racism, and ignorance that has plagued the U.S. society. We are better people when we are willing to learn from mistakes and myths that has c

  3. jeanne scott

    i am interested in being a vendor for the oakland junteenth. you can reach me at 209-613-9191, thank you. i look forward to speaking with you and participating. thank you and God Bless


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