The City of Santa Monica and Juneteenth Celebration Committee Inc. present the “16th Annual Juneteenth Celebration” entertainment and art fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 21st at Virginia Avenue Park, at Pico Boulevard and Cloverfield Avenue.

“Juneteenth” commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas received news of their freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation by General Gordon Granger, who arrived in Galveston, Texas with 2,000 troops to enforce the freeing of slaves. Juneteenth has become an integral part of African American history and an occasion for nationwide celebrations in honor of freedom, dignity, and community pride.

This year’s event will feature a drumline, various musical performers and dancers. Keynote presenter is Robin Petgrave, executive director of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum. Also in attendance will be members of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II, and Buffalo Soldiers.

The event began in Santa Monica 16 years ago when LaVerne Ross, the president of Juneteenth Celebration Committee, brought a proposal forth to the City.

“I kept saying, ‘Why don’t we have a Juneteenth celebration,’ when finally in 1992 I said, ‘Why can’t that person be me?'” Ross says. Her efforts have helped establish a celebration that focuses on educating Westsiders of the culture and history of Juneteenth, as well as providing an enjoyable outing.

“Everybody was touched by slavery, and that’s just something you don’t put behind closed doors,” Ross says. “I want to instill in the young people to remember that their past ancestors fought very hard for them to be able to progress and do many things that many of them are not taking advantage of, that the opportunities they have are taken for granted.”

The theme, “Chains to Changes,” was inspired by the current political and social situation. With an African American man as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the progress society has made from previous struggles was worthy of note when choosing the theme, Ross says.

“The sky is the limit now, for instance, we have gone from the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, where they allowed students to integrate schools, to voting rights; those were latent dreams and now we have a female that has run for president, we have an African American nominee,” she says. “That’s progress.”

Information, (310) 458-8688.

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