Juneteenth is the unofficial holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States. More specifically, it stems from the message Union General Gordon Granger relayed to slaves on June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and that slaves were now free.
The 13th annual Santa Monica Juneteenth Celebration, is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 18th, at Clover Park, 2600 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica. Admission is free.
The event is co-produced by the City of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Juneteenth Celebration Committee, Inc. and the Pico Neighborhood Association.
The theme of this year’s event is “Healing the Legacy of Slavery.”
One of the featured entertainers this year is African-American folk storyteller Ellaraino, who tells tales, legends, history and personal stories and will perform on the event’s spoken word and sound stage. Ellaraino performs at universities and cultural events and hosted The Fox Cubhouse television show on the Fox network.
Ellaraino says she seeks to carry on the African griot tradition. Griots are members of west African tribes responsible for carrying on oral history and entertaining through storytelling, poetry, songs and dancing.
“As I think back, I realize my love for the ancient art of storytelling began long ago as I listened to my family tell how things used to be,” says Ellaraino. “I have so many wonderful memories of countless stories told by my father, mother and great-grandmother,” she says.
Ellaraino is the official storyteller of Allensworth State Historic Park. Allensworth was California’s first town founded and funded by African-Americans in 1908.
She co-starred in an episode of The Wayans Bros. television show as Marlon Wayans’s sassy date, and has acted in the films Fire Down Below, Sneakers and House Party.
When Ellaraino seeks to grab an audience’s attention, she sometimes spins her “story staff,” a six-foot pole of gnarled driftwood decorated with intricate carvings from top to bottom.
“Story staff, story staff spinning ’round and ’round in hopes that the right stories will be found,” she’s been known to say.
She then tells the African fable of Anansi the Spider, who is portrayed as a mischievous trickster; or the story of Biddy Mason, a slave who made the long trip from Mississippi to California on foot, walking behind a wagon train, and eventually, after years of suffering, went on to become a rich property owner.
Additional Juneteenth entertainment will include live blues, jazz and R&B by Earth Blues; gospel/jazz by Alfonzo Freeman; Caribbean and world music by Rogelio and Basilio Mitchell; soul songs by Nichelle “Nini” Monroe; the Jubilation Boys Choir; musical storytelling and performance by Gwyn Gorg; dance with Ballet Folklorico; and a martial arts demonstration by the KICKS (Karate for Inner City Kids) group.
The event will showcase the “Children of the Emancipation” traveling museum, featuring storytelling, folk tales, videos, exhibits and artifacts. It also features a tribute to Ernest J. Gaines’s book, A Lesson Before Dying, selected for the African-American Read-Along Chain Literacy Program.
Excerpts of the Emancipation Proclamation will be read at the start of the celebration, followed by a procession of local school children.
Juneteenth is celebrated as an unofficial holiday in many states. In 1980, Texas, through the efforts of African-American state legislator Al Edwards, became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Representative Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth throughout the rest of the country.
Information, (310) 451-5124.