Among the melanted (and well moisturized) sect, Juneteeth is kind of a big deal.
While it’s not quite the return of Christ, it’s an annual tradition that commemorates the liberation of our ancestors from repulsive shit like this. And when you live in a city like Los Angeles—SPOILER WARNING: I live in a city like Los Angeles—we have a tendency to do the absolute most while spreading the gospel of unapologetic Black Joy.
To that end, here’s a rundown of everywhere I was throughout Juneteenth weekend, everywhere you should’ve been, and everywhere in between.
If there’s one thing Black folks love—besides Luther Vandross and proper seasoning—it’s a cookout. And on Saturday, one of my favorite restaurants, Fixins Soul Kitchen, brought the cookout vibes to Downtown Los Angeles’ LA Live. Not only were guests treated to a delicious feast that included fried catfish, chicken and waffles, and other Black-ass favorites, but the adult Kool-Aid, Porch Pounder (which is what an Arnold Palmer would taste like if it had Black roommates), and blue raspberry margarita imbued me with everlasting life. But food and drinks weren’t the only things on the menu, as a photo booth and games like Jenga, Connect Four, and Pop-A-Shot kept the energy high whenever the massive crowd wasn’t preoccupied with the Electric Slide.
As much as I love us, I love to see us having a beautiful, Black-ass time. And Fixins’ Juneteenth celebration absolutely delivered on doing exactly that.
Every time I hit up Leimert Park, my soul is replenished. And for this year’s Juneteenth Festival, the historic neighborhood combined superpowers with Amazon Music’s Rotation, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Def Jam Records, and others for a Blackstravangaza that included food vendors, all the incense and beaded necklaces you’ll ever need in life, and performances from legendary hip-hop producer DJ Battlecat, songstress Alex Isley (who only a fool wouldn’t be up on already), Masego (whose electrifying set had the entire Crenshaw district rockin’), jazz legends Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin, and a lengthy list of others.
It was an entire day full of “you had to be there” moments, so if you weren’t, you definitely missed out.
LA heads already know what time it is when Brian Henry (f.k.a. DJ B-Hen) sends out the Bat Signal to announce another one of his epic block parties: the turnout is massive, the energy and vibes are unparalleled, and there’s a 174-percent chance that every single Black person you’ve ever met in your entire life will be there. This weekend, all of the above was true, as Janelle Monae, Insecure’s Kendrick Sampson, and Pose’s Mj Rodriguez were among the 1,500+ guests in attendance shaking their asses and having the time of their lives in the celebration of Black joy and even Blacker pride.
Blackbird House, founded by Bridgid Coulter Cheadle, prides itself on providing a niche space that’s specifically designed to inspire women of color and their allies to propel their lives and careers. To that end, its Juneteenth event kept that same energy with a celebration that included curated art installations, live music, rest and relaxation stations, panel discussions, and more, with special guests Debbie Allen, trailblazing winemaker Iris Rideau, and art gallery director Rick Garzon on hand to partake in the festivities.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that preserving our health and wellness is pretty damn important. That said, if yoga is your ministry, it’s highly likely that you joined WalkGood LA founder Etienne Maurice, company vice president Ivy Coco, and health and wellness director Marley Rae as they led a donation-based 1-hour Vinyasa flow and mediation in LA High Memorial Park on Sunday, followed by a pop-up mini market. And aside from attendees getting their stretch on, WalkGood LA made it a point to school everyone on the importance of Juneteenth while also giving back to our local communities.
What happens when you combine a farmers market on wheels with a food truck and throw in Black farmers, Black food producers, Black chefs, and Black entrepreneurs? If you were to bring all of the above to Exposition Park on Sunday, then you’d have Prosperity Market’s Juneteenth pop-up at the California African American Museum, which also included cooking demonstrations, family storytelling, a sound bath, raffles, and just about every fruit and vegetable known to man.
Disneyland is commonly referred to as “the happiest place on Earth,” but I would argue that distinction belongs to the greatest live music venue in the history of ever: the Hollywood Bowl. Here at The Root, we already gave you a heads up about Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom and its list of scheduled performers—which included Bell Biv Devoe, Chaka Khan, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Roots, and plenty of others—and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, this Blackstravaganza didn’t disappoint. But aside from captivating performances, attendees (and those watching on CNN from home) were treated to pre-recorded segments that included our forever First Lady Michelle Obama, a video tribute to Opal Lee (who was integral to Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday last June), President Joe Biden, and Jill Scott delivering an impassioned poem