Glorious Juneteenth Celebration in Santa Monica
Santa Monica- June gloom was prominently featured on the morning of June 20th until the early afternoon. The day featured a noticeable mist. This didn’t dampen the resolve of hundreds gathered at Virginia Avenue Park for the 17th Annual Juneteenth Celebration-2009. This year’s theme was “A New Voice of Hope.”
The Juneteenth 2009 Planning Group-Laverne Ross-President, Juneteenth Celebration Committee Inc., Rev. Dr. Sidonie Smith-Director, Firelight in Spirit, Eula Fritz- City of Santa Monica, Bishop Willis Tat Sr., Betty Macias- City of Santa Monica and Carolyn Edwards- Thelma Terry Exhibit Historian is to be applauded for a terrific program for the entire community. Juneteenth, or June 19, 1865 is considered the date when the last slaves in the U.S. were freed, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Actress/comedian Debra Skelton- MADTV served as Mistress of Ceremonies. She kept the audience in stitches in her capacity to edu-tain the audience about the various events taken place on the Main Stage, Youth Stage and in the Thelma Terry Building.
The program got under way with Route 101 who had heads bopping and bodies swaying to a set of Funk, Jazz and Blues. The highlights of their set were “Hearts of Fire,” and “Steeping Out” intertwined with “Down Home Blues.”
The Opening Ceremonies on the Main Stage featured several songs performed by the Ward AME Jubilant Praise Youth Choir. The choir performed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “Jesus Is A Rock In A Weary Land.”
Santa Monica City Manager P. Lamont Ewell spoke of the occasion of Juneteenth (aka) National Freedom Day and introduced Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser. Mayor Ken Genser honored Laverne Ross, President- Juneteenth Celebration Committee Inc. with a presentation from the City of Santa Monica. Laverne Ross received the honor in appreciation of her dedication to the citizens of Santa Monica and surrounding communities in preserving and honoring the legacy and contribution of African Americans to the continuous growth of America.
The Thelma Terry Building has some informative, educational exhibits on display of the Buffalo Soldiers- Rescue of Pine Ridge, Tuskegee Airmen, C.O.R.E- Congress of Racial Equality and Orin Z. Belgrave’s Black Facts and Wax Museum exhibit with an unveiling of a wax stature of President Barack Obama. Entertainment in the Thelma Terry Building featured some roof raising performances by SMC Emeritus Gospel Choir, Venice Baptist Church Choir, First AME Church of Santa Monica and Soul on a Wave.
The Youth Stage featured spoken work artists, and creative dances from youth of Santa Monica. The highlight of the day featured a performance by singer/ songwriter K’ Nesha who performed a couple of original songs. “Material Things” is a song that stood out of her brief set.
The Main Stage continued to be the site for additional entertainment. The Guys and Dolls Square Dance Group from Inglewood, California was the crowd favorite.
Greg Walker – world renowned vocalist formerly with Carlos Santana performed past hits as well as jazz, R&B and gospel. The audience was treated to “Stormy,” “Still in Love” by Luther Vandross, “What’s Going On,” by Marvin Gaye and concluded his set with “Change is Gonna Come.” This last song ties in perfectly with the theme of the days event. Michael Rhodes accompanied Greg on keyboards.
Island Rhythms provided reggae and calypso sounds. Rahmlee Michael Davis closed out the celebration with some original contemporary jazz.
The public enjoyed a fun-filled day that also had some mouthwatering food booths of soul food, farmers market, refreshments, clothing’s and jewelry and book vendors, as well as children’s activities, and health screenings and fitness demonstrations. The Juneteenth Celebration was held with support from the City of Santa Monica staff: Virginia Avenue Park, Police Activities League, CREST, Open Space Management, Community Maintenance, Santa Monica Police Department and the Human Services Division. Additional sponsors were the City of Santa Monica, Juneteenth Celebration Committee, O2 Max Fitness, Santa Monica, UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital; and the endorsement of the N.A.A.C.P.- Venice/ Santa Monica Chapter.