Yesterday was Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 that slaves in Texas finally learned they were free, a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery in America. (News traveled slowly back then, thanks in part, to the many slaveholders in Texas who were not pleased with said news.)
Celebrations of the holiday were bigger than ever this year across the country, given the timing of the many Black Lives Matter movement protests for racial justice, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
Juneteenth gatherings happened across the city of Los Angeles, but Leimert Park might have had the biggest of them all.
Hundreds congregated in Leimert Park Village to sing, dance, and hold space for one another other. Vendors set up stands along the sidewalks, selling art, snacks and clothing, black-owned food trucks served a hungry community, and DJs and musicians kept the crowd on its feet.
By many accounts, this was the largest crowd they'd seen in the 11 years of Leimert Park's annual Juneteenth Celebration.
Timothy Walker, who grew up in the neighborhood, described what it felt like to witness such a large celebration: "It's beautiful to see so many Black people together here, especially at a time like this. We needed this."
Yesterday's #Juneteenth Leimert Park celebration was one of the most beautiful displays of Black joy, Black beauty, Black fashion, Black music, Black art, Black food, Black CULTURE I've been apart of. It seemed like everything #InsecureHBO's block party wanted to be but REAL.
This event was a celebration of Black pride, but the underlying message was centered on a darker side of American history.
Messages about police brutality from the past several weeks of protests, ignited by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, could be seen all over the festival. The iconography of the Black Lives Matter movement, and images of Floyd, Louisville shooting victim Breonna Taylor, and various others who have been killed by the police were visible in signs, clothes (we even saw some BLM earrings), and altars.
Here's a photographic glimpse of this historic day in L.A.: