Juneteenth in Leimert Park– — a time for celebration and reflection

Kennedy Marshall took her friends to the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival on Saturday to enjoy the music and food.

She also got to thinking about being black and buying from black-owned companies — something she thinks is especially important in 2022.

Two years after the assassination of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the ongoing processes of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Black residents are grappling with the racial injustices that still exist, while striving to protect their culture to celebrate and achievements.

“I’m here to support black people and black joy,” she said.

A man plays drums in a drum circle

George George plays with a drum circle at the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

All the way down Stocker Street, the smell of sage and hot dogs wafted well beyond the main celebrations.

Artists like Smino, Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin filled the neighborhood with celebratory black music. Traditional drums provided a background beat.

Hundreds walked down Crenshaw Boulevard, which was closed to traffic, to eat, dance and shop, as well as commemorate June 16 – now an official US holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when black people were enslaved in Galveston, Texas, were free.

Black-owned businesses, from ice cream vendors to breweries to jewelry makers, offered their wares. So many applied to be sellers that the June 16 organizers had to close the list.

A person dancing in a crowd

Tiya Like Fiya from Columbus, Ohio dances to a drum circle at the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Michelle Edeins sold skin care products including balms and sprays to treat eczema.

Her own journey with the skin condition led her to recognize its prevalence in people of African descent.

“I know there are a lot of people who don’t know how to take care of their skin, so I wanted to come out here and support black people and help raise awareness,” she said.

Malachiii performs at the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival at Leimert Park Village.

Malachiii performs at the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival at Leimert Park Village on Saturday.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Another seller, Tawanda Sanon, said she looks forward to building connections with the black community, whether that be customers or other business owners.

Together with her daughter she founded the Mora Glam Collection.

“We all want to take our business outside and connect,” she said, nodding towards her plant-based, cruelty-free skincare products, from hair wax bundles to soap boxes.

On stage, some highlighted how far this country is from realizing racial equality.

A speaker revealed a wooden plaque adorned with the biography and face of Denmark Vesey, the leader of an enslaved group’s revolt in Charleston, SC in 1822.

Michael Simpliss sells his goods

Michael Simpliss sells his wares at the Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

“I don’t think we have 400 minutes to go through 400 years of history, but you can google it,” he said.

Leimert Park has long been a hub of black life in LA. In its main square people gather at times of celebration, mourning and protest. On Degnan Avenue, cafes, bookstores, and performance venues have been cultural touchstones.

Gentrification and changing demographics have weakened other African American communities in Los Angeles, but Leimert Park remains predominantly black.

Some want to celebrate by changing the name of Leimert Park to Africa Town.

They refer to Little Ethiopia, Thai Town, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, Historic Filipinotown – neighborhoods whose names reflect their roots.

“Everyone knows our origins are in Africa,” Kevin Wharton Price, a leader of the Africa Town Coalition, told The Times in 2018. “And Africa specifically speaks to our experience.”

Pan-African flags flew throughout the Juneteenth festival.

Willy Keller, wearing a Leimert Park Pride shirt in the red, black and green colors of the flag, supports the Africa Town name.

“Everyone else has it, right? And we were here first,” he said. “My only question is why did it take so long for us to have a place with its own name?”

Martha Hibbitt, who lives in the neighborhood, wants to stay at Leimert Park.

Walking down Degnan Avenue with a friend, she remarked that the neighborhood is the center of black life in LA — and a different name wouldn’t change that.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she said.

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-18/juneteenth-in-leimert-park-a-time-for-celebration-and-reflection Juneteenth in Leimert Park– — a time for celebration and reflection

Alley Einstein

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