On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to let enslaved African Americans know that they were free — four months after the end of the civil war, and nearly three years since President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.
Seven years later, the momentous day was recognized by a group of Black religious and business leaders, who banded together to buy 10 acres of land and create Emancipation Park in South Central Houston. Nearly 150 years later, Juneteenth — as the holiday is now known — is cause for nationwide celebration, with Black communities from Detroit to Los Angeles organizing large parades, pageants, performances, and food festivals. In San Francisco’s Fillmore District, an annual Juneteenth parade has drawn 75,000 people in years past.
This year’s Juneteenth brings with it both cause for jubilant celebration and somber reflection. It’s been 13 months since San Francisco and the broader Bay Area first entered into an unprecedented lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. This June also marks one year since street protests gave way to widespread instances of police brutality and rioting in cities all over the country.
George Floyd’s killing spurred a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism, and inspired an overtly political tone in many of 2020’s Juneteenth celebrations. The Bayview-based organization SF Black Wallstreet hosted their first Juneteenth celebration last June. It was a family-friendly, mid-sized, and joyful affair at Gilman playground. However, in between food vendors doling out hot plates and small businesses selling their wares, organizers took a moment to pause and acknowledge the significance of the moment.
“This is a statement — a very radical event that’s happening in San Francisco” said SF Black Wallstreet co-founder Tiffany Carter, who was filmed for a YouTube video commemorating the event. “This isn’t a Bayview thing, this isn’t a Fillmore thing… this is a Black San Francisco thing.”
This year, SF Black Wallstreet’s Juneteenth event is back, and even bigger than the year before. Running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 20, at Gilman Park, the event includes a car show, a “Lil Miss Juneteenth” pageant, amusement park rides, vendors, live performances, and a “COVID Health Zone” with testing and vaccinations. Small, Black-owned businesses will have opportunities to sell their wares, while some of the city’s best restaurateurs will be serving attendees. All together, the event is expected to far outdo last year’s attendance. “It’s going to be huge” predicts SF Black Wallstreet co-founder Tinisch Hollins.
June 20 is also Father’s Day, which the organizers are recognizing with a “Father of the Year” competition. Participants are invited to post a photo of their dad on social media with a caption explaining why they should win and tag @sfblackwallstreet by June 17. On June 20, the Father of the Year will be announced and given an award on the event’s main stage, sponsored by the Golden State Warriors. Additionally, fathers can reserve a “Father’s Day VIP Tent,” which comes with private seating, a catered meal, a complimentary cocktail or beer, and a gift bag online.
Other sponsors of the event include the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA, Livable City, Recology, Teamsters Local 350, and Young Community Developers. The SF Juneteenth Fillmore Festival is sponsoring SF Black Wallstreet’s Sunday event as well, despite the fact that the African American Arts & Culture Center is moving forward with a separate Juneteenth “Black Family Reunion” concert event on Saturday, June 19. Together, it will be a busy, celebratory weekend in San Francisco.
To quote the SF Black Wallstreet Juneteenth flyer, “it’s official like a referee whistle!”