Juneteenth in Southern California: Celebrate with these arts and culture events

A woman dances in the middle of a crowd.
A scene from Leimert Park’s 2020 Juneteenth celebration.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A mashup of its historic date, Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, received the news that they were free — nearly 2½ years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Beginning as a regional holiday, the tradition slowly spread and in recent years has burst into broader awareness with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrations against police killings of Black Americans.

Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating the emancipation of all American slaves on June 19, 1865 — isn’t well known outside the Black community, but historian and UCLA professor Brenda Stevenson says it’s a timely reminder of how much we still need to do as a nation to root out racism.

June 18, 2020

You can celebrate Juneteenth this year with local arts and culture events, virtual or in-person, across Southern California.


Moza Mjasiri Cooper, founder of the nonprofit Black Arts Los Angeles, has been holding the Juneteenth Heritage Festival in South Los Angeles for more than 10 years. This year, the nonprofit will host a virtual festival Saturday and is also collaborating with the Think Watts Foundation for its free street fair near Ted Watkins Memorial Park (1335 E. 103rd St.) beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Leimert Park Rising initiative is leading a full day of art, live music, dance and discussions in Leimert Park Village from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday.

A national network of African American history and culture museums including L.A.’s California African American Museum have joined forces with to create a film exploring the history and evolution of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem. For the film, CAAM explores the theme of resilience. Premiering Tuesday on, the film will be available to watch on YouTube.

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the theater group Black Rebirth Collective have teamed up to premiere a filmed series of four one-act plays, “Unmasked: A Theatrical Celebration of Black Women’s Liberation,” on Saturday. Filmed in the Wallis’ Lovelace Studio Theater, the plays are Dominique Morisseau’s “Jezelle the Gazelle,” Jocelyn Bioh’s “White-N-Luscious,” Ngozi Anyanwu’s “G.O.A.T.” and Stacy Osei-Kuffour’s “Madness.” “Unmasked” will be available for on demand streaming through July Fourth, and tickets for the four-play package are $19 per household.

Downtown Long Beach’s Juneteenth festivities this year will include music, a step show and poetry on Pine Avenue, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s free with RSVP.

Neon Black 2 is artist and writer Rod Benson’s exploration of Black hair and identity. Benson is hosting a free pop-up event in L.A.’s downtown Arts District to premiere his work. It runs from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at 431 Colyton St.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts is partnering with the Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation at Cal State Fullerton to present its first Juneteenth event. “Freedom in Full Bloom: A Juneteenth Celebration” features a performance by the Dembrebrah Drum and Dance Ensemble, a creative gardening workshop and poetry reading, among other activities celebrating Black culture from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The event, $10 per pod (up to six people per pod), will be at Julianne and George Argyros Plaza, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

The 31st Pomona Valley Juneteenth Family Jazz and Arts Festival features jazz, R&B and gospel music, plus a performance by Pomona’s first poet laureate, David Judah Oliver. The free in-person event runs noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Ganesha Park, 1575 White Ave., Pomona. The group is also hosting a virtual event Saturday.

The Fountain Theatre’s Juneteenth party follows its matinee performance of the Obie award-winning play “An Octoroon” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (a separate, ticketed event). From 7:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, the Fountain’s new outdoor space in East Hollywood will be transformed into a free celebration with a DJ and vendors. 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.


On Tuesday, the Fountain will also share a Juneteenth-inspired spoken word video created by Loyola Marymount University’s Theatre in Color, which will be available through the week.

Unifest is a Saturday block party at the Crenshaw Family YMCA, featuring a morning yoga class with the nonprofit WalkGoodLA and a produce market with Summaeverythang, artist Lauren Halsey’s community initiative to bring organic fruits and vegetables to some of L.A.’s underserved neighborhoods. The event will also feature live music and art installations from Halsey. Admission is free. The event runs from noon to 10 p.m. at 3820 Santa Rosalia Drive, L.A.

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is presenting a Juneteenth edition of its virtual series of new solo works, “Hot Off the Press,” at 5 p.m. Saturday on Zoom. The suggested donation is $10.