The third annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday at Central Park was the largest gathering for the holiday in Santa Clarita since it was first celebrated here two years ago.
The event drew well over 400 people and was a family-friendly event welcome to all ages, cultures and ethnicities. It featured food, games, prizes, music, and tents with community resources and information.
The event was also the first to be done in coordination with the newly formed NAACP Santa Clarita Valley chapter, which came to the SCV in May of last year.
Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP SCV chapter, said the aim of this celebration, and of the NAACP, is to advocate, educate and celebrate African Americans. Bradford also explained the origins of Juneteenth, for those who don’t know.
“Juneteenth is a celebration. It’s a holiday that we celebrate because after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it took two years for slaves in Texas to realize that they were actually free,” said Bradford. “And so that happened in June, and so going forward we celebrated Juneteenth, on June 19th.”
Before the NAACP chapter formed in Santa Clarita, Juneteenth celebrations in the valley were hosted by Black SCV and Coco Moms of SCV. Pilar Scott-Walker, a leader of Black SCV, said there’s a large Black community in the area and that it’s nice for the community to come together and get to see each other face to face.
“We have a lot of Black people here in Santa Clarita and none of us knew about each other,” said Scott-Walker. “So when our group came together it was nice to actually have a celebration, celebrating our ancestors for Juneteenth and having a… just good family time. It’s like having a backyard barbecue and so it’s just really wonderful.”
Kei Kei Lee, executive director of Coco Moms of SCV (a local nonprofit dedicated to educational services and social welfare for Black mothers and children), became emotional when talking about how much the Juneteenth celebration in Santa Clarita has grown since its first event.
“It’s humbling, and I’m not gonna cry. It’s humbling,” said Lee. “But you know… Santa Clarita has a strategic plan and that’s through 2025 and a part of that is having this community engagement and involvement. What’s so important about the Juneteenth event is that we’ve watched the Polynesian festival, we’ve watched other events that the city has put on, but this is grass-roots effort… so to watch us continue our efforts and grow over time is extremely rewarding and humbling at the same time.”
Attendees of the celebration seemed equally thrilled about having an event for their community in their own hometown. Garry Sims said being able to celebrate Juneteenth in Santa Clarita was a great experience.
“It’s wonderful to be in my hometown to bring our people together, and they can come together and have a family event,” said Sims. “Yeah, I ran a marathon this morning in Santa Clarita, so that was really good and then to come here and be around the people. It’s, it’s wonderful.”