NAACP Santa Clarita held its inaugural Juneteenth fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Friday in an effort to finance local scholarships and highlight achievements made in the community.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the U.S. when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to announce emancipation and that the Civil War had ended. The day was officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.
The SCV’s first large-scale Juneteenth celebration happened in 2020 in the form of a community picnic, although it had been unofficially celebrated by residents for years.
The SCV celebrations were first organized by Black SCV and Coco Moms before NAACP Santa Clarita joined as a partner in 2022 — shortly after the chapter was established. That celebration, held in Central Park, was attended by over 400 people.
Friday’s fundraiser was organized by NAACP Santa Clarita’s Freedom Fund committee — which is co-chaired by Mikesha Coby, who said the fundraiser’s formal theme was another way to celebrate Juneteenth.
“Having it here gives us an opportunity to just have more of an upscale (event) where you could just dress up and have a good time,” said Coby. “We’re celebrating freedom and we’re celebrating something that means a lot to the people, to African American people and people of color — which is our independence. So why not celebrate that in the best, upscale possible way?”
The fundraiser’s goal of $10,000 was hoped to be reached through donations, admission fees and a silent auction.
But event organizers didn’t just want to raise funds — they also wanted to highlight achievements made in the community. Two people, Ira Rounsaville and Isiuwa Aimiuwu, were made honorees of the event for achievements in humanities.
Rounsaville was recently promoted to head the promotion of positive culture and climate within the William S. Hart Union High School District following a contentious year within the district. Rounsaville said he felt overwhelmed, yet flattered by the honor.
“In my line of work I often tell people, ‘You don’t often get to see the fruits of your labor, because of what I do,’” said Rounsaville. “Sometimes I help people out into the world, but I don’t necessarily know that the support that I gave them worked or not. But, to have people sort of recognize what I do is equally as rewarding.”
Aimiuwu was Castaic High School’s Associated Student Body president, the Black Student Union and Alliance president and was part of the school’s first-ever graduating class. Aimiuwu will attend Loyola Marymount University this fall. She was humble when asked what it meant to be a humanitarian.
“To me, being a part of change that’s small change is part of a collective change in the world,” said Aiumiuwu. “I’m grateful to be acknowledged that I am one of the people who have been making small steps.”
Valerie Bradford, president of NAACP Santa Clarita, expressed great gratitude toward Aimiuwu and Rounsaville.
“We can see our organization growing. We can see the impact that we’re having on the community and (the event) was one of those (examples)… so we are just thankful that our work is growing,” said Bradford.
Aimiuwu and Rounsaville were both presented certificates from Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, who attended the event.