Today is Juneteenth, the day commemorating the freeing of slaves in the United States on June 19, 1865.
This year’s local celebration will not be an in-person event due to COVID-19 and will instead adapt to the pandemic by going virtual.
Named “Digital Diaspora: A Santa Barbara Celebration of Black Histories and Futures,” the virtual event will showcase community organizations and black-owned businesses and highlight the contributions the black community has made to Santa Barbara.
“Today we honor our ancestors and celebrate our freedom, showcasing black joy and culture in Santa Barbara, California,” the event website reads.
According to the website, featured organizations and businesses include Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals, Healing Justice: Black Lives Matter Santa Barbara, the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, fitness training program Monkeytail Intelligent Exercise, rock and roll nonprofit Black Rock Coalition, and local beauty salon Luna Bella.
Martin Luther King Jr. Committee president E. Onja Brown told the News-Press that this year’s celebration happening online is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she wishes it were an in-person celebration that would allow attendees to connect personally, but she also believes the virtual format will effectively keep focus on the notable black residents featured in the event.
“I wish it was the way it was like most of us do. We want to see people and see the faces and touch and hug, and this is going to be really different,” she said.
She added, “But I think it’s going to be a little more comprehensive because people will have an opportunity to focus on the individuals and listen to their stories and hear about the organizations that have been in the community a long time.”
An organization frequently featured in Santa Barbara’s Junteenth celebrations, the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee’s mission in part is to “foster positive relationships between the many diverse groups in the Santa Barbara Community and the surrounding areas” and “to sponsor programs and events which exemplify the teachings of Dr. King,” according to its website.
Earlier this week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth in Santa Barbara County. Ms. Brown called this “a positive move in the right direction” on part of the board and said the day is a significant one for the black community “that should be shared with all.”
The virtual Juneteenth celebration can be found online at www.juneteenthsb.com.