Several dozens of passersby and community members enjoying the sunshine Saturday afternoon stopped by at a pop-up black artisan market on the 800 block of State Street.
The market was coordinated by Juneteenth Santa Barbara, celebrating Saturday as the first ever federally recognized Juneteenth — the day marking the end of legal slavery.
To honor the new federal holiday, black artisans set up eight different tables on the street, selling items such as traditional African clothing, baked goods, essential oils, Juneteenth T-shirts and much more.
“The theme is ‘united for true black liberation,’ because, as we all know, black people truly aren’t free yet,” said Mariah Jones-Bisquera, organizer and lead of administration for Healing Justice Santa Barbara and a co-organizer of the Juneteenth event. “But, we are great at creating spaces and joy for ourselves, so I’m really excited to be out here today celebrating.”
She told the News-Press that she believes it’s “really performative” to say that Juneteenth is now celebrated nationally as a holiday with a day off for workers “when they aren’t in line with critical race theory” and “when lynching still isn’t a federal crime.”
“For me, it’s performative, not exciting,” Ms. Jones-Bisquera said. “Black people have known that Juneteenth is a holiday. The first Juneteenth was June 19, 1865. They named it June 15, 2021. It boggles my mind the things that white folks expect black people to be happy about.”
In response to this, the Healing Justice leader said she hopes to see more support of the black community from the city and county.
That being said, the mood was positive as attendees posed for pictures in front of a decorative Juneteenth photodrop, enjoyed music from a DJ booth and heard tales of black history.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara set up a table at the artisan market, selling MLK T-shirts and passing out information about their website.
E. onja Brown, president of the committee, told the News-Press that the federal declaration of Juneteenth as a holiday is “very exciting.”
“It allows people who know nothing about Juneteenth to be aware of the struggles and the participation of African Americans in regards to the fabric of the whole country,” she said.
From local educational services to Juneteenth pamphlets, the goal of the market was not only to support local black artisans, but to educate residents strolling up or down State Street about the holiday itself and the rich history of the black community.
Lakita Davis owns Be Actual Natural, where she sells chemical free and natural products such as lip butter, body butter, shampoo, conditioner, hair butters and other products. She said her premise and goal is “self love and self care.”
“Today is a beautiful reflection of that, of it being Juneteenth,” Ms. Davis told the News-Press. “Because being a black woman is very important to me. I have an 8-year-old son and I teach him his history. I wasn’t taught my history, so we’re both kind of learning together … and learning that we have a place and a purpose.”
Ms. Davis spoke to the importance of having artisan markets such as the one she was participating in, saying that she herself is able to learn more about her and her son’s history through these events.
“I’ve made sure that I’m at a market where I can connect with people, whether they’re asking ‘what is this?’ or they’re like, ‘Hey, I know what this is,’” she said. “Let’s celebrate it, let’s just enjoy it. I’m just spreading history, spreading knowledge, spreading culture. It is so important.”