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Juneteenth Celebrations in San Francisco and Around the Bay

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A child with a fancy orange hat, dress clothes and a sash rides on a float during the Juneteenth parade and festival.
The Juneteenth parade and festival in San Francisco is a celebration for all ages.  (Courtesy of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission)

When San Francisco hosted its first official city-supported Juneteenth parade down Market Street last year, Dr. Sheryl Davis witnessed its significance firsthand.

Davis is the executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission, which puts on the parade, and she knew what it meant to those in San Francisco’s African-American community who’ve organized independent community Juneteenth celebrations for years.

“For them it was huge,” said Davis. “The parade was legitimizing. They felt like all of the sudden they were welcome — even with everything that was happening and all of the different challenges, now that Black people could have a parade down Market Street, it’s a symbol of freedom.”

This year, the celebration of Black culture is back — and the lineup is stacked.

This weekend’s parade kicks off from Market and Spear Streets at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, ending at the Civic Center Plaza at noon for a festival headlined by Larry June, Rapsody and Goapele. The lineup also includes the Fillmore Jazz Ambassadors, San Francisco’s poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin, Frisco’s own DJ Red Corvette, Martin Luther and more.

African American woman in black attire standing behind a microphone at a podium during an indoor event in San Francisco.
Dr. Sheryl Davis speaking at a convening in San Francisco, discussing Historically Black Colleges and Universities in February of 2024. (Courtesy of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission)

We Still Here

Davis says the event’s goal is to both bring people back to San Francisco and celebrate the folks who still call the city home.

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Celebrating Black culture in a city where the African-American population has dropped 50% in the past 50 years presents a conflict, Davis says.

“When you have a diminishing population of people and you hold an event to celebrate that culture, if people don’t turn out like they do for a Warriors parade, does the city then say it’s not worth it?” asks Davis. “What is our end goal for holding this parade?”

To some, Davis says, that answer might be financial. To others, the answer might be a matter of “enough” people showing up. Davis doesn’t see it that way.

“The people in the parade are grateful to be seen, whether it’s by one person or one thousand. And to know the streets were shut down to celebrate their culture — in a town where people often talk about how many Black folks have left the city, but they don’t mention the people who still live here.”

People hop aboard a cable car during last year’s San Francisco Juneteenth parade. (Courtesy of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission)

‘How It’s Really Done’

Juneteenth became a federal holiday three years ago, but the history of its celebration in San Francisco goes back to the 1940s.

In June of 1945, Wesley Johnson, Sr. wore a white cowboy hat as he rode through the Fillmore on a white horse. It was his way of bringing the celebration of Juneteenth — a day commemorating the delayed notification to western states that enslaved Africans in America had become legally free — to the city.

Like many African Americans involved in the Great Migration, Johnson Sr. was born in Texas and moved to San Francisco in the early 1900s for work. Along with his labor, he brought culture.

“I want to bring my corner of Texas to San Francisco and show them how it’s really done,” reads a quote from Johnson Sr. on the city’s Juneteenth page.

Juneteenth Events Around the Bay

The San Francisco Human Rights Commission is backing a handful of events to commemorate Juneteenth. The list includes Mayor London Breed’s Official Juneteenth Kickoff event on June 14, the SF Black Wall Street Gala on June 14 and the Juneteenth Festival in the Bayview on June 16.

In addition to the City of San Francisco’s Juneteenth events there will be a number of happenings around town, including the Juneteenth celebration on Treasure Island on June 15 and SF Jazz’s Juneteenth event on June 19.

Man on stage with a microphone and sunglasses, rapping to a full crowd of smiling faces on a sunny day at a festival.
Stunnaman02 will be big steppin’ at San Francisco’s 2024 Juneteenth parade and festival. (Courtesy of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission)

The MoAd will host a free admission day and a series of events during the month of June, including Drag Story Hour with Black Benetar, a film screening of City of a Million Dreams: Parading for the Dead in New Orleans and a tour of oil pastel landscapes by the artist Rachel Jones. Free admission day is Saturday, June 8.

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir will celebrate Juneteenth for the second year in a row with a special performance. Founded in 1986 to honor Black gospel tradition, the choir brings together over 300 singers whose ages range from five to 100. The performance will take place Saturday, June 15 at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.

Eight blocks of the Fillmore District will feature music, carnival games, a hair and fashion show and more for the annual Juneteenth SF Freedom Celebration. On Saturday, June 15, over 50 food and retail vendors, classic cars and the L.A. R&B group The Whispers will come together for the holiday.

The 34th annual Juneteenth celebration in Vallejo will include a parade, a youth art contest and a paint party. The festival and parade is on June 15 at the Barbara Kondylis Waterfront Green.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival is honoring Juneteenth on June 15 with a quintet, a sextet, drum workshops and drinks from the Nubian Cafe Collective at Healdsburg Plaza. Performers include Houston Person and Steve Turre.

On June 15 renowned vocalist Marsha Ambrosius is set to headline the 43rd annual Juneteenth Festival in downtown San Jose, as the event will also feature the marching bands of Florida A&M University and Alabama State University.

A set of balloons reads "JUNETEENTH" in golden lettering overhead, as two event attendees pose for a photo in the foreground.
Dr. Sheryl Davis and Shakirah Simley, executive director of Booker T. Washington Community Service Center in San Francisco, pose for a photo at Juneteenth on the Waterfront at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 2021. (Photo by Foodwise)

The Berkeley Juneteenth Festival on June 16 at Adeline St. and Alcatraz Ave is bringing live music on two stages, a zone for kids to do STEM activities and face painting and food vendors.

During the Antioch Juneteenth event there will be carnival games, live performances by Nzuri Soul and the Ariel Marin Band and a rock climbing wall at Williamson Ranch Park on Sunday, June 16.

The Oakland Museum of California is hosting a Hella Juneteenth “The Cookout,” which will feature sets from DJs Fat Tony, Darling Cool and DJ Kenzo. Cookout goers will enjoy music in the OMCA garden and food from chef Michele McQueen of the museum’s cafe Town Fare. Tickets for the event on June 19 will include access to all of OMCA’s galleries.

The family-friendly Marin City Juneteenth Festival will host an African Marketplace featuring apparel, jewelry and art from small businesses, will crown a community kind and queen and will provide supervised childcare for the kiddos at Rocky Graham Park on Saturday, June 22.

In Richmond, community members are holding a Juneteenth Family Day Parade and Festival to uplift peace and unity in their neighborhoods on Saturday, June 22 at Nicholl Park.

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Juneteenth events compiled by Olivia Cruz Mayeda.

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