‘This Fight Is 365 Days a Year:’ For Juneteenth, Black San Franciscans Rally for Racial Justice
Events honoring Juneteenth are under way in the Bay Area. The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when some of the last enslaved people in Texas learned that they were free â more than two years after slavery officially ended in the United States.
An art installation will be unveiled on Friday at Golden Gate Parkâs Music Concourse. The installation, called “Monumental Reckoning” was created by Bay Area artist Dana King.
The piece is composed of 350 sculptures that represent the first African people to be abducted and enslaved in the U.S. Each ancestor will be standing in judgement around the pedestal where a statue of slave owner Francis Scott Key stood until protesters removed it in 2020. Kingâs installation will be on public display for two years.
On Thursday, more than 100 people gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall and braved the summer heat to listen to speakers and demand racial justice and equity for Black San Franciscans.
“Here in San Francisco, we are experiencing trauma, pain, suffering in all parts of our lives … education, mass incarceration, homelessness, housing and mental health,” said Phelicia Jones, founder of the community organization Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community. The group, which organized Thursday’s Juneteenth Kickoff Rally, called for more resources toward the city’s Black community and for officials to work on eliminating health and education disparities and reducing mass incarceration, among other things.
The Bay Area has a long history of marking Juneteenth. At the rally, Mayor London Breed reminisced about growing up in the city and attending events.
“The pony rides, the carnival, the Black cowboys. We put on our best clothes,” Breed said, “But you know what? There was a history … It felt good despite the challenges that our community continues to face. It felt good to be Black in San Francisco.”
This yearâs Juneteenth is especially significant with the federal government officially recognizing the day as a holiday. It also comes roughly a year after the killing of George Floyd galvanized the country around the issue of racial justice. And Black communities throughout the country are still reeling from the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speakers at the rally reminded attendees that Juneteenth is also an opportunity to reflect and to keep fighting for equality.
Supervisor Shamann Walton spoke about the cityâs efforts to provide more resources for Black residents including setting up a reparations task force and reinvesting $120 million from the police budget towards workforce development, heath, cultural and housing programs.
“This fight is 365 days a year, not just on Juneteenth holiday,” said Walton.
âLet Juneteenth be a day for us to remember that we still are in the fight, in the struggle,” said Sheryl Evans Davis, executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during during a Juneteenth kickoff rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. She announced that she had signed a proclamation recognzing Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday, as a holiday in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED )
People raise their fists and hold signs that say, “Am Black And I Matter” during a Juneteenth kickoff rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED )
Phelicia Jones, founder of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, speaks during a Juneteenth kickoff rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED )
People raise their fists while listening to speakers during a Juneteenth kickoff rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton speaks during a Juneteenth kickoff rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
A crowd of over 100 people gather in front of City in San Francisco during a Juneteenth on June 17, 2021, hosted by the organization Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
A woman holds a snow cone during a Juneteenth kickoff rally outside of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2021. The organization hosting the event, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, provided free snow cones and cotton candy to the attendees. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
KQED’s Gabrielle Frenes contributed to this report.
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