Celebrate Juneteenth in Long Beach

Juneteenth, the national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, will once again be celebrated with the Long Beach Juneteenth Celebration, a daylong event honoring Black culture, history and entertainment – that also happens to be a whole lot of fun. Celebration founder and producer, Carl Kemp, says the free event is all about “joyfully celebrating Black culture, honoring our history, and creating a space for community unity.” It’s done it so well that, in a very short time, the Long Beach celebration has distinguished itself as one of the premiere events of its kind in the region. Here’s a few things you may want to know before heading down to this year’s celebration at Rainbow Lagoon, June 18.

What, Where, When …

A few things have changed from last year’s celebration. For one, while Juneteenth is officially designated as June 19, this year’s celebration will take place the day before, on Saturday, June 18. Though last year’s event plugged into the energy of Pine Avenue this year’s will feed off the natural beauty and vibe of Rainbow Lagoon (400 E. Shoreline Dr.) The celebration, which takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., is free–FREE!--but organizers ask that guests get their tickets at LBJuneteenth.com or Eventbrite.com.

What is Juneteenth?

The oldest nationally celebrated observation of of the ending of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth commemorates when Union soliders, on June 19, 1865, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which had little impact in Texas due to the small number of Union troops there to enforce it. However, with the surrender of General Lee’s forces in April of 1865, the additional Union troops in Texas were now able to overcome resistance to the Proclamation. In 2021, President Joe Biden established June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday, calling it “one of the greatest honors I will have as president.”

Touching history

African drums to A-list and everything in-between.

The cultural and entertainment lineup for this year’s celebration is long and impressive: African drum and dance performances, step shows by Black fraternities and sororities from Cal State Long Beach, drum lines, the Antioch mass gospel choir as well award-winning, global musical stars including Marsha Ambrosius and Rahsaan Patterson. “We will take folks on a journey through Black culture, starting with African drums and dance, and ending with A-list R&B musicians and everything in-between,” Kemp said.

If the Mainstage headliners look or sound familiar it’s probably because …

You’ve seen or heard them before, just under a different name or circumstances. Before her successful solo career, Marsha “The Songstress” Ambrosius teamed with Natalie Stewart to create the English R&B duo, Floetry, which sold more than 1.5 million records worldwide and worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Jill Scott and The Roots. Singer, and actor, Rahsaan Patterson released his debut album 25 years ago. Before that he was a much sought after backup singer, notably contributing his vocal talents to Long Beach singer Brandy’s megahit, “Baby.” Before any of that, in the ‘80s, Patterson appeared as “The Kid” in the Disney Channel’s “Kids Incorporated” along with costars Fergie and Mario Lopez.

Crowning event

The celebration’s Rainbow Lagoon footprint will include a “Kings & Queens Village” with children’s activities supported by the YMCA of Greater Long Beach. On top of that, there will be plenty to eat and drink, with everything from chicken and waffles to Cajun food to desserts provided by numerous food trucks. There will also be plenty to drink, including adult beverages provided by Anheuser-Busch.

About the Author
Steve Lowery