On Saturday morning, June 19, the City of Santa Monica will present the 29th Annual Juneteenth Celebration online from 10:30 a.m. – noon, followed by Wade In the Water: A Tiny Film Fest in the evening at Historic Belmar Park from 8 – 10 p.m. These events commemorate America’s second Independence Day, when the Union general in Galveston, Texas read the federal orders of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation proclaiming all previously enslaved people in Texas were free, two years after the adoption of the proclamation.

The theme for this year’s virtual 29th Annual Juneteenth Celebration “The Change is Here” is inspired by the famous Sam Cook song that foretold A Change is Gonna Come. It was also developed as a response to the outpour of calls for change locally and nationally for a more equitable society. Similarly, Santa Monica’s Juneteenth Celebration has been a voice of change within the community since 1992 thanks to the leadership of LaVerne Ross, whose family has celebrated Juneteenth in Texas before she and her family relocated to Santa Monica in the 1950s.

The program’s Master of Ceremonies will be spoken-word artist Sean Raymond Hill and the online presentation will include:
Traditional opening drum call performed by Chazz Ross and dancer Teresa Smith

A selection of classic and original soul and blues pieces performed by Harold Wherry and the Blue Breeze Band
Gospel favorites performed by Kaleo & the Voice of One Singers featuring Dr. Henry Jackson
The annual presentation of the Juneteenth Proclamation by Mayor Himmelrich to LaVerne Ross, founder and visionary of the Juneteenth Celebration in Santa Monica
The 29th Annual Juneteenth Celebration is presented in collaboration with the Juneteenth Celebration Committee, Inc. Registration for the online webinar event is available at bit.ly/SMJuneteenth.

More information about this free community online event is available at www.smgov.net/vapark or by emailing vap@smgov.net or calling 310-458-8688.

On the evening of June 19, from 8 – 10 p.m. at Historic Belmar Park, the City will host Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Fest. This in-person outdoor screening of short films will celebrate Black culture and its connection to water. The screening will feature the premiere of BELONGING, a Belmar History + Art site-specific dance film honoring African Americans in Santa Monica.

Pre-event activities will include food trucks and music by DJ Moni Vargas. Participants are also encouraged to explore the historic panels and public sculpture, “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas” along the park’s walking path.
The panels and public art, along with the film, BELONGING, were developed as part of the Belmar History + Art project, which commemorates the home of a thriving African American community in the 1950s and honors the legacy of the historic Belmar neighborhood’s contributions to Santa Monica life.

This event will follow LA County Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 protocols. For more information about Wade in the Water: A Tiny Film Fest, including COVID safety guidelines for the event, visit santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark.

Submitted by Constance Farrell