June 17, 2021 marks the reopening of LA
A small group converged on Tuesday night in the wide alley in the warehouse district of downtown Los Angeles. Young black men and women got out of the cars and hugged and kissed just like you would any other day before the great pandemic.
Then they got to work.
The reunion was a walkthrough for a block party they were planning to celebrate on June 17. It was dark, but the unconventional venue was illuminated by lampposts and glowing security lights at nearby loading docks. The same was true of the colorful graffiti on almost every inch of the surrounding buildings.
“I literally walked almost every dark corner of this city, at 2 and 3 a.m., looking for a space where we can bring light and joy through our block party,” said Brian Henry, creator and main organizer of the party. “I stumbled across this space in 2019 and said, ‘Wow! It would be amazing.
In the past, the group had organized the block party in the parking lots. “This is the first time we’ve hosted in what feels like a block,” Henry said triumphantly.
Juneteenth will be the first big occasion to party in public after the city reopens on Tuesday with the rest of California. Celebrations are underway across the LA area, including a parade in Inglewood and a block party in Leimert Park on Saturday.
For young Black Angelenos, the celebrations are a much needed cleanup after a devastating year. COVID-19 has hit the black community across the United States harder than most other groups. Lots of businesses and jobs lost; others lost their health or their lives. There was the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop and the protests that swept across the country.
After so much sadness, something else was needed.
“Black joy,” said Henry, “is a form of resistance.”
The prominent LA DJ kicked off the annual block party in 2014 to celebrate something simpler: his birthday. Davon Johnson, a production designer and architect, joined him in 2016. They were on track to develop the “B-Hen Block Party” last year until COVID-19 hit.
They took a moment to regroup and decided they wanted to have an even bigger celebration when the world opened up again.
“We wanted to do it on Juneteenth,” Johnson said. “This is a time when we can show that black people are doing amazing, beautiful and positive things.”
On Tuesday evening, the group of friends and coworkers walked the alley together, with each team member sharing new ideas and noting their concerns aloud. Johnson had safety in mind. Naydea Davis, logistics manager for the event, was trying to imagine the flow of traffic and how to control it.
“We can use that to our advantage,” she said of a chain link fence before moving on to how many bike racks they might need to block the entrances. Lulit Solomon, Henry’s manager and the event’s director of operations, kept a running record of the cost of each idea and concern.
Henry showed the space to Nico Craig, another DJ he had invited to spin by his side, gesturing with his hands where Craig would stand. Henry has planned an eclectic ensemble that will keep everyone on the move, “not your typical Top 40, or your set of traps.”
“I’m going to play music from all over the diaspora to make sure everyone feels welcome – New Orleans bounce, Afrobeats, Baltimore club, Bay Area hyphy,” he said. “All of this creates a sense of community. ”
Johnson said the party was also an opportunity for young planners and event planners to share new ideas on how to celebrate the holidays. The result this year? A dance party on Saturday evening with LED screens, livestreaming and projection mapping.
The team expects 800 to 1,000 people, at a cost of $ 40 per ticket, to show up and party.
Tylynn Burns, Ashlee Cartznes, Kayla Valentine, Rebecca Magett, Tai Spears and Amanda Scott – the women of House Party Creative – were all sold out on Friday afternoon. They spent the week curating a list of June 17th events. One, a yoga session and sound bath to promote wellness and healthy black fatherhood, went off without a hitch on Wednesday.
A few days later, the ladies were rushing to organize a fundraiser at the California African American Museum.
It was Burns, the founder and CEO of the group, who first brought women together as friends. They hadn’t planned to work together at first. But spring 2020 has arrived.
The COVID-19 pandemic was starting to escalate and protests against the murder of Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin – who was convicted of murder in April – were mounting across the country. LA was under a shutdown aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. But Burns didn’t want to let Juneteenth’s vacation go unnoticed.
She organized a parade of cars through Inglewood. There were no major preparations or permits obtained. In a way, it was a protest as much as it was a celebration. They texted invitations and people came in droves.
“We have learned a lot about what we can create and accomplish as a unit under pressure,” said Burns. “This year, we come back bigger and blacker than ever. “
The women, most of whom have day jobs in marketing and public relations, officially organized themselves as a Creative House Party soon after. This year, the group’s June 17 celebrations include a return of the Inglewood car parade on Saturday and a yacht party on Sunday at Marina del Rey.
“It’s a team of all the girls, all in their twenties, who really do things for their community, with no real financial gain or influence,” Scott said.
Of all the events planned for Juneteenth, the celebration at Leimert Park Village is perhaps the most anticipated. Not only is the neighborhood one of the hubs of the city’s black culture, it has also been the epicenter of its June 19 festivities since 1949, when businessman Jonathan Leonard began hosting traditional barbecues. in his garden.
Starting in 2011, a group called Black Arts Los Angeles began hosting the Juneteenth Heritage Festival, a two-day celebration that took place in the village from Leimert Park Plaza. The plaza was closed in March 2018 for renovations, straining the festival, and it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
However, neither the lack of a place nor the threat of the virus could close Juneteenth in Leimert Park.
Two entrepreneurs, Tony Jolly and Elijah Simmons, hosted their own event called Leimert Park Rising x Pray for the Hood, and many people came out, albeit in masks. Last year’s success marked the passing of the torch, with the withdrawal of Black Arts Los Angeles and a new generation of organizers coming together as Leimert Park Rising, led by a coalition of local groups and initiatives. .
Friday afternoon, Camille Davis, director of Leimert Park Rising, extinguished administrative fires. Vendors his group invited to sell their wares during the Juneteenth district festivities needed security permits within hours.
They were also late to set up their stands because the drivers had removed the signs indicating their places and parked their cars along Degnan Boulevard, the main artery of Leimert Park. Davis could have them towed, but she wouldn’t dare.
It is not “the way of the village,” she says. It turned out that the village path was less energetic but perhaps just as efficient. “You see Dorothy,” Davis said, pointing to collaborator Dorothy Pirtle on the sidewalk. “She has a megaphone.”
Despite the donation of equipment from actress, screenwriter and producer Issa Rae, the group felt they should receive the blessing and cooperation of community members and traders.
For weeks Davis and others drove early in the morning in the village before the opening of the first shops. They walked the Boulevard Degnan, door to door, talking to people about what they were planning.
It seemed like the right thing to do after the rollercoaster of the pandemic.
“We had to confer with every merchant, every village staple, just to get their blessing to move forward with the plans,” Davis said. “It is truly an honor that our elders and even other young people in the village trust us to do something that will be mutually beneficial for everyone…. We really couldn’t have done it without the community. There is no work around them or without them.