There was much to be celebrated this past Sunday, June 19, 2022.
By Amira Barger, June 23, 2022
Thanks to community volunteers and the events team of Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM), the second annual Juneteenth Celebration brought us together as we collectively reflected on and commemorated a historic day. This event was made possible by community, for community.
From its origins in 1865, Juneteenth has presented a paradox – much like our little City by the Bay, Benicia – marking a legacy of systemic racism and inequity yet simultaneously representing hope and opportunity to see and do things differently. In this way, Juneteenth is not just a remembrance of the past, but a call to action for us, today and tomorrow. Each community member who showed up – on Father’s Day no less—joined in an act of solidarity with and for Benicia’s Black community.
Nearly one hundred Benicians gathered to commemorate Freedom Day and the end of enslavement in the United States. While the downtown Veteran’s Hall was filled with visible smiles, colorful artwork and other media, live music, and the smell of delectable foods, the stage was shared amongst a handful of stunning singers, speakers, poets, artists and activists who together reminded us that the fight for equity and freedom is far from over and won.
The event also welcomed a cohort of Black-owned businesses who showed up and showed out with their products and services on display. From soaps, to comics, to massage therapy, to jewelry – we had it all. We were joined by: Rest and Relax Massage and Bodywork LLC; Crumbbum Comics; Kelene Naturals, Wisdom Natural Soaps; Ethnic Notions Fine Art Gallery & Multicultural Bookstore, Soulful Seeds.
We were also joined by other community groups dedicated to the cause: Food is Free Solano; Progressive Democrats of Benicia; Omega Gents Youth Mentoring Program; and the ACLU – Solano County Chapter.
And our bellies and hearts were filled by Chef “D” by the Bay and Noonie’s Place, while our ears were serenaded by Ariel Marin Music, DJ Irrataetion and KajLoud.
There is still much more work to be done in our little City by the Bay. BBLM encourages each resident of Benicia to continue your journey of learning and working to celebrate Black culture, Black people, Black history and Black life. Some actionable steps you can take today are noted here and can be found on our website and social pages:
- Read What We Owe and What We Are Owed by Kiese Laymon; https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/22419450/kiese-laymon-justice-fairness-black-america
- Listen to the 1619 Podcast by Nikole Hannah-Jones; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/podcasts/1619-podcast.html
- Watch the PBS video on the origins of the holiday and its impact; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDKdLMTeV34
- Spend your dollars with corporations committed to Black lives https://blackdollarindex.com/
Be sure to attend this event each year and, most importantly, spend your money with our vendors that joined us – most of them Black-owned and -operated. Links are included in this article where vendors have been mentioned and shared on our social media pages.
To close this recounting, we urge you to center this passage from BBLM’s first-ever essay contest winner, Sydney Allen, who offered these apt words to our community:
“I will leave you with this quote from the Black-trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, who said, ‘History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable. It happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive…’ If we do not stop to consider the outcome for all of those with whom we are making decisions for, then we continue to perpetuate a vicious cycle of racism and bigotry. But if we are able to authentically bring diversity, inclusivity, and unity to our nation’s government, then we are one step closer to a society that truly has ‘liberty and justice, for all.’”
Thank you for being in community with us and see you next year!
Benicia Black Lives Matter is a grassroots community group organized to address anti-Black racism in the city of Benicia. There is a lack of Black representation across City leadership, departments, and voluntary boards. The lack of Black representation tells a story of our complacency as a community and more so, the impact on our Black Benicians lived experience. The good news is, we can rebuild the City of Benicia into a better Benicia, one commitment and one change at a time – and we have a strategy to do so. Our Strategy: Actively Commit to Change. The City of Benicia must commit to a specific vision of what a better, more inclusive and equitable future looks like. For additional information see beniciablacklivesmatter.com.
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