SHERMAN OAKS — This year’s Juneteenth Celebration Rally at the Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Memorial War Park featured music, spoken poetry and dance on Friday. Juneteenth, or June 19, marks the day the last slaves were freed from slavery in the United States.
About a dozen performers entertained a diverse crowd at the park for a day of unity, hope and reflection. People of various ethnicities came together to honor and remember those who continue to empower the Black community.
“We need to remember who we are, how we got here and why we fight today,” said Kevin Welbeck, founder of Cre8 The Change, to the audience. “Enjoy this day, enjoy Juneteenth, enjoy all our ancestors being free — but know the fight is not over, we’re still marching on, we’re still fighting on, until every Black life is valued like any other.”
Cre8 The Change is a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering communities and social change.
“This is an event proposed to celebrate the freedom of African American slaves while we creatively educate on and express black history and why we fight today,” according to the Cre8 The Change website. The Juneteenth rally — organized by Welbeck — was co-hosted by Juhahn Jones, an actor, and Jenn Marie, an activist.
Attendees watched performances by British Mendoza, Ron Deuce, Common Kings, comedian Ron G, actor Major R. Johnson Finley and singer Chloe Spencer. Artist and actor Major R. Johnson Finley, who also goes by his stage name MAJOR, performed his song, “Change right now” at the event as well.
The event also had a voter registration table, where attendees could enter a raffle for $50 gift cards after registering to vote.
“I’m here to find out if people are even registered to vote so we can make a big impact in this coming election,” said Joandrea Reynolds, a Cre8 The Change organizer. “We are here to help people register to vote, we encourage it and hope people get out and get registered.”
Marie emphasized the importance of voting.
“All of you are powerful, all of you can create, all of you can run businesses, get an education and you all can vote. So please make sure you make your way to the voting table,” Marie said to the audience.
Black-owned food trucks, such as Cravin Crab Cakes, Nay’s Tacos, Don’t Forget The Sugar and Vurger Guys, gave attendees a variety of food options to choose from during the rally.
As COVID-19 is still an ongoing concern and the number of new coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County continues to rise, Cre8 The Change and attendees adhered to state-mandated precautionary measures during the rally. The organization asked attendees to wear face masks and provided hand sanitizers. Individuals brought blankets and beach chairs to sit on at the open grass area and listen to music from a safe distance.
The event ended with Spencer singing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was written as a poem in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson, a prolific writer during the Harlem Renaissance. The poem was set to music in 1905 by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson.
Cre8 The Change organizes a protest every Saturday in Hollywood at 9:30 a.m. Welbeck said they hope to use this celebration as a chance to recharge for more days of protesting.
“This is what Cre8 The Change is about,” Welbeck said. “We take these emotions that we have, these emotions, these frustrations, these angers, this pain and this hurt and we turn that into passion and we channel that passion into ways to really make a difference in the world.”