Leimert Park residents have been observing Juneteenth — the day in 1865 when Texas slaves belatedly learned they were free — since June 19, 1949, when local businessman Jonathan Leonard began hosting traditional barbeques in his backyard.
This year, the celebration would be complicated by an invisible visitor: the dreaded coronavirus. But it didn’t stop thousands of people from gathering Friday in Leimert Park, even if most of them wore the telltale masks of the COVID-19 era.
An unofficial American holiday, Juneteenth has been declared an official one in some U.S. states in response to the nationwide outrage following the death of George Floyd, who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Moza Mjasiri Cooper, founder of the Black Arts Los Angeles, has been holding the Juneteenth Heritage Festival in the South Los Angeles community for more than 10 years, but had decided to cancel this year’s two-day festival due to the coronavirus. But when the killing of Floyd reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement, Tony Jolly, who works with Cooper’s nonprofit, declared that Black people needed the Juneteenth event this year more than ever.
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