One of my best childhood memories growing up was packing into my mom’s Ford Thunderbird or whatever car her and my pops decided to rent from BUDGET rentals to drive to the Bay Area to attend our family reunion on my mom’s side of the family. For the readers who don’t know or haven’t experienced a Black family gathering, I am sorry but you are missing out on all of the fun!
Family reunions are fun because you get to see all of your long-distance cousins you only see once or twice a year because they live so far away, Frankie Beverly & Maze “Before I let Go” randomly playing in the background, there’s always a little bit of drama to keep it entertaining, and of course amazing food, but overall the best thing about Black family reunions is you get to experience Black love at its finest.
The Leimert Park Juneteenth celebration is essentially a large family reunion to bring the Black community of LA together. It is designed to give Black owned businesses within the south Los Angeles area exposure and to create awareness of the Black creative community in Leimert Park. We don’t have too many predominantly Black neighborhoods left, and the ones we do still have we need to protect and uplift. Leimert Park’s Juneteenth needs to continue to happen every year moving forward because it gives strength and life to young Black entrepreneurs and artists who may not feel seen in other spaces.
The very first time I went to the Juneteenth festival was when it was called Leimert Park Rising. I wanted to support the idea of local Black businesses coming together to help uplift each other and to shed light on businesses that may not have much exposure. In 2020 due to the Black Lives Matter movement and the awareness of police brutality amongst the Black community, Juneteenth was widely celebrated. The increase in popularity brought out more attendees for Leimert Park Rising for Juneteenth and it was the most people I had ever seen in attendance for the event.
Leimert Park Rising became a more important and relevant event for the community. I got a chance to see so many friends who I consider family all coming together to support a greater cause for our community. The vendors that show up all have Black owned businesses, selling anything from herbal and healing products, to clothing, to promoting services. Discovering new businesses at Juneteenth provides opportunities for smaller businesses to get discovered by a larger audience. It’s hard to for start-up businesses to get exposure, but the Juneteenth Festival provides that opportunity for those smaller businesses to get that exposure. This is because some of the vendors that come out already have a large following and customer base that come out to support not only popular brands but to discover some of the smaller businesses as well – the event is set up like a flea market or marketplace. Everyone is trading ideas and sharing their products amongst each other, spreading the word and discovering new ideas.
The first few years at the event there were about 1-2 stages for local performers to come out and display their music. This past year there were 1-3 stages including a new AMAZON sponsored stage called the AMAZON stage which hosted larger artists such as Masego, Smino, Hit-Boy and Leimert Park’s very own Dom Kennedy. Bringing these artists to the event increased the exposure for the event and everyone involved. It was great seeing larger artists perform and attend the event because it also showed how they are willing to give back to the community to help the Juneteenth Festival grow moving forward.
In addition there was also a spoken word stage and the PARTY IN MY LIVING ROOM (PIMLR) stage which was hosted by Los Angeles artist THURZ who was also one of the event’s curators as well. For those who don’t know the legendary THURZ, he is a LA native and used to be a part of a duo who went by the name U-N-I. THURZ is still doing music as a solo artist but had a reunion with his musical partner Y-O for the Juneteenth Festival, which was their first reunion since the legendary group decided to go on their separate solo paths.
It was great for the hip hop community as well as the city of Los Angeles to see them reunite on stage for the first time since their split. THURZ brought out special guest Hit-Boy who was born in Pasadena, CA and now resides in the Inland Empire. Hit-Boy is responsible for producing many of your favorite artist hits such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Kehlani, Dom Kennedy, THURZ, and many more. His producer credit list is never ending. Another guest who joined THURZ on his PIMLR stage was DJ Battlecat, who is a legendary West Coast music producer who has production credits for Ice cube, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, E-40, and Xzibit to name a few. Battlecat is one of the forefathers and partially responsible for curating the West coast G-Funk sound. Battlecat being in attendance just shows that the Juneteenth Festival is multigenerational and there is something for everyone no matter what age.
Lastly, THURZ brought out special guest NANA who is an upcoming musician from the Crenshaw District and is currently rising in the ranks as one of the best new artists coming out of Los Angeles. Nana recently has been on SWAY in the Morning Shade 45 radio and the home base radio show the LA Leakers blazing freestyles and going viral. NANA also recently just dropped a new music project titled “From the District to the World ” which gives more insight to NANA’s story and how he’s refined his sound.
Personally knowing NANA and THURZ over the last several years as a homie, it is exciting to see those guys thriving and growing as artists but also giving back to their community. For anyone who was not able to attend this year, you can have an idea on what to look forward to for next year’s Juneteenth Festival.
It was great to witness 300+ vendors participate in Juneteenth Festival this past year and to see how the event has grown to getting larger sponsors such as AMAZON to provide a bigger space for more popular artists to come out and give back to the community with their musical talents. I only see the future trajectory of the Juneteenth festival growing larger and larger every year as they continue to add more vendors and entertainment. The participation of many more non-profit organizations that provide services for the community will continue to increase as well. Local businesses gaining more exposure and putting money back into our own communities is how we build a foundation to uplift our community.
The Juneteenth Festival is free and it is open to everyone. I am looking forward to next year being even bigger than this past year and the event growing and expanding to getting even more media coverage. As an attendee who has participated the last 3-4 years when it was still just Leimert Park Rising, it is very exciting to see the growth and positivity that the Juneteenth Festival brings every year. I always appreciate the Black love amongst the community and seeing friends and family as if I am attending one large family reunion every year.