A coalition of current and former Mountain View-Los Altos High School District students is holding an event celebrating Juneteenth in downtown Mountain View on Friday afternoon, aimed at putting a spotlight on black history, culture and the accomplishments of people of color.
The event, hosted by the group Justice Vanguard, will kick off at Pioneer Park next to City Hall at 3 p.m. today. Event organizers said they expect anywhere from 200 to 700 participants, including City Council members, and that everyone will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Juneteenth celebrates the freeing of African American slaves by Union soldiers on June 19, 1865 -- years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been written -- and has taken on heightened significance this year. The annual celebration follows weeks of protests and civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer, raising questions about systemic racism and the disproportionate effects of use of force on people of color.
Several high-profile Bay Area companies, notably Twitter and Square, have declared June 19 a paid holiday this year, and banks including Chase and Bank of the West announced they will close their bank branches in honor of Juneteenth.
Justice Vanguard, comprised of residents, students and student alumni in Mountain View and Los Altos, said the Friday event is intended to be a lively and positive celebration with music, dancing and "education booths." The group will also hold a fundraiser with proceeds going to advocacy organizations serving low-income communities.
Organizers point out that only around 2% of the residents in Mountain View are black or African American -- dropping to 0.3% in Los Altos -- underscoring the need to uplift voices in the black community during Juneteenth.
"Public education is necessary in abolishing systemic oppression, so this event will support this initiative in a lighthearted, positive, and enjoyable way," according to a statement by the group Thursday.