Drawn by vendors, speakers and food trucks, dozens of community members of the community gathered at Hillview Park in Los Altos to commemorate Juneteenth on Sunday, June 19, at a festival presented by by Justice Vanguard (JV), an organization focused on community investment. The event featured guest speakers, dancers and local Black-owned businesses.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of when enslaved Black people in Texas were emancipated, on June 19, 1865, over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The celebration of Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas, and dates back to 1866. However, it just became a federal holiday in June 2021, according to Justice Vanguard's 19 for the 19th, an educational initiative highlighting 19 facts about the history of Juneteenth.
The facts, displayed on posters throughout the festival, are also shared on JV's website.
"It's pretty awesome that it's a holiday that's now nationally recognized and it’s good to see the community come out and support," said Angele Bass, a vendor at the event.
Justice Vanguard was co-founded by Los Altos High School graduates Kenan Moos and Kiyoshi Taylor. With every event that the group presents, there are a few purposes, Moos said, "one is to unite our communities and bring people out from different walks of life to come together, and the other is to educate."
Throughout the Juneteenth festival, organizers emphasized education as a means of empowerment and a way to build community, from guest speakers sharing their experiences in education to a fundraiser for Black scholars.
“Especially in areas like this where there is so much money, so much thought of education, (we want) to really make sure we broaden that education,” Moos said.
For Black students who are pursuing an education at a two- or four-year university, JV has developed a scholarship to help alleviate the costs of books and school supplies. Additionally, the group has helped lead the push to institute ethnic studies classes at local school districts, including the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, where the subject will be a required course starting in the fall of 2023.
“Our goal is to have a different vision of what community is — community is when we are engaged together for a better future, so it's re-understanding what education means and how we educate ourselves; it's understanding what community engagement is; it's understanding how we can each step up and play a role in fighting for these changes,” said Moos.
To find more information on Justice Vanguard and their initiatives, visit their website at justicevanguard.org.