By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY—Oklahoma City will celebrate Juneteenth in style with a two-day, family-friendly event featuring live music, interactive murals, dance performances, spoken word, education tents, food trucks, vendors, and local small businesses, who are the backbone of the Eastside community, organizers said.
The Juneteenth on the East Festival will take place on Saturday, June 19, from 3 – 9 pm on Northeast 23rd Street between Kelham Avenue and Hood Street. On Sunday, June 20 there will be a cookout at 6 p.m. and a film screening at 8 p.m.
Juneteenth, a celebration of emancipation from slavery, began because General Gordon Granger of the U.S. Army proclaimed the end of bondage in Texas on June 19, 1865. Emancipation came to slaves of the Indian nations, in the territory that became Oklahoma, at different times during the summer of 1865.
Ralph Ellison, the famous African American writer born in Oklahoma City in 1914, wrote a novel titled Juneteenth that was published in 1999 after his death.
Juneteenth on the East, produced by With Love OKC, is hosted by a committee of community leaders who have volunteered their time to bring a celebration of Black Liberation to Oklahoma City.
Activist and rapper Jabee Williams, Scissortail Park, Oklahoma Mural Syndicate, the Conversation Workshops, Haitian-American artist, producer, writer, and lecturer Marie Casimir, NEOKC Renaissance, and others hope to provide Oklahoma City residents with an experience they only dreamed of as kids, organizers said.
“Please join us in this celebration of freedom and placemaking while highlighting the history of Emancipation in the United States,” Jabee said. “Juneteenth reminds us that liberation is not a one-time event. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of fighting for and gaining back basic human dignity.
“Black people in the United States got a first taste of liberation on June 19, 1865 after over 400 years of enslavement, exploitation, and denial of humanity. June 19th now marks an annual celebration of Juneteenth,” he added.
“Today, we celebrate the Black community’s leadership in cultural revolutions and a powerful determination to celebrate, gather, create, dance, sing, and live in abundant joy,” Jabee continued. “This joy is not reliant on physical or systemic circumstances; instead, the ability to withstand oppression with laughter and levity is locked deep within Black culture and genetic memory.
“We are excited to announce this year’s headliner will be the Sa Roc (Assata Perkins)
who is arguably one of the most vibrant MCs in the world today,” Jabee said. “Her crisp articulation, fiery delivery, and her elevated and insightful lyricism has often placed her within the same conversation of some of Hip Hop’s most notable artists.”
Once dubbed by Okayplayer as “one of the most formidable microphone mavens in the game,” Sa-Roc is an artist for a socially conscious generation. In 2016, Sa-Roc signed with the Rhymesayers label and has thrived within that partnership, Jabee noted.
In that time, she has released a string of powerful music videos, including “Deliverance”, “Hand of God”, “Goddess Gang”, and “Forever”, which has garnered over 4 million views on YouTube.
Her debut on the world-renowned NPR Tiny Desk At Home series led fans to describe her simply as “the truth” and technically “the best lyricist in recent times.”
Jabee added, “Her album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, in which the title pays homage to her father’s experience growing up sharecropping tobacco, is in Sa-Roc’s own words ‘a sonic reflection on the generational inheritance of trauma and triumph that shapes our humanity and influences the way we see the world.’
“At a time where people all around the globe are calling for social change, Sa-Roc is an MC whose energy and conscious lyrics are about to shake up the rap game and remind us all that Hip Hop was always about giving a voice to the people,” Jabee said.
The festival will also feature Los Angeles based poet, political activist, academic, and emcee Propaganda.
“We are very excited to bring two artists of this caliber with reputations for being advocates for justice and equality to our Juneteenth on the East celebration,” Jabee said.
For more information or to become a sponsor, visit withloveokc.org/juneteenth.