Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Two people in conversation on state with Sounds of Liberation banner behind them. People watch from the floor.

A Word on Juneteenth

Above: Sounds of Liberation, led by the Middletown Art Center and supported through a Humanities for All Quick Grant, launched Lake County’s very first Juneteenth celebration in 2021, and featured taped and live performances, community conversations and interviews, and Kenyan food and poetry readings, all honoring the Black experience as told through musical genres that have contributed to and influenced contemporary North American music and culture.

The California Humanities office is closed today in observance of Juneteenth, one of the oldest known commemorations related to the abolition of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, thousands of enslaved people in Texas, among the last to learn of their independence, were finally freed–more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event still remains largely unknown to most Americans. In 2021, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation establishing Juneteenth as the nation’s newest Federal holiday, a milestone that encourages all Americans to learn from our history, celebrate our progress, and recognize the ongoing fight for human rights. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom established Juneteenth as a state observed holiday in 2023, and cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco—which has observed the day with parades and events for nearly 80 years—are among the California cities that followed the federal and state’s lead and established city holidays. Statewide celebrations are marked with parades, family cookouts, faith services, musical performances, storytelling, and more.

In our almost 50-year history, California Humanities is proud to have provided support for a myriad of projects that help people engage with California’s Black history and culture, and combat hate through programs that foster understanding, empathy, and resilience. In 2023, we launched What Connects Us, Resilience Against Hate, part of the National Endowment for the Humanities-supported United We Stand initiative that leverages the humanities and the arts to combat hate-motivated violence. Our latest program, How Does the Inland Empire Strike Back Against Hate?, will be co-presented with Zócalo Public Square and will take place in Riverside and online on July 16, 2024.

To learn more about Juneteenth’s legacy, we recommend visiting the National Museum of African American History’s extensive resource: nmaahc.si.edu/juneteenth

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