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Juneteenth Cookout In Mission Beach Celebrates Freedom Amid National Reckoning

Kay Black handing out food at the inaugural Alfred Olango Foundation Juneteenth cookout in Mission Beach on June 19, 2020.
Mike Damron
Kay Black handing out food at the inaugural Alfred Olango Foundation Juneteenth cookout in Mission Beach on June 19, 2020.

Juneteenth, which celebrates the liberation of Black Americans, is taking on a special resonance this year, as protests in support of Black Lives Matter continue throughout the country.

In Mission Beach, the Alfred Olango Foundation hosted its first ever cookout to mark the holiday. It featured drumming, singing, games, and a donation-based barbecue.

“We’re celebrating the people, we’ve been marching and protesting and advocating for Black lives and everybody’s who’s in the community and we just put this on,” said Jenny Peterson, Alfred Olango’s niece.

Olango was killed by an El Cajon police officer in 2016. No charges were filed against the officer.

RELATED: The Tradition Of Juneteenth Moves Forward As Talks Of Reparations Resume

This year’s Juneteenth comes amidst a renewed reckoning with this country’s long history of racial violence.

“If you think about it in the high school education system, you aren’t given the opportunity to take a Black History class until college,” Peterson said. “If you’re a black student and you say something that’s not in line with your teacher, you might get an F on the test when you’re speaking truth. That’s what I experienced when I was a student and a lot of other Black people too.”

Amir Rahim, who performs with the Village Drummers, told the story of Juneteenth to young people at the event.

“Juneteenth is the celebration of the last people that were enslaved in America in 1865,” Rahim said as he drummed. “General Granger, with about 2,000 troops had to come into Galveston, Texas, and let the people know that they were free, which is really ironic, that Abraham Lincoln had signed the emancipation proclamation 2½ years earlier, and it took 2½ years for these people to find out they were free.”

The foundation plans to make the cookout an annual event.

The Cooper Family Foundation has been organizing a Juneteenth celebration in San Diego for the last 50 years. Two organizers discuss what Juneteenth means at this moment.