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'Say It Loud' Celebrates Juneteenth With Local Black Talent

 June 16, 2021 at 10:35 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 After more than 160 years black independence day, otherwise known as Juneteenth is on its way to becoming a federal holiday. On Tuesday, the us Senate passed a bill that would make June 19th the day that the last enslaved Americans learned they were free in 1865, the 12th federal holiday, the bill is also expected to pass the house. Black Americans have been marking the day with celebrations and gatherings since 1865 in San Diego. This week, the black artists collective is in the middle of a week long. Say it loud festival with original plays about the black experience. The festival culminates on Saturday with an in-person June teen event at Balboa park put on by artists for black lives. Joining me to talk about Juneteenth and all of the local commemoration is joy. Yvonne Jones, president of the San Diego, black artists collective, and one of the playwrights directors and organizers of the, say it loud. Festival joy. Welcome. Speaker 2: 01:00 Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 01:03 Well, let's start with the news that the Senate passed the Juneteenth holiday bill yesterday. What's your reaction to this and Juneteenth being in the national spotlight? Right know, Speaker 2: 01:13 I am so overjoyed, honestly, growing up in Houston, Texas. I didn't know that it wasn't a national holiday until I became an adult and left Texas. So it is just it's overdue, but I am appreciative and so happy that this day is getting the recognition that it deserves. Speaker 1: 01:36 Um, have you celebrated and commemorated Juneteenth throughout your Speaker 2: 01:40 Life? Well, my favorite thing was going to the parade in downtown Houston. It was always a huge event. All of the, um, black high schools in Houston and, uh, HBC use around town, uh, in Houston and right outside of Houston would come to downtown Houston and just throw the biggest party. There would be, um, food that everyone brought and you would share with each other, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and all of her siblings and all of my cousins would come out and celebrate. And then after the parade, we go to the neighborhood park, which is called emancipation park and hang out there some more. So it was always a huge community event. And, uh, yeah, and we got to see some of our community leaders marching in the parade and we, you know, we would take turns trying to get their attention, to get them to yell at us. Um, so yeah. Wow. Speaker 1: 02:35 The say it loud festival that's happening this week, uplifts, the stories of the black experience through art. What does it mean to you to share these stories with audiences? Speaker 2: 02:45 It means the world to me, I had a traditional theater school education and I've learned the classics and I can do Shakespeare upside down, backwards and forward. And it wasn't until my senior at the university of Minnesota where I was handed August Wilson. And I knew of into Zaki Sean Gay and Suzan-Lori parks, but it really dawned on me that there is more that I should be studying. And, and there's, there's more that should be illuminated. And so sharing black art during this important holiday is a dream come true for me. And we, I feel it in what we create, how fulfilling it is to the artists to really be able to share our stories our way. Speaker 1: 03:40 And let's talk about the black playwriting talent in San Diego, contributing to the virtual plays, being staged. Tell me about the mango tree and we danced and get on board. Okay. So Speaker 2: 03:53 The mango, the mango tree written by BB mamma and directed by, by Claire Simba, I'm going to use Bebe's words, her take on an, a folk tale. And she was inspired to write this because, uh, someone mentioned a haunted mango tree to her and she loves folk tales. And that is, and she has memories, fond memories of how her father would tell her stories and really act them out. And so this is her creation and her embodiment of the folk tales that were close to her. And she is just so amazing and how she tells the story. She really wraps you in it and you get lost in her words and how earnestly she works to share this story. And we danced by making Vail directed by myself. And it is a story of, um, a glimpse into the love that Ruth Ellis and babe Franklin had for each other and how important it was for them to create a space where as black people in the 1940s and fifties, they could be safe. Speaker 2: 05:03 And they created a juke joint in Detroit, Michigan called the gay spot. So we get a glimpse into that history, get on board is a journey through the evolution of black music through time, starting with the African drums and going through hip hop. And in this week we touch on popular dances. We touch on, I share a lot of poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry for that show, and it is honestly a really fun party that you learned from, and you'll cry a little bit in that show, but I think at the end of it, you'll get a really nice picture of the evolution of black music. Speaker 1: 05:49 And we have a clip from tonight show get on board here's Leonard Patton, singing the classic Sam Cooke tune, touch the hem of his garment. Speaker 3: 06:21 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 06:22 Um, and you know, artists for black lives, San Diego returns this weekend, bringing entertainment in a fair to Balboa park. Tell us about what will be happening at Balboa park this Saturday, and some of the creative people behind it. We Speaker 2: 06:35 Are a part of this event, Ebony muse and her wonderful team at, uh, that is artists for black lives created it. And we will be sharing some of the pieces from get on board as well as other things that some of our membership have to offer. And honestly, like last year, it's just gonna be a very community driven, open and embracing event where people can share their talents and how they feel about the current times and just celebrate together, celebrate Juneteenth Speaker 1: 07:08 And performing and sharing art like, you know, theater or music or dance can bring the community joy and togetherness, especially after this year. Um, but how has art and the theater wrapped up in the fight for racial and social justice and has the theater stepped up? Speaker 2: 07:25 The theater is supposed to be a reflection of the world around us. And oftentimes it has fallen short because of the entertainment side. And speaking about race in America is kind of like the peas and carrots, no one wants to eat it's it's necessary because if we don't deal with it, it comes back to haunt us and it hurts. And we see how those scars can be reopened. We saw that this past year, and if theaters are truly going to do their job by reflecting the world around us theater art in general, if they're going to do their job, they have to do more than just say we stand with, well, we want to see the evidence of, and there is an understanding that theaters have been closed for 15 months. We haven't been able to gather for 15 months. So there is going to be a creaky time of reopening, but I caution artistic directors against doing performative gestures that have no debt. We can see it. It makes us question if we're welcome in your institutions, Speaker 1: 08:38 Right? Amen. Amen. I've been speaking with joy, Yvonne Jones, president of the San Diego, black artists collective, and one of the playwrights directors and organizers of say it loud, festival joy. Thank you so much for joining us and happy Juneteenth. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

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"I caution artistic directors against doing performative gestures that have no depth. We can see it," said San Diego Black Artist Collective president Joy Yvonne Jones. The group has put together a week-long festival of Black local art, theater, music and dance to commemorate Juneteenth.
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