Celebrating Juneteenth and the Debut of New Nonprofit Organization
On Saturday, the Juneteenth festival: Unity X Black Excellence made its debut in Riviera Beach Marina Village. The event was hosted by the new nonprofit, Juneteenth of Palm Beach County.
Starting off as an idea in 2017, Sukeenah Kelly worked throughout the past year to make the festival and nonprofit a reality. She joined with co-founder Brittany Mitchell to create the event. A year full of emails, phone calls, Zoom meetings and networking, she had a lot on her hands. Being the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, Kelly also had to balance her roles as a mother, a wife and the local business owner of Velvet Organics.
“It’s really been blood, sweat and tears to pull an event off of this magnitude,” Kelly said.
At the entrance of the festival stood an interactive pop-up museum that visualized how far Black people have come and where they are going.
Although the event had a cloudy start, the sun made its entrance and the 90 degree weather did all but stop the celebration. Hundreds of people joined together at Riviera Beach’s Marina Village Park for fun in the sun. With families and friends in attendance, there were activities for visitors of all ages.
With a kid’s corner, children were able to hop around in the bouncy house. With the appearance of Minnie Mouse, children were able to enjoy the company of other children. The corner also included face paint that transformed children into their favorite superheroes or the fairy of their dreams.
Hungry attendees were able to get a taste of the culture celebrated whether it was Carribean food or the cold refreshment that was the lemonade with a Creole twist.
From selling African handbags from Ghana to crystals and Africa-shaped rugs, Black local businesses were able to feel the massive support from the people of Palm Beach County.
Coming back to their hometown from Atlanta, Georgia, Moneak Saffold’Glover was excited to bring his family business back home. Co-owning OuterGy, a clothing company meant to represent what you “put out”, he said that he and his sisters were excited to bring their business home to celebrate the holiday. He said that it felt good that the holiday will not seem so foreign to others now that it is a federal holiday.
“It feels good to come back and bring back to where we are from,” Saffold’Glover said.
Various performers made an appearance at the festival as well including Allyse Gibson and dance group All or Nothing.
Although summer break is already in full swing for the county, Palm Beach Lakes High School Marching Band regrouped together to provide the first performance of the day. Not only did the event include live performances, but it also included a DJ that had both friends and families dancing on the field.
Special guests also included children book author Tenika Bloomfield. Autographing her published books Rainy Day, My BIG Family and A Book for MAMA; she also celebrated her first signing event.
Haute Sauce Caviar’s executive chef, Ester Hamiltion, is satisfied with the event occurring with the holiday recently becoming a national holiday.
“I think it’s a long time coming for Juneteenth to become a holiday,” Hamilton said. “Should have been a holiday years ago. Better late than never.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill that would make Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Although other states already recognized the holiday, this will be the first time in its 156-year history that it will be celebrated at the national level.
Owner of All About Me, Nyota King, was happy about the local support, but hopes the festival will serve a bigger purpose than just a yearly celebration.
“I would like to think that this is just the beginning of equal rights, equal representation all over the country,” King said. “This is a start, but we need to move forward with more police reform and also better economic equality for everybody.”
In attendance, Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg K. Weiss was excited to see the turnout. He said that while the past year has been a tough one, he is excited that the vaccines are out and that it allows for the community to come together. While the event is only once a year, he said that Palm Beach County continues to work.
“Our focus has been on providing a place where everybody is welcomed, everybody has an equal opportunity and that we create equity for our residents and visitors and businesses here in Palm Beach County,” Weiss said.
While the idea was to create a festival to celebrate the holiday and Black culture, it expanded into becoming a nonprofit. Juneteenth of Palm Beach County was formed and is going to remain active after the festival. Kelly said that while the event is their biggest fundraiser, it is also an introduction to three new programs the nonprofit is providing. These programs include resources for mental health, financial literacy and education for both adults and children in the Palm Beach County area.
At the event, co-founder Brittany Mitchell announced that along with the programs, the organization is planning to provide trips to Africa for students who complete the four year programs to bring them back to the “motherland.”
“I want people to take away that we can come together and commune and have a good time,” Kelly said. “We want them to take away that their legacy is in their hands. But they’re also a community and a network that surround them that can help you with the resources.”
The nonprofit is looking for volunteers. For more information, visit www.juneteenthpbc.org or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.