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‘Digital Diaspora’: Juneteenth Santa Barbara hosts virtual celebration of Black community

Juneteenth SB 2020
Juneteenth Santa Barbara
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Barbara's annual Juneteenth celebration has gone virtual this year.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Juneteenth Santa Barbara hosted a virtual celebration of the local Black community this year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The "Program of Black Joy" is being called "Digital Diaspora: A Santa Barbara Celebration of Black Histories and Futures."

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Texas slaves finally learned that they were freed. That happened more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.

“The last slaves were literally told that they were free,” Juneteenth Santa Barbara co-organizer Jordan Killebrew said. ‘And so for me, that’s my Independence Day. That’s why I celebrate, for my ancestors.”

Killebrew admits that despite the holiday being an important celebration for Black Americans since 1865, he only learned of it a few years ago.

“This education on this holiday somehow missed us, at least missed me in my history books,” he said. “And now learning more of Black history, which is American history, you see that this holiday is so important. Because it really lives up to the ideals of what ‘American’ is. What America is. And that’s being free.”

Event organizers posted videos and stories to social media throughout the day, highlighting members of the Santa Barbara Black community.

“Been sharing videos, looking at videos, rewatching them,” Co-organizer Simone Ruskamp said. “Crying, laughing, having all the feelings… It’s always exciting when we can talk about blackness and not just have it be defined by struggle. But also those moments of beauty.”

More people are beginning to learn about Juneteenth this year as a global movement for racial justice continues to grow.

Juneteenth Santa Barbara organizers hope that the effort to listen to black voices and denounce racial inequality continues beyond just the holiday or this summer.

“I think the world had to stop, given COVID-19, to actually look inward and say, ‘There’s still problems going on in our world,’” Killebrew said.

“I hope that people who are joining the celebration today for the first time are really going to stick with this, and imagine liberation for Black people year-round, and for years to come,” Ruskamp said.

You can find more information and all of the videos on the Juneteenth Santa Barbara website.

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Ryan Fish

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