On a hot summer weekend preceding Juneteenth, as attendees walked deeper along the Pierce College Mall between the long lines of various vendors, they were met with the scents of barbeque and the feeling of refreshment at the sight of frozen desserts. 

The Zawadi Cultural Collective and Umoja at Pierce College presented the Black in the Valley 7th Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration, held at Rocky Young Park and along the Mall on June 15. 

“We are here for our Juneteenth Celebration, and Juneteenth is basically a celebration of the emancipation from slavery on June 19, 1865,” said Shania Accius, executive director of the Zawadi Cultural Collective. “And so we’ve been celebrating that for years, it started in Texas and now we’re celebrating it [nationwide]. It recently became a national holiday, and so it’s just a time for us to come together and support our community. We have over 100 local, small Black businesses here, ranging from financial literacy all the way to some soul barbecue.”

This was the seventh year putting together the event, and the second year hosting it on the Pierce campus, according to Accius. 

“What we’re hoping for is for people to meet their neighbors, people to be introduced to small Black businesses that they never knew about, hoping to have a good time,” Accius said. “We have giveaways for the kids, so we want kids to have a good time. We have a DJ that’s going to play some amazing music, we have performers, we’re giving away scholarships.”

Various food offerings—from jerk chicken and oxtail by The Original Coley’s to bundts and cheesecakes by Give Me Some Bake Goods—were set up by the Business Education building. 

Toya Brown, co-founder of Nicey Ice, said the Philly-style Italian ice business was launched last year and they are happy to be at the event.

“We’re here today in support of the Black in the Valley organization,” Brown said. “It’s the Juneteenth Celebration, so we decided to come out and support and thank goodness it’s a hot day—I think we are actually in demand.”  

Lea Oliver, at her Song of the Sea booth, displayed art and handmade items such as mermaid and steampunk-themed journals. 

“I started out actually making cards from scratch, and kind of branched out to other stuff,” Oliver said. “My things have an ocean theme, but today I decided to bring some more ethnic stuff, more African American stuff. I’ve always enjoyed making it. There’s not a whole lot of a market for it, so I thought this would be a good venue.” 

Xannia Simpson, a recent Pierce graduate and former president of the Umoja club, wanted to attend as the event presents a good opportunity to network.

“I thought it was really good just to be here and show my support,” Simpson said. “And I’m also here with the Umoja program, just to get the word out to other people.”