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June 19th is Juneteenth but over the weekend, several Bay Area events took place to commemorate the holiday early. 

ROC the Block’s 4th Annual Juneteenth Festival happened on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium and in St. Pete. The Shades of Pride Juneteenth Arts & Music Festival took place at The Factory Friday and Saturday.

District 5 Tampa City Councilwoman Gwendolyn Henderson said, “It is a time of sharing and celebrating also recognizing at the same time our past and what our ancestors had to go through for us to get to where we are today.” 

ROC the Block’s Juneteenth Festival was free for the whole family and featured local black-owned businesses, food trucks, and games. 

Henderson said Juneteenth is a time to reflect but also celebrate.

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“1865 was not that long ago. We have a lot of history, some of it hurts. But there’s also a lot of joy and today we have joy,” she said, “Freedom is not free. You have to work on it and that is what we’re here to do every single day. Whether I do it on council or people out working in the community, it’s really important.”

Spoken word artist Imani Ruz said, “To see people come together in this heat and still smile, it’s incredible because it shows how good humanity is doing.”

Across the bay, The Shades of Pride Festival was held. Event Co-chair Darius Lightsey said, “Shades of Pride is a celebration of the black and brown LGBTQ experience. It’s synonymous with Juneteenth. It’s all about freedom, being who you are, expressing love for yourself, your culture.” The event featured slam poetry, local vendors, dance parties, and speaker panels.

Event Co-chair Clifford Hobbs stressed the importance of intersectionality. 

“The queer-black culture is usually underground, so with this event, we’re bringing it to the surface to allow everyone to come and celebrate and learn more about our culture.” Hobbs said providing a safe space to this community is an honor. He said, “I think I’ve cried about three times today seeing queer, black joy in this event space, it was just so beautiful.”