By Nicole S. Daniel
When President Joe Biden last year signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19 as a federal holiday, Whitney Simone Generette, CEO of Simone’s Kitchen ATL, said “it was long overdue, but I’m happy to be in a generation where I was able to witness a historical moment.”
Juneteenth has always been special observance for Generette. After she purchased her first food truck in 2020 it was rolled out for the first time on Juneteenth in that year.
Asked why she launched on Juneteenth, Generette said, “I lived in Atlanta for some time after college and I attended a lot of festivals. But I had never attended an event centered around Juneteenth. My food truck was set to be ready around that time and people were ready to get outside [after being quarantined] due to the pandemic . . . So I thought it would be great to launch in Birmingham.”
That launch has become an annual celebration in Birmingham. On Sunday June 19, Generette will host the 3rd Annual Juneteenth in the Magic City Festival, in the parking lot of Club M Compound, 521 3rd Ave W, Birmingham, AL 35204, beginning at 4 p.m. in a gathering that will include approximately 20 food trucks, a Black Wall Street vendor zone, African dancers, games, a DJ mixing live and live bands.
“I was very strategic about having a Black owned venue near Legion Field; all of the vendors are Black owned so that we can continue to generate the Black dollar which is very important,” said Generette.
“I want the Juneteenth in the Magic City Festival to be like a large Black family reunion although everybody is invited,” she added.
A Juneteenth Celebration Guide published by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute starts with a quick summary of the concept: Though President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation became law in January 1863, it was not enforced in places still under Confederate control. Thus it took over two years for approximately 250,000 Texan slaves to learn their freedom had been secured by the government.” It was June 19, 1865 when U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced the news in Galveston, Texas.
The word “Juneteenth,” a mashup of “June” and “nineteenth,” first appeared in the 1890s. “Juneteenth marks a date of major significance in American history and shows us that freedom and racial equality have always been a hard-fought battle for Black Americans – a battle that continues to this day,” says the BCRI guide.
Last year, the Juneteenth Magic City Festival had hundreds of attendees and Generette is anticipating a much larger and diverse crowd this year. “Although it is 100 percent Black-owned, organized and operated, it is publicized to a diverse group of people. Anybody . . . is welcomed to come,” said Generette.
The first 100 tickets are on sale for $5. General admission tickets are $10 once early bird tickets are sold out. To purchase tickets visit here
On Sunday, Ramsay High School Band will perform; there will be a pep rally prior to the festival and fireworks.
In another Juneteenth events this weekend, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) will hold its Freedom Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, with the theme “Backyard Boogie.” Special events at BCRI include a free screening of “Through Her Eyes” at 2 p.m. Saturday. According to information provided by BCRI, the film is the story of Rosalee Winbush played by actress Rayven Symone Ferrell, as a timid African American student struggling with her decision to attend a newly integrated school while finding the courage to become the change she desires under extreme racial tensions in the American South; the movie was written and directed by Birmingham native Trent Lumpkin.
“Our goal in observing Juneteenth each year is to the commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and celebrate Black culture,” says the Institute. “BCRI also hopes to build awareness of the endurance that African Americans have harnessed to overcome centuries of struggles in America.”