It Starts with Me

Juneteenth in Downtown Redding…

It’s hard to imagine a world in which information doesn’t travel at the speed of light. In 2024, between social media posts and Facebook and Instagram Live, word travels fast. But that wasn’t the case when the
Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1,1863, signifying the end of chattel slavery in the United States.

It would take more than two and a half years for word of the order outlawing slavery to trickle down to the enslaved masses in Texas. The day was June 19, 1865. More than 2,000 Union solders rode into Galveston, Texas, to share the news the state’s formerly enslaved had waited their whole lives to hear. That day, more than 250,000 people were freed from the chains of slavery, and the jubilant celebration that ensued would officially be coined “Juneteenth,” a portmanteau of the words “June” and “Nineteenth.”

Juneteenth became a national holiday when President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on June 17, 2021. It became the 11th American holiday, and the first to obtain the status of “federal holiday” since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated in 1983. While many Americans only learned of Juneteenth’s existence when it became a federal holiday, it has been an annual celebration in many Black communities throughout the nation since 1865.

Eddie McAllister

For at least the last 30 years in Redding, Juneteenth has been celebrated, primarily by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Those celebratory gatherings have included music, performances, poetry, conversation, food and dancing – sometimes in the homes of Redding residents, sometimes in local parks, and, at other times, at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.

“Juneteenth is about celebrating freedom from slavery and the contributions Black people made to the early economy of the United States during that time. It’s important to celebrate Juneteenth like we celebrate all national holidays. Since Juneteenth is a new national holiday, we are working to educate our community about why they are getting the day off and the history of slavery in our nation,” says Eddie McAllister, community organizer and facilitator of the Shasta Beloved Community and chairperson of the Shasta Coalition of African Americans for Community Health, Education and Empowerment (SCOACHE). McAllister was recently awarded the National Education Association’s prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award, which is presented to a nominee who emulates Dr. King in leadership and philosophy.

The Juneteenth celebration planning committee have put together an afternoon full of fun in Downtown Redding.

Last October, when Viva Downtown hosted the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in Downtown Redding, McAllister noted a shift in the cultural climate of Shasta County. A seed was planted. McAllister worked closely with Blake Fisher, Main Street Coordinator with Viva Downtown, to help plan the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.

“Blake mentioned to me in October that Juneteenth could also be held in Downtown Redding. The theme of this year’s Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration in January was ‘It starts with me: shifting the cultural climate through the study and practice of Kingian nonviolence.’ After that, I realized the cultural climate shift was not limited to Shasta County, but to the world house. I told Blake I wanted to take Viva Downtown up on their offer to host Juneteenth in Downtown Redding,” says McAllister.

This year, on Wednesday, June 19 – the official Juneteenth holiday – Downtown Redding will be bopping with excitement as community members from all backgrounds are welcomed into this year’s Juneteenth celebration, hosted by SCOACHE. Hear educational monologues from the perspective of the formerly enslaved. Enjoy free food. Shop with Black-owned businesses and gain access to community resources from local organizations. Join a New Orleans-inspired Second Line dance party as it makes its way down Market Street. Dance to the sounds of MJ’s Brass Boppers, a Bay Area-based brass band that fuses traditional New Orleans standards with funk, jazz, modern pop and more.

Pictured above, Mason-Guzman-Sanchez. Rayne Duronslet Photography

In New Orleans, the Second Line is a tradition that welcomes spectators to join the parade behind the grand marshal and the band, which is considered the first line. It’s a welcoming in of sorts, a call for people to get involved in the celebration and let the joy of the moment take on a spirit of its own. Second lines are often held at parties, weddings and even funerals in New Orleans. Second liners often dance with napkins waving joyfully and parasols in hand, the true mark of a New Orleanian gathering. The Second Line grows as it moves, taking on a unique energy with every person who joins the celebration.

Bringing a brass band and second line to Shasta County, McAllister says, is a great way to welcome Shasta County residents into a new cultural experience, highlighting the beauty, joy and connection that comes with bringing others into the fold.

SCOACHE, an organization committed to inclusivity, organizes three local events a year, including Juneteenth, the Annual African American Graduation and Kwanzaa. This year’s Juneteenth celebration, McAllister says, is the culmination of a willingness of many “to share their gifts of head, heart and hands.”

MJ’s Brass Boppers will bring the soul of New Orleans to the celebration.

Many community members and local agencies shared their time, energy, expertise and financial support to bring this first-of-its-kind Juneteenth Celebration to life. Among them are the Redding Rancheria Tribal Council, Service Employees International Union (SEIU-2015), the Redding Cultural District, Viva Downtown, the Shasta College Foundation, the Shasta College Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (Shasta EOPS), the McConnell Foundation, the Shasta Beloved Community, Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect (SCCAR) and others.

“Building relationships and trust with other members of our community that don’t look like us and maybe don’t think the same way is the key to solidarity, unity, respect and equality,” says McAllister. “It supports change in so many sectors of our lives and community. Social change moves at the speed of relationships. Relationships move at the speed of trust.” •

Celebrate Juneteenth in Downtown Redding
3:30 – 8:30 pm, Wednesday, June 19 • IOOF Hall, 1504 Market St., Redding
Follow SCOACHE on Facebook

About Kimberly N. Bonéy

Proud wife and mom, is a freelance writer, designer, up-cycler and owner of Herstory Vintage. When she’s not working, she is joyfully wielding jewelry-making tools and paintbrushes in her studio. Antique shops, vintage boutiques, craft stores and bead shops are her happy place.

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