3 Artistic Juneteenth Celebrations in San Francisco
Sculptor Dana King's 'Monumental Reckoning' installation, which represents the 350 Africans who became America's first slaves, opens in Golden Gate Park on June 19th to commemorate Juneteenth. (Courtesy of Illuminate SF)

3 Artistic Juneteenth Celebrations in San Francisco


For over 60 years, Bay Area residents have honored Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

There is no parade this year, but you can pay tribute to the holiday through three artistic events.

"Monumental Reckoning": A Sculpture Honoring the History of African-Americans at Golden Gate Park

A public art installation to honor Black lives and the history of African-Americans will be unveiled in Golden Gate Park in time for Juneteenth. Approved by the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Recreation and Park, the installation will surround the vacant plinth where a statue of Francis Scott Key was toppled by protestors on June 19, 2020. Support for the installation is being provided by the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD).

"Monumental Reckoning," by Bay Area sculptor Dana King, includes 350 four-foot high sculptures crafted in black steel with vinyl tubing, representing the number of Africans initially forced onto the San Juan Bautista to become America's first slaves.

"The art and monuments that we choose to display in our city and the civic art that fills our public spaces must reflect the diversity of our community and honor our history," said Mayor London Breed. "This powerful public art installation in Golden Gate Park will help us not only commemorate Juneteenth, but also serve as an example of how we can honor our past, no matter how painful, and reflect on the challenges that are still with us today."

// "Monument Reckoning" opens June 19th at Golden Gate Park Concourse, monumentalreckoning.org.

Thomas Robert Simpson, AfroSolo(Jarrel Phillips)

AfroSolo Arts Festival: A Spotlight on Black Voices and Stories

The award-winning AfroSolo Arts Festival presents its 26th annual season of "Black Voices: Our Stories, Our Lives" in a two-program format June 17-20. Created and produced by Thomas Robert Simpson, the festival will present facets of the African-American experience through solo performances and the visual arts.

"Black Men: Embracing Our Light (BMEOL)," explores the Black male experience within the prison industrial complex, providing an opportunity for four men—Larry Griffin, Geoffrey Grier, Freddy Lee Johnson, and Vernon Medearis—to share their stories and give voice to the experience.

"Courage Under Fire: The Liberation of Elroy" is a story about family, race, politics and redemption. It explores the life of Thomas Robert Simpson's father, Elroy Simpson, and his journey from the snares of Jim Crow's insanity to his personal enlightenment. Simpson traces four generations of his family to celebrate Elroy's liberation and its significance on those around him.

// AfroSolo Arts Festival is June 17-20, afrosolo.org.

(Courtesy of Bayview Opera House)

Juneteenth at Bayview Opera House

On June 19th, Bayview Opera House (BVOH) presents its first outdoor event since the pandemic began. BVOH will reopen the outdoor stage and invites the community in to help celebrate this historic day. Expect live music by blues/jazz artist Pat Wilder, poetry/spoken word by Queen Niyah, drumming by Batuci, and more.

// 1pm to 3pm, June 19 at Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St. (Bayview), bvoh.org

This article was originally published on SF/Arts Monthly.

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