Scenes from the 2021 Juneteenth Festival in Marin City.

From the spirituals honoring elders and ancestors at the outset to the inimitable smell of barbecue and a full afternoon of incredible music, Marin City hosted a moving, exciting, fifth annual Juneteenth Festival at Rocky Graham Park Saturday, right on the heels of President Joe Biden signing a bill that created Juneteenth National Independence Day.

The now-recognized 12th national holiday ​officially recognizes Juneteeth – on June 19th – as the oldest celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It originated in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to commemorate when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. It was about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.

Oshalla Diana Marcus, Marin City Arts and Culture director and Juneteenth organizer, kicked things off by putting Juneteenth within a proper historical context for those that needed it. A pair of percussionists chanted a series of call-and-responses celebrating the community and good fortunes ahead, to which the crowd replied, “Ashay,” or “and so it is” or amen. 

Presented by the Marin Community Services District, Play Marin and a network of Black entrepreneurs and residents, the event spanned a full day of food, vendors, musical performances and speeches.

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