Juneteenth Celebration was held last year at the main branch of the Santa Barbara Library downtown.
Last year’s Juneteenth Santa Barbara Celebration was held at the main branch of the library downtown. (Courtesy photo.)

Get out those smartphones, computers, tablets and devices.

Even though people will not be able to gather in-person, there will be a few virtual events in Santa Barbara this weekend.

Here’s the rundown on two online events starting Friday:

Juneteenth Santa Barbara

Juneteenth Santa Barbara will hold a virtual celebration Friday. The schedule is expected to be announced soon, co-founder and community organizer Jordan Killebrew said Monday.

The virtual gathering, themed “Digital Diaspora: A Santa Barbara Celebration of Black Histories & Futures,” will be shared on Juneteenth Santa Barbara’s online community news page and social media channels.

“Our goal in sharing these videos is to make sure we showcase Black history that’s prevalent in Santa Barbara,” Killebrew said. 

The event will feature information about Black history and contributions as well as “what it means and to be Black in Santa Barbara,” Killebrew said.

The online archive will showcase the talents and history of Black community members in Santa Barbara County. Juneteenth Santa Barbara requested that community members and Black elders share videos, pictures and stories as part of this year’s digital event.

It will also showcase local businesses and organizations, including the Black Rock Coalition, Coffee with a Black Guy, Comfort Food, Cresco Labs, Endowment for Youth Committee, El Centro, Flourish Psychology Co., Healing Justice: BLM SB, Luna Bella, Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, Monkeytail Intelligent Exercise, Moore on Health, Pura Luna Apothecary, Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals, and more, according to event organizers.

“There are a lot of historical buildings and lots of areas in this town that used to be Black-owned,” Killebrew said. “It’s important we start sharing these stories and start telling people our contributions, and also what’s currently happening with our Black community and all the Black-owned businesses that are here.”

Juneteenth Santa Barbara is going virtual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19 heavily impacting the African-American community and Black community, we have decided to go completely digital with our event,” Killebrew said. “We will still celebrate, but we want to keep that in mind because it has disproportionately impacted our community.” 

This year’s celebration comes in the wake of nationwide and Santa Barbara County-area protests against racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd and other Black people at the hand of  police.

Juneteenth, on June 19, is a holiday commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.

Coffee with a Black Guy was one of the offerings at last year’s Juneteenth celebration.

Coffee with a Black Guy was one of the offerings at last year’s Juneteenth Santa Barbara Celebration. (Courtesy photo.)

“This is a true independence day,” Killebrew said.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, was signed in 1863.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.

“Certain states still invested in slavery, and essentially two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, a union general had to go all the way to Texas to tell slaves they were free,” Killebrew said. He added, “On June 19, 1865, those slaves immediately rejoiced in the streets.

“We carry on the transition of our ancestors because we need to make people aware of the contributions Black and African-American individuals have brought forth for this country, and also for our community at large,” he continued.

For updates and more details about Juneteenth Santa Barbara, click here.

Last year, the celebration was held at the Santa Barbara Central Library plaza.

“I hope the community can join us in the celebration,” Killebrew said. “I’m hoping in the future this will be a standard event for our community as it continues to educate our community at large about the Black contributions for our region.”

Summer Solstice Celebration

Saturday marks summer solstice, the official first day of summer.

In honor of the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice Celebration will go virtual this weekend because of the coronavirus.

The festival is a weekend tradition in Santa Barbara, drawing thousands to State Street for Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Parade and to Alameda Park for booths, food and live entertainment.

While people can’t be together to watch the parade along State Street, the celebration is taking its theme, “Beautiful Earth,” online with a message of support amid an unprecedented situation.

“Even though things are difficult we still can connect and support each other,” said Robin Elander, Summer Solstice executive director. “Ultimately, that does make a beautiful Earth and we have got a lot of work to recover after this unique time, and also for our environment right now.”

Taking place Friday through Sunday, the Summer Solstice Celebration plans a slate of online events, music, a virtual beer garden and dance party, interviews with special guests and more. The eagerly anticipated parade will be broadcast through the Summer Solstice Celebration website at noon Saturday.

The parade also will be aired on Summer Solstice Celebration social media.

Last year’s Summer Solstice Celebration Parade featured dancers, decorated floats and fantastical costumes.

Last year’s Summer Solstice Celebration Parade featured dancers, decorated floats and fantastical costumes.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

Event organizers are gearing up to keep a 46-year tradition alive and sense of community spirit despite the unique circumstances.

“Many people hold space for this every year,” Elander said. “It’s not just an event for them. It’s kind of a part of their existence, so to not do anything is not even possible.”

Trainsitioning to a new online environment was hard because organizers had to reconfigure and think about what the large-scale festival and parade could look like online.

Organizers of this year’s event are hoping for a far-reaching online audience that will be able to tune in from pretty much anywhere.

Going online will connect virtually with people who moved out of the Santa Barbara area and those who participated in the Summer Solstice Celebration parade or festival during the early years, Elander said.

“What became a challenging beginning became a fortuitous, almost reunion of sorts with people participating from many different years,” Elander said. “It has been a heartfelt reconnection for many of our participants.”

Members of the community got creative during stay-at-home restrictions, especially during a time when many stores had temporarily closed.

Coronavirus orders stopped in-person activities at the Community Arts Workshop, a space where artists typically construct costumes and floats. The CAW is at the corner of Ortega and Garden streets.

This year’s parade will feature a line-up of homemade mini-floats created by community members. 

Parade participants were asked to record themselves and their float, and submit content to organizers. 

Last year’s Summer Solstice Celebration Parade featured dancers, decorated floats and fantastical costumes.

Last year’s Summer Solstice Celebration Parade featured dancers, decorated floats and fantastical costumes.  (Fritz Olenberger file photo)

People created the float entries and outfits out of found objects or items in their garage or house. Others purchased materials.

“There was a need for an extra level of creativity just to be able to have the supplies you needed, but what is amazing is these folks are some of the most creative people you have ever met,” Elander said. “They put together some incredible contraptions and creations.” 

Spectators also were encouraged to send a picture for the virtual parade.

The Summer Solstice Celebration website offers several online tutorials designed to teach viewers the skills to create costumes, headdresses and a demonstration of suggestions for building a tiny virtual float and some of the float’s elements.

Rolling out the online tutorials are a way to document local community members’ sheer artistic skills and the video formats will be available for years later, Elander said.

Click here for a full Summer Solstice event schedule and information on purchasing merchandise.

To donate to the Summer Solstice Celebration, a nonprofit organization, click here.

Contributions will help the organization better prepare for the celebration next year.

“We are offering all of this as a gift to the community to bring the spirit of solstice in this challenging time to people, but it does take a lot of work and energy to make it all possible,” Elander said.

A number of spring and summer festivities across Santa Barbra County were canceled, postponed or moved online because of limits on in-person gatherings, social distancing and other coronavirus-related measures.

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Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.