The East Valley’s only Juneteenth celebration, an event commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, will be on Friday and Saturday in Chandler.
The annual event sponsored by the South Chandler Self-Help Foundation is free, and this year’s theme is "Juneteenth: More Than an Event, It’s an Experience."
The event celebrates the past while bringing the community together to learn more about black culture, said LaVon Woods, program project coordinator for the foundation.
"It’s hopefully the opportunity to fellowship," Woods said. The foundation "has used black history and the Juneteenth celebration to educate the community. For many years, due to segregation and things that have happened in our history, people don’t know about our culture."
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing all slaves in the United States. Slaves in Texas learned they were free two years later.
In celebration, Juneteenth was born and is traditionally observed June 19 as African American Emancipation Day.
Juneteenth has been a celebration held primarily in Texas where it started, but as people moved to other parts of the country, the event spread, Woods said.
The local celebration kicks off Friday evening with the Miss Juneteenth Pageant at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
Five young, black women will compete for a scholarship by performing their talents, sharing their experiences and demonstrating their knowledge of current events.
The winner will be crowned Miss Juneteenth and will retain her title for a year.
The celebration will continue Saturday with a community picnic at Zora Folley Memorial Park.
Vendors will sell food, and entertainment will be provided by the newly formed East Valley Community Youth Choir.
The Uncle Mike Band will perform a blend of rhythm and blues, gospel, funk and other music, while the Loose Cannons Band, which has performed at the House of Blues in Los Angeles and the Cajun House in Scottsdale, will play the blues.
For more information about the celebration, call Woods at (480) 899-3022.
Pageant: Miss Juneteenth Pageant, 7 p.m. Friday at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.
Picnic: Community picnic in the park, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Zora Folley Memorial Park, 601 E. Frye Road, Chandler
Cost: Both events are free