Restaurant owners strive to convey the message of Juneteenth. to spread


If you read this website you probably know June th, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Groups like the years Downtown Oakland Association and Berkeley Juneteenth Cultural Celebrations shaped the occasion with music, conversation and an amazing variety of food from black restaurants and vendors. But the Juneteenth has not always been so widely understood, say three prominent local food characters, and although many of the 2020 and 2021 celebrations have been dampened by the pandemic, some local chefs are working especially hard to be able to celebrate this year’s Juneteenth in some way.

The Juneteenth has been an informal holiday since 1865, and Texas was the first state to do so in 1979 make it an official holiday. It wasn’t until 2003 California has followed suit, and on Thursday, President Biden has officially signed a law make every June 19th a federal holiday known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. However, according to several Black East Bay food characters speaking to Nosh, they never heard of the Juneteenth from official institutions such as local governments or schools, but instead learned of its history from family and friends.

Chef Lala Harrison, the cook / owner of the Jusla eats Pop up, fondly thinks about the Juneteenth celebrations she attended as a kid. “We celebrated most of my life. We went to various celebrations being held in the Bay Area. It’s about freedom and independence, much like Afro-American Independence Day, ”she said, but noted that she hadn’t heard of the day or its significance in any of her history classes.

Harrison will be holding on Saturday June 19th a Juniteenth fundraiser to generate seed capital for their upcoming restaurant in the Temescal District, Roux40. Like their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, the fundraiser will showcase their Mediterranean and Cajun-inspired cuisine. Harrison says the event is a way for the community to celebrate black heritage by gathering and breaking bread together.

“It’s never too late for education. [Roux40] it will be about celebrating black heritage and history around the clock all year round, ”Harrison said. “People need to understand that black people are still going through so much right now. Just a little recognition for the work and the story is nice. “

Bay Area restaurateur Elijah Brown, who also owns the restaurant L12 function room, is a relative newcomer to Juneteenth. He, too, grew up in the Bay Area but said “I didn’t know what Juneteenth was until sometime in the last year” when the holiday gained heightened national attention following the police murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement . His ignorance of the holiday “only shows the extent of the oppression that people of color have faced over the past 500 years,” Brown said.

Throughout the week, Brown’s L12 event space business is owned by Black as part of Oaklands. presents Juniteenth Black Excellence Week. This weekend, Brown is hosting one Roast Chicken Pop-up Dinner on Friday June 18th and a Black Chef dinner on Saturday June 19th, both intended as June 10th celebrations.

“My message to everyone is to keep learning and delving into the past,” said Brown. “The whole week should celebrate our freedom. We also move forward by learning these things and taking them with us – not because of the hatred, but because of the success and accomplishments we have all achieved. ”A quarter of the ticket sales for the events go off Farms to Grow Inc. and the Deep Root Center for Spiritual Studies.

Chef Nelson German who owns Oakland’s Sobre Mesa and alaMar Restaurants, is not from the Bay Area: He was born and raised in Washington Heights, New York said in previous interviews that his Dominican family “denied our black side”. He says he first heard about Juneteenth, from diner diners who arrived in Oakland after the holidays, a few years ago.

However, German won’t be in Oakland this year. He’s on his way to Houston to join chefs Dawn Burrell, Kiki Louya and Chris Viaud for a 5-course anniversary dinnerorganized by Burrell to commemorate the holiday. The term “anniversary” is an allusion to the celebration of emancipation, as the earlier June 10th was also referred to as the anniversary day.

The African diaspora is the focus of the dinner menu, which also reflects the German’s widely dispersed origins: he recently discovered that his family history goes back to Cameroon. “Africa has influenced the world in many ways. We honor our roots and where we are now, ”said German.

For the anniversary dinner, the German is preparing a plantain filled with oxtail with pigeon pea and coconut mousse and a stew with West African red stew that pays tribute to the African, Dominican and Spanish elements of his heritage. The proceeds of the dinner go to Lucilles 1913, a nonprofit that provides fresh meals to unserved communities in Houston.

Being on Juneteenth in Texas is especially important for Germans. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 and the Confederate Army surrendered on April 9, 1865, the last American slaves were not actually freed until June 19, 1865, when Union forces arrived in Texas. “June itself is about the Afro-American slaves in Texas who were free, but they didn’t know they were free,” said German. “Now the opposite is happening, we didn’t know about Juneteenth, and now we know. … It is very special that four black chefs cook in a city that basically really felt what was happening, and we are making this dinner to honor those who did not know they had their freedom “, said German.

Like Harrison and Brown, German says that now that he knows the Juneteenth, he wants it to be just as much a part of US life as July 4th.

“It’s what has happened for years that certain things are not talked about or that we shouldn’t celebrate something so terrible,” said German. “But we should celebrate the liberating aspect [of the historic date]. We should celebrate that every day. “


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