Story and photos by Vayunamu Bawa
Art always causes a reaction. It moves people out of indifference and towards change. It also strengthens bonds and keeps communities alive. These ideas are what brought together over a thousand people at Artists 4 Black Lives on Friday, June 19, 2020. They gathered at Pepper Grove Playground in Balboa Park for this event which was described as an artistic protest.
Organized by Eboni Muse and her team, this sing-in/sit-in was to be a celebration of Juneteenth through the arts. It was born out of San Diego’s community of Black artists who were listening out for the voices of the greater art community in these times. “San Diego has been notoriously quiet in times for action when it comes to Black lives,” Muse said.
There were acts of various types of entertainment—poetry, miming, music, dancing, etc—which kept every stage of the event lively and exciting. All were welcome and signs and protest banners were encouraged. The organizers worked to have a safe gathering with social distancing measures in place.
“I knew that Juneteenth wasn’t a holiday that most folks knew about but it definitely warmed my heart to know how many people walked away from this event knowing a little more about my history. There was so much love and support throughout the entire thing and it was also amazing to see the artists express themselves through their art,” Muse said.
The organizers sent out a call for spoken word artists, actors, dancers, and other talents that would perform in response to the injustices Black people face in America. Singers, poets, rappers, bands, and others alike used their voices to speak on the most recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others by police officers.
Jacquon Steven showed up to the event after hearing about it through a friend. “This was my first time celebrating and learning about Juneteenth,” Steven said. “I believe that it’s good for the U.S. to celebrate the historical significance of Juneteenth. There is a lot of history that wasn’t taught in school.”
Vendors provided information and resources about Juneteenth and its significance. Food and snacks were also available for free and by donation. Packages containing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other helpful items were given out for protestors to use when out on the streets.
“We want people to leave with knowledge, empathy, love, an urge to take action, and most of all to see us as human. Black people are not an alien entity that you have to learn to “deal” with. We are human beings with feelings and our lives matter. It hurts that I even have to hope that this is a lesson people learn,” shared Muse.