“I Heard That”: African-Americans Celebrate Juneteenth!; Emmit Powell Take Over Restaurant in Bayview

by Rochelle Metcalfe on June 17, 2009

Juneteenth commemorates the end of Slavery in the United States when African Americans in TEXAS received word of their FREEDOM on June 19, 1865! UNTHINKABLE that a BLACK MAN would be ELECTED PRESIDENT in 2009 – a BLACK FAMILY in the WHITE HOUSE, now the BLACK HOUSE!

JUNETEENTH celebrates BLACK HERITAGE, FREEDOM, PRIDE, BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS, soul food, music! The Berkeley JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL, one of the LONGEST running celebration in California CANCELED last year due to LOGISTICAL problems with the City including the date and security, BACK THIS YEAR at its regular site on ADELINE STREET, the heart of the Festival, that stretch several blocks between Alcatraz and Ashby near the BART station, my mode of transportation.

Beautiful day, folks in high spirits browsing the PEOPLES BAZAAR selling arts, crafts and food. Music on two stages, main stage emceed by the extraordinary LOTHARIO LOTHO, featured legend FILLMORE SLIM (filled my ears with SHOW BIZ gossip that he’s involved in), JIM DeBARGE (once married to Janet Jackson). Lotho urged folks to remember their history, and family togetherness and love! Introduced Berkeley City Councilman MAX ANDERSON also positive in his brief message.

While strolling the crowded street, greeted with a big smile from actor MICHAEL LANGE soon to depart to New York City to visit BROTHER TED LANGE whose starring Off Broadway in a stage play; R&B legendary singer FREDDIE HUGHES; always happy to see GOLF PROMOTER CHARLES PEOPLES, that day selling BLACK sports memorabilia in front of the popular Black-owned “NICK’S Bar.” Charlie, as he’s affectionately called, is founder of PEOPLES PRO/AM Celebrity Golf Tournament held annually during the month of May in Oakland, CANCELED THIS YEAR! DEVASTATED to know we almost lost Charlie in February of this year!

JUNETEENTH 2008 visited my son in Lubbock, Texas, THUS missed San Francisco’s celebration at CIVIC CENTER PLAZA. Look for me in the mix this weekend! JUNETEENTH has TRADITIONALLY been held in the WESTERN ADDITION! 2007 was the END OF AN ERA!

The late legendary NIGHTCLUB OWNER WESLEY JOHNSON, Sr., founded the JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION on DA ‘MO! A TEXAN who migrated to San Francisco along with other African Americans into San Francisco between 1940 and 1945, most likely to work in the shipyards. Many brought the tradition of their home state with them.

I was privileged to have known Mr. Johnson – a TRUE TEXAN to his heart! He opened his famous TEXAS PLAYHOUSE at 1836 FILLMORE STREET. The colorful businessman would close off the street in front of his bar, decked out in 10-gallon white Cowboy hat, western attire, mount his beautiful WHITE HORSE, ride down Fillmore Street as part of the festivities. A picture of Mr. Johnson is featured on the Heritage Wall in 1300 on Fillmore restaurant.

GENTRIFICATION of the WESTERN ADDITION forced the closure of the Playhouse, and other thriving Black businesses, and the removal of Blacks in particular, BUT the spirit of JUNETEENTH CONTINUED despite changes in the Fillmore. The celebration at Civic Center Plaza will spotlight BLACK CULTURE that ALL people can embrace! Hopefully, the organizers will recognize POSITIVE BLACK FATHERS who are MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the community! SUNDAY is FATHER’S DAY!

THE TWO DAY FESTIVITIES will KICK OFF with a JUNETEENTH PARADE Saturday morning, starting from HAMILTON PARK (Post and Scott) to the Plaza, lead by GRAND MARSHALL LARRY MARTIN, President San Francisco Park and Recreation Board Commissioner, and President RETIRED Transport workers Union of America.

June celebreates EMMIT POWELL’S COMEBACK in the REOPENING OF POWELL’S Soul Food Restaurant in San Francisco’s BAYVIEW District at the corner of THIRD and Underwood, the large sign visible from passing street cars. Powell gained NATIONAL ATTENTION when he recently appeared on a COURT TV program aired out of New York CITY (I’ll let him tell you about that!!!). Powell should do well in the CHANGING BAYVIEW DISTRICT!

E-mail Rochelle at iheard@earthlink.net

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