Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is a federally recognized holiday that honors the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Berkeley and Oakland are two East Bay cities that have been observing Juneteenth long before it became a federal holiday in 2021; Berkeley has hosted a Juneteenth festival since 1986, while Oakland has celebrated at the Lake Merritt amphitheater for close to two decades. 

We’ve rounded up several Juneteenth events in Berkeley, Oakland and Albany below, along with one other at the Main Library featuring the author and beloved former Oakland librarian, Dorothy Lazard.

Berkeley Juneteenth will have nearly a dozen musical acts

A dancer in colorful clothes stands with arms raised on a city street with people behind her in folding chairs and a raised umbrella
Anita Fowler dances as her mother Gracie Stover (middle) watches during Berkeley’s 35th Juneteenth Festival on Sunday, June 19, 2022. They traveled from Marin City to support and listen to the Saint Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Now in its 36th year, the Berkeley Juneteenth festival is the region’s longest-running emancipation celebration, and from its inception the event featured an impressive array of music. 

Originally booked by drummer and producer Paul Tillman Smith, Berkeley Juneteenth has turned into a week-long commemoration that includes a “clean slate” seminar for people with criminal convictions (1-4 p.m. Thursday at the East Bay Community Law Center), a workshop for preserving family stories (1-3 p.m. Friday at Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch library), and a Batters Up, Guns Down softball tournament (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at San Pablo Park). 

The celebration culminates Sunday with nearly a dozen musical acts, including Blackcat Zydeco, Sambafunk!, Sonny Farley, Junior Toots and Guitar Trifecta (Calvin Keys, Carl Lockett and Lloyd Gregory). 

Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, Sunday, June 18, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., free to attend, Adeline Street and Alcatraz Avenue. (If you’re going, be sure to stop by the Berkeleyside booth to say hello!)

Placing Yourself in History: The Challenge of Writing a Memoir

Dorothy Lazard 2
Dorothy Lazard at the main Oakland Public Library, a few months before her retirement. Credit: Amir Aziz

The Oakland Heritage Alliance is hosting a conversation with Lazard, former head of the Oakland History Center and author of the memoir, What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New World. She’ll talk about what it was like to write the memoir, offer framing tips for family stories, and advice on how to place oneself in the narrative. In addition to her career as a librarian, Lazard has been a published author for over three decades and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College in Baltimore.

Thursday, June 15, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., free to attend, RSVP online, Oakland Public Library 125 14th St.

Celebrating OUSD’s Black students, families, and staff at OMCA

OUSD students at OMCA. Credit: Spearitwurx & OUSD. Courtesy of OMCA

The Oakland Museum of California is hosting a special Juneteenth edition of its Friday Nights at OMCA event, celebrating members of the Black community at Oakland Unified School District. The evening in the museum’s garden will include live performances by Queen Iminah and the African American Females of Excellence (AAFE), Kingmakers of Oakland, Spear of the Nation, and a DJ set by Sake One. There will also be activities for kids, and community resources. Food trucks from Off the Grid will be on-site starting at 5 p.m. While the outdoor event is free, you’ll need a ticket to get late-night access to the museum’s galleries and special exhibitions.

Friday, June 16, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., free to attend, OMCA, 1000 Oak St.

Oakland’s 14th Annual Juneteenth Festival

A previous Juneteenth festival at the Lake Merrit Amphitheater. Courtesy: Afrocentric Instagram page.

Artist RyanNicole, comedian Jay Rich, and writer and poet Prentice Wallace will host this daylong festival a the Lake Merritt Amphitheater featuring music, food, local vendors, wellness workshops, art installations, and youth activities. Rapper LaRussell is the headliner. There will also be DJ sets by D Sharp, Lady Ryan, K-La V, Rebl Dee, and Manny Black, and a dance and drumming performance by the Bantaba Ensemble. 

Saturday, June 17, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., $25, Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Lake Merritt Boulevard

EBRPD Free Park Day to celebrate Juneteenth

Friends of Joaquin Miller 6
Joaquin Miller Park. Credit: Amir Aziz

The East Bay Regional Park District is honoring Juneteenth by waiving fees for park entrance, parking, boat launching, and more on Sunday, June 18. Fees will not be waived for swimming, camping, or reserving picnic areas. In addition to the fee waivers, there are three naturalist-led public special events happening at parks in Fremont, Concord, and Oakley. 

Sunday, June 18, all East Bay Regional Park District parks, see the website for a full list

Albany Juneteenth is also a celebration of Father’s Day

Woman with pin-stripe top and giant bejeweled necklace on her bared neck. She's grasping her lapels.
Terrie Odabi. Courtesy: Albany Juneteenth

Over in Albany, vocalists Tiffany Austin and Kenya Moses are co-producing Juneteenth Sunday at 1251 Solano Ave. The program includes Austin’s jazz and soul, blues by the Terrie Odabi Quartet, the all-women rockers Skip the Needle, live house music by vocalist Valerie Troutt’s MoonCandy, and New Orleans funk by Al Lazard and the World Street Players.

Sunday, June 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 1251 Solano Ave. (at Masonic Avenue)

Juneteenth Choral Celebration at New Destiny Church

Singer-songwriter Kev Choice. Credit: Marshall Lamm PR

Soprano Candace Y. Johnson and pianist and singer-songwriter Kev Choice will lead this in-person—and virtual—multi-denominational, participatory performance. The workshop will focus on Johnson’s arrangement of the song Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, made especially for this event. The lyrics allude to the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, in which Joshua led the Israelites against Canaan. The song is believed to have been composed by enslaved people in the first half of the 19th century. The workshop is open to vocalists and music enthusiasts of all ages, ranges, and abilities. 

Monday, June 19, 4 p.m., $10-$25, register online for either in-person or virtual, New Destiny Church, 625 8th St.

Azucena Rasilla reports on arts and community for The Oaklandside. She is an East Oakland native and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local, bilingual journalist,...

Freelancer Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. Andy, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, covers a wide range of musical cultures, from Brazil and Mali to India and Ireland....