The community organization celebrated the holiday with partners, organizations and the people it serves.
On Friday, June 16, the Community Coalition (COCO) held its first Juneteenth celebration with local officials, community organizations and labor unions.
“There’s positive things, there’s lots of struggle that we still have to go through but I do think that’s the importance of signifying and symbolizing a holiday,” said Vice Chair of the COCO Board Mary Lee about celebrating Juneteenth.
Lee continued, “A holiday that’s both, at some points, a celebration of all we’ve been through but also recommitting ourselves to all the work we have to do in order to see the change that needs to happen and I think we are recommitting ourselves to making that transformation a reality.”
The theme was “Celebrating Power, Permanence & Progress in South Los Angeles” and in addition to acknowledging the partnerships between organizations made possible by the generous support from the James Irvine Foundation. The program opened with drums, affirmations and a pouring of a libation from S.H.I.N.E. Muwasi. Local officials, community leaders and union representatives spoke about celebrating Juneteenth with COCO and the importance of the holiday.
“For me, it’s love,” said Brotherhood Crusade President and CEO, Charisse Bremond Weaver. “That’s what community is, that’s what’s so special about our community in South Los Angeles.
“I tell people, I would not want to work anywhere else but in South L.A. because we are the best of the best. We work together, collaborate, care, love, have strength, power, intellectual content and it’s just community.”
Bremond continued, “When you have a partner like the Community Coalition, when you work with the Carpenters, for all of us, the alignment is around community, equity, jobs, power-building and so this is the first and we know it will be an annual event of bringing us all together.”
“It’s such an important day,” said COCO Executive Vice President Aurea Montes-Rodriguez. “A number of our Community Coalition member leaders had advocated and pushed for the recognition of Juneteenth as a formal holiday.
“And so, to see that we can one, be back together in person and celebrate the liberation of the Black community from enslavement is formally recognized by the state and our country.
“It’s an important milestone, I’m especially thinking about the leaders who are no longer with us, some of our founding members.”
“This is just the recognition of the roots,” said California State Senator Lola Smallwood Cuevas. “It’s a recognition of the work that COCO has done over the years and it’s also just as exciting, sort of igniting, of what’s going to come.”
Cuevas continued, “I can’t say how important it is for, not just South-Central Los Angeles, but for the state of California to have organizations like this that are educating, mobilizing, organizing, but, most important, creating the change that our communities need so much.
“COCO was one of the first organizations that recognized the power of the Black community, organizing the tradition of power-building as a form of social change and that we needed to bring the Latinx community into fellowship with that and built this amazing organization.”
“As the father of Juneteenth here in California, the fact that not only do we have it as a recognized holiday—that we’re doing something,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer. “We’re going to define what Juneteenth ultimately will be and it looks like California again is the forefront.”
Jones-Sawyer continued, “The fact that it’s burgeoning into what it really should be, a statement of not only of freedom but, an opportunity for all of us to come together, heal and move forward.”
“I’m just incredibly proud of the Community Coalition for hosting this event and all those who have been a part of it,” said Assemblymember Isaac Bryan.
“We got to celebrate our wins, including our freedom but we got to remember there’s a lot more work to do, we got a lot more freeing to do.
“I’m so grateful the community has gathered to be a part of that.
“In Sacramento, that’s what we spend every day working on.”
COCO formed a strategic partnership with Southwest Mountain States Carpenters Union (SMSC) and South LA Local 323 Union to promote equal access and wealth building for Black communities, addressing obstacles in accessing trades, apprenticeships, and unions. SMSC representative, Kyle Patterson talked about celebrating the holiday with COCO and the importance of what he is doing in the community.
“Every movement had a struggle behind it and Juneteenth, the ancestors, folks who paid the price, blood was shed, to give us an opportunity to be where we are today to create other opportunities,” said Patterson. “I want to make sure I do my part so I can continue to make that progress and move the ball forward.”
Patterson continued, “It’s a good opportunity to be a part of something like this, pioneering it with the partnership with all these different coalitions and just being in a position with the Southwest Mountain States Carpenters as a representative and trustee to where we’re able to train folks here in South Los Angeles.
“To hear they’re able to go out and build with their hands, complete their apprentice ship program—it’s important to us.”
“It’s a bittersweet thing for me I think that the importance of acknowledging our history and the links to our history that are present in every moment of every day but it’s a wonderful opportunity to make the connections to the future and the present,” said Lee.
For more information on Community Coalition, please visit CoCoSouthLA.org and visit on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.