Fresno Beehive

Museum hosts jazz and blues exhibit as part of larger Juneteenth celebrations in Fresno

Music, food, art, and dance featured at Fresno Juneteenth Celebration

The 2017 Fresno Juneteenth Celebration attracted at least 2,000 people to Gaston Middle School in Fresno for spoken word, comedy, food, dance, and art.
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The 2017 Fresno Juneteenth Celebration attracted at least 2,000 people to Gaston Middle School in Fresno for spoken word, comedy, food, dance, and art.

Woody Miller was a trailblazer in the black community.

The so-called “godfather of soul,” Miller brought soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel music to the Valley airwaves for more than 40 years before his death in 2017.

Miller will be recognized for his contributions at the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum’s annual Jazz and Blues exhibit, which kicks off with a celebration party 6 p.m. Saturday.

Along with Miller, the event honors local jazz musician Bobby Brown, who has been performing in the area since his family moved to Madera in the 1950s. Brown is also responsible for the annual Summer Blues Fest at the Hinton Center in southwest Fresno.

The free event will feature food, music and dancing will be filmed and shown on ONME TV and CMAC at a later date.

The event is being held in honor of Jazz Month and Juneteenth and is part of other community celebrations happening on Saturday.

The Fresno Juneteenth Collaborative Committee is expecting several thousand of people for its annual event, which has been happening for 41 years.

The day-long celebration begins at 10 a.m. with a parade from the Food Maxx shopping center at Fresno and B streets to the Frank H. Ball park, where there will be art and music performances (headlined by Vel Omar’’s tribute to Sam Cooke), plus food (free hot dogs in the kids zone), games (a three-on-three basketball tourney), inspirational speakers and workshops.

“It’s about unity,” says organizer Janice Sumler.

The event has been held at different locations over the years, including Gaston Middle School and the Cecil C. Hinton Community Center. This year, organizer chose Frank H. Ball park, as a nod to its history in the community.

Those who grew up in the area, remember the park as a prime spot for weekend family gatherings, Sumler says. It was the place people went to play baseball or basketball or swim.

“If you wanted to see everybody, you went to Frank H. Ball,” Sumler says.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is celebrated or around June 19. That’s the date that union soldiers in 1865 brought news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas.

That was a full two years after the proclamation had been signed President Abraham Lincoln.

Juneteenth is celebrated in African-American communities across the county and has been an official state holiday in Texas since 1980.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, which preserves the historic town of Allensworth, in rural southern San Joaquin Valley, held its Juneteenth celebration last weekend.

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Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day” and read more of his work here.