A Juneteenth celebration was held at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento on Friday, the same site of what was just weeks ago the gathering place for many marches and demonstrations in solidarity with nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“On this here Juneteenth, 155 years after we were free from slavery we still fight, we honor and celebrate this day by asserting our humanity, our personhood and the Black justice that is owed to us,” Kula Koenig of Black Justice Sacramento said.
Tina Wilcox was out enjoying the festivities at Cesar Chavez with her partner.
“I came out here to celebrate my Black heritage, I think it’s important to come out to acknowledge that our freedom was actually on this day and not on the Fourth of July,” Wilcox said. “This is a positive day for us.”
Organizers from Black Justice Sacramento, the Anti Police-Terror Project, the Poor People’s Campaign and the Sacramento Area Black Caucus also called for greater action from Sacramento City Council at Friday’s event.
Among specific action items, Councilmember-elect Katie Valenzuela announced the creation of a People’s Budget for Sacramento, similar to what activist groups are planning in cities around the country. Her plan is to begin organizing community members around what changes they’d like to see reflected in the city budget in the coming weeks.
“The City Council still after weeks of social unrest has taken no action, there has been no upgrading of use of force standards. It’s moving in the right direction but it’s by far absolutely not enough,” Valenzuela said, referencing the two proposals Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced earlier this week around police reform.
“It is time for us to stop waiting on the city to make a budget that meets our needs," she said. "We are the taxpayers, we are the people who need that budget to support our communities.”
Organizers called for a reallocation for Measure U funding from the police budget to community and youth services, and for a renegotiation of the police union contract. Koenig also announced Black Justice Sacramento would be circulating surveys regarding a recall effort for the mayor.
“We do not trust Mayor Steinberg and his plan for racial justice, it is lip service rather than actual justice for the Black community,” Koenig said.
The organizations are just beginning to plan what they say will be a six-month long overhaul of the city’s budget, which they plan to present to the council in December. Valenzuela said that she and Black Justice Sacramento will be working to organize virtual community meetings to first educate others on the current budget and work that’s been done in the past around creating a People’s Budget.
In particular, they will be looking at efforts in Los Angeles around a People’s Budget. They will then determine what needs they feel aren’t being met by the current budget, and then look at the numbers and how money can be reallocated.
“We want this to be an open process to create dialogue between communities and that reflects the needs and wants of our city,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela said she hoped to be able to announce more details in the next few weeks.
Juneteenth celebrations will be held throughout the weekend in and around Sacramento.
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