Home Brentwood Juneteenth Celebration Set for Downtown Brentwood

Juneteenth Celebration Set for Downtown Brentwood

by ECT

This Sunday, the “Let Freedom Ring: A Salute to Black Fathers” will be held in downtown Brentwood as Antioch youth Claryssa Wilson will host her 3rd Annual Let Freedom Ring Juneteenth Celebration. The event will also celebrate fathers on Fathers Day during the 5-hour live event.

The event has been rebranded from an “Antioch event” to a celebration for all of Contra Costa County.

Event Details:

  • June 19, 2022
  • Brentwood City Park
  • 12:00 pm to 5:00 PM

“Juneteenth is a celebration of Freedom and community. As a youth that has grown up in this community, I am very committed to celebrating the diversity within our community and bringing awareness to the culturally rich history of East Contra Costa County.” Claryssa Wilson, Organizer

The event, which has been held in the City of Antioch the past few years both at the Thomas Gaines Property on 2nd Street and at Waldie Plaza,, has come under controversy after Antioch City Hall had hijacked the event.

Earlier this spring, Mayor Lamar Thorpe, Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, and Interim City Manager Con Johnson gave a directive to the Parks and Recreation Director to pull the permits and took the organizing away from Claryssa claiming they wanted “bigger and better and wanted the black community to organize this event” without contacting Claryssa who is an African American young woman.

“From my understanding, it was Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker who expressed they wanted the city to have more of an input into the event without having to collaborate with the people already planning the event,” explained Wilson. “There is some feelings towards my family and Thorpe which has got in the way of a community event. I’ve asked in previous years to collaborate with the city and it was never given proper collaboration or contact in regards to the event. This year when I asked the city, Director Helfenberger said no at the direction of the interim city manager Con Johnson saying the city wanted to expand the event by making it bigger and better with no regard for what had already been planned.”

Wilson, who had been planning the event for nearly a year, also said that Helfenberger told her one of the reasons for pulling the permit was for more community input.

“Director Helfenberger told me in the nicest way possible that the city wanted more input from the black community on this event,” said Wilson.

Wilson did say that the Celebrate Antioch Foundation was left in the dark regarding this decision by the city but have not been forthcoming with the conversation between the city and the non-profit.

In fact, this publication had put in a public records request on May 5 for the emails between the city manager, parks and recreation, the mayor and council along with Celebrate Antioch and so far the city of Antioch have all been unresponsive in the request. A second request on June 10 has also gone ignored. Joy Motts, Celebrate Antioch Foundation president, was asked if she would turn over emails between her and the city, she declined.

With the city of Antioch taking control of the event planning, Wilson opted to find another location and determined Juneteenth should be celebrated by all of Contra Costa County and rebranded as such. She ultimately asked the City of Brentwood who fully came on board.

“Brentwood was very inviting, they were easy to work with and its been a smooth process because they are much more organized,” explained Wilson. “I am excited to be in downtown Brentwood and work with the downtown businesses with the hopes of not only celebrating Juneteenth but also fathers day and helping bring people downtown to support local commerce.”

While the event will have a different feel, Wilson says this years event will be bigger and better because more people are buying into it and its more inclusive in the long run to all cities in Contra Costa County.

“At first, I was embarrassed at the petty behavior by Antioch City Hall who claims they want youth involved but their actions say otherwise, however, working with Brentwood and other communities this actually turned into a blessing in disguise because people truly want to get educated on Juneteenth and celebrate it. So I am really excited to show all of Contra Costa County the importance of this celebration and being more inclusive to all.”

Antioch City Councilmember Lori Ogorchock said she was disappointed the event had to move to another city.

“I am disappointed that city staff decided to not engage with Claryssa Wilson who began this event in our city as a youth.  This was her brainchild to educate our community on the meaning of Juneteenth and now she is having to take it to another city, in this case Brentwood, who have opened their arms up to her. So now this event is even bigger and better as its embracing all of Contra Costa County and its at a loss to the citizens of Antioch,” said Councilmemeber Ogorchock.

Velma Wilson, who is the mother of Claryssa, explained moving the event to Brentwood had its stressors but its worked out for the best in making new connections with the Downtown Brentwood Coalition and members of the Brentwood City Council.

“From day one, everyone reached out with no agenda and wanted to help make this both a successful event and welcoming to everyone,” said Wilson.  “Working with the city of Brentwood has been very open and transparent. People respond in a timely manner and generally making sure whatever they can do to help while being very accommodating. It’s been amazing. I can’t express how the process has been easy but requires accountability by everyone.”

Wilson admits there was a learning curve, but its been a great experience.

“I had fears of moving the event after doing it in Antioch for several years, but Brentwood has embraced us and we are now slatted to do a bigger and better celebration and show,” said Wilson.

Amy Tilley, executive director of the Downtown Brentwood Coalition, is excited to see the event come to downtown Brentwood and encourages the community to support the event.

“For the first time here in Brentwood there is a Juneteenth celebration and we are excited to see this type of event bring people together. Its important we bring awareness to this important historic day that we should all celebrate,” said Tilley. “After attending the event, we hope patrons will explore our downtown and enjoy a nice Sunday in Brentwood.”

This year’s event will include Guest Host Steven Parker of the “Steven Parker Show”, several tribute and local artists, West African and Caribbean dance company and so much more. Wilson, with the support of sponsors and fiscal agent Celebrate Antioch, has a celebration planned under its new platform of East County Juneteenth that seeks to cover a larger demographic area.

In addition to the LIVE entertainment and speakers, the event will have several food and craft vendors in addition to other Health resources for the community.

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1 comment

Harv Jun 17, 2022 - 5:41 pm

Once again the powers that be in Antioch have dropped the ball! While I was not in support of a Recall, I would have to as the Mayor Bruh, what are you doing?!

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