Tucson, AZ: 53rd Annual Tucson Juneteenth Festival- Not a Moment- A Movement

By DL White

The Tucson Juneteenth Celebration and Festival for 2023, will take place on Saturday, June 17, 1pm – 9pm, at the Kino Sport Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson. However, before that highly anticipated day, several “moments” will add to the allure and excitement.

Tucson Committee Chair Larry Starks and the Festival committee often refer to the celebration as not just a “moment” but rather as a “movement” to educate, inform, galvanize and transform individuals thinking about the Freedom celebration.

Starks took on the challenge of chairing the committee a few years back, following in the footsteps of his older brother Major Burney Starks (ret US Army), Dr. Johnny Bowens, and the Covington’s to list a few of the former chairs over the years.

While there are many moments in store for the curious and well informed, each of those planned (moments) will surely serve to transform the strictest of critics into a firm supporter when the final tally is taken.

In its 53rd year, the Tucson Juneteenth Festival has grown from the time in the late 60s when Babe Foley, yelled out of the back porch to a neighbor preparing for the 4th of July Celebration by asking, “What are you doing, Juneteenth is your celebration.”

Soon thereafter the Tucson Juneteenth Festival was born and held annually on A-Mountain in Tucson, before outgrowing the space. Over the years the event was held at Kennedy and Reid Park before transitioning to the spacious and accomodable Kino Sports Complex, that provides ample parking and space for vendors.

“We are excited to return to the Kino Sports Complex,” shared Starks, adding, “It’s a central location that is easily accessible, parking is in the immediate area – so you don’t have to hike in. We (Tucson Juneteenth Committee) appreciate the partnership with Kino and the City.”

The many moments that will enhance the movement in celebration of Freedom that begins on June 10th, with a kickoff concert, welcoming R & B legend, the incomparable Evelyn Champagne King, to Tucson for a one night concert at the Dunbar Auditorium in the Dunbar Pavilion, 325 W. 2nd Street, Tucson, 8pm.

The excitement continues on June 11, Gospel Jubilee Concert featuring the Tucson Juneteenth Mass Choir. It’s going down at the Pima Community College West Proscenium Theatre. The state of the art facility seats 425 comfortably. There is a 43’ wide and 38’ high stage with a 2700 square foot stage floor.

On June 15, a History of Black Tucson and Juneteenth in Southern AZ discussion and presentation will take place at the Loft Theatre in downtown Tucson. 

On June 16, an “A Mountain Block Party will raise the roof (or reach the sky), as the Celebration Committee remember their roots and pay homage at the Vista Del Pueblo Park. Where it all began.

June 17, the day has finally arrived and not too soon. The 53rd Annual Juneteenth Festival in all its many splendors will take place at the Kino Sports Complex, 1pm – 9pm. A great time is planned…..be there or miss out. 

The series of “moments” that will cultivate into the ongoing “movement” will conclude where knowledge and higher learning takes place. On the 19th of Juneteenth School (learning will be in session) as well as a major Celebration, acknowledging Freedom and those that endured many hardships to make it happen. 

June 19th, Happy Freedom Day Celebration will be held on the University of Arizona campus. 

“While this celebration (Juneteenth) is very much about our (African Americans) freedom from slavery and the bondage, the celebration is open to all “right and forward” thinking invidividuals,” shared Starks, quickly adding, “Actually those with closes minds are more than welcome.

“They too need to learn and evolve. Through their experiences of moments – they too just might join the movement,” Starks said. No doubt, no doubt at all. 

Notable: After taking office in 2020, President Joe Biden later signed National Juneteenth and Freedom Executive Order.

Danny L. White currently lives in Phoenix, AZ. He is the author and creative lead for the Sensational letter “S”, a children’s book focused on early reading comprehension and word development. He is also a Adjunct faculty member at Maricopa College, and staff reporter for the Arizona Informant. He is an active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc, in Phoenix. 

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