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Juneteenth 2023 Legacy and Festival Highlights

submitted by Valarie Scruggs

Juneteenth 2023 Legacy and Festival Highlights

On a warm summer evening, the California State Library honored Juneteenth in Sacramento with a kick-off celebration. Saving Our Legacy African Americans for Smoke-Free Safe Places (SOL Project) staff attended. It was the evening of June 14th, 2023, and the atmosphere buzzed with excitement as community members were recognized for their tireless efforts to build community. The Juneteenth Community Soldiers Award was given to Sandy Holman, Founder of of The Culture C.O.-O.P., and Betty Davis, Owner of the Culture Collection. The Sacramento Mayor, Darryl Steinberg and City Council members, including Councilmember Jennings, were present to give a special resolution in honor of the occasion. 

The following Saturday, Saving Our Legacy African Americans for Smoke-Free Safe Places (SOL Project) staff and volunteers came together to celebrate Juneteenth and the freedom slaves rejoiced in on this day in 1865. A celebration was held at Williams Land Park, where they aimed to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and promote a smoke-free environment. The theme of the event was "Juneteenth Continuing the Push for Social Justice," a reminder that the fight for equality and freedom is an ongoing struggle. 

As part of the celebration, Valley High School Health Tech Academy students, who had been working closely with the SOL Project over the past year, took the opportunity to educate the community about the dangers of tobacco smoking and vaping. Equipped with their knowledge, they conducted blood pressure screenings and engaged attendees in discussions about the correlation between tobacco and health. 

Despite it being summer vacation, 8 dedicated students from Valley High School joined the event. They were committed to making a difference in their community and helping their peers and families understand the risks associated with smoking and vaping. These passionate young advocates along with SOL staff provided Kick It CA cessation education and distributed quit kits, empowering individuals with the resources and support needed to quit smoking. 

Additionally, The SOL Project took the opportunity to collect valuable community opinions on ending the sale of tobacco products. They believe that understanding the perspectives of the people directly affected by these issues is crucial in implementing effective change. They also gathered opinions on the prevalence of second and third-hand smoke in multi-unit housing and outdoor living areas, shedding light on the potential health hazards faced by the community. 

Furthermore, SOL staff also participated in Stockton's Juneteenth festival on June 17th at Weber's Point. They set up an information booth and engaged festival-goers in conversations about requiring retailers to be licenses in the city, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products and the health risks associated with smoking and vaping. The SOL Project team distributed quit smoking kits to those wanting to quit and for those who want to help their family and friends. 

The Juneteenth celebrations drew diverse crowds, and the atmosphere was filled with warmth and curiosity. People were eager to learn and engage in discussions about tobacco control and the significance of a smoke-free environment. The SOL Project team, along with the Valley High School students, made valuable contributions to the event, educating the community, and promoting healthier lifestyles for all. 

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