Holiday revelers enjoy feeling of “togetherness” at Virginia Beach’s “Juneteenth At The Beach” festival

Hip hop artist Royal Shai jogged onto the 24th Street Stage around 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront wearing a red baseball cap and shades.

“This is Juneteenth! This is our holiday y’all!”

Applause erupted, enthusiastically — the noise level impressive for just a few hundred people.

“It’s good to be Black!!” Shai yelled. “If you think its good to be Black, say ‘Yeah.'”

With that, the small courtyard before the stage grew even louder still.


The atmosphere Monday at the Virginia Beach Juneteenth celebration, Juneteenth On The Beach, was one of recreation and joy. Underneath a bright blue sky and shining sun, the festival was a full day of family-friendly speakers and performances.

Event organizer David Leader, of Love All My Brothers and Sisters Foundation, described the festival as “all about unity in the community.”
“The atmosphere here is positive, inspirational,” he said. “The feeling is one of togetherness.”

And the feeling of community unity was the perfect fit for the three-day festival that started over the weekend and celebrated the final emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Despite the Emancipation Proclamation becoming effective in 1863, not all African Americans instantaneously gained freedom that year. For some people in the southernmost portions of the U.S. the moment of liberation didn’t come until Union troops marched into Galveston Bay, Texas and enforced the freedom of all people living in the state on June 19, 1865.

The celebration of the historic date on Monday in Virginia Beach featured pop-ups stands and tents promoting Black-owned businesses and organizations in front of the performance stage.

Black arts and artisans who set up shop nearby on the boardwalk experienced a 100% increase in their profit averages over the weekend, Leader said.

Local painter Devyn Casey said she had sold dozens of prints of her work that feature portraits of Black men and women and had a buyer for an original painting too since the start of the Virginia Beach festival.

“Juneteenth is really big for African Americans,” Casey said. “I like to come out with my Black art and show people we have something to say.”

Kids played with a beach ball in the grass in front of the 24th Street stage. Around the time Shai finished his set, the ball took an unexpected bounce toward the tent for the Virginia Beach chapter of the NAACP and its local president Eric Majette.

“The atmosphere has been absolutely awesome and amazing,” Majette said.

“You see all the different platforms that are out here, all the different people celebrating culture, celebrating entertainment, celebrating food, celebrating just the day of being free.”

Colin Warren-Hicks, 919-818-8139,