Pictured: Jessica Kimble, aka J. Lynn. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
Juneteenth is officially June 19 and commemorates the date in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed, more than two years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The Committee Oxnard-based Juneteenth has been hosting a vibrant celebration for 30 years. Last year, due to the pandemic, the traditional event held at Plaza Park was canceled. But one aspect, the Harmony Art Walk, has been adapted to make it relevant for the present moment.
“I organized a celebration of New Gen Juneteenth in the form of an event,” said Jessica Kimble, Oxnard resident and local artist and musician. “Due to the social climate last year following the death of George Floyd, although permits were restricted, I thought it was fair to have Juneteenth.”
So, without a license, Kimble hosted an in-person celebration at Lions Park in Oxnard. “Masks and social distancing were mandatory. We had sanitation stations and distributed free okra and Filipino spaghetti, as well as raffle prizes to the community.
She said the Juneteenth committee chose to make this year’s 30th anniversary event virtual and invited her to organize an art walk. “I thought it would be cool to have artists showcasing their art in different companies. Since businesses struggled last year during COVID, we could try to help drive traffic to their business. ”
It has become a city-wide arts event at local galleries and restaurants, which runs until June 30. It offers art exhibitions, meet the artists which include a meal and a celebration of black-owned businesses.
“The New Gen Juneteenth City Wide Art Event wouldn’t be what it is now without Juneteenth Oxnard,” Kimble said. “Juneteenth Oxnard gave me a platform to grow. She sees the art event as a result of the original Juneteenth Harmony Art Walk she hosted several years ago, and believes it will always be part of a historic Juneteenth Oxnard event.
“It’s just that times are changing and an expansion is happening. In order to make Juneteenth known, we have to grow and that’s what New Gen Juneteenth is doing.
Kimble was born in Alamogordo, New Mexico and spent her youth traveling the world with her father in the US Air Force.
“Traveling has had a major impact on my life because I learned about the different values and customs of cultures. She said sometimes it was difficult, “but what kept me optimistic was the artistic and musical culture of every place I visited.”
While living in the Azores, Portugal, she had the opportunity to travel to Oberwesel, Germany to study with Kurt Wenner, the world famous 3D artist who rose to prominence for his sidewalk paintings more larger than life that seem to open the way. you step on it. While in Germany she met “other artists, dancers and poets. I will never forget the moving and artistic atmosphere of this memory. I feel that same feeling is what I carry with me everywhere I go.
Later, she was a student at Oxnard College, where she organized a multicultural day and artistic walks on campus. Eventually, she was linked to STAC (Save the Art Culture) and the Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC) and more recently to the Juneteenth Committee of Oxnard.
Kimble, also a hip-hop artist performing and recording under the name J. Lynn, was invited by BAPAC in 2013 to perform at the local event Juneteenth. She had learned to play the guitar herself in 2007 and would write her own songs, many of which were from poems she had written. “I never thought I would perform them until I moved to Ventura County.” Today, she said her music “was changing from being involved so deeply in the hip-hop community to my acoustic music, as my state of mind turned to healing.”
After performing at the Juneteenth 2013 event, she was painting in the park for an assignment, with the event taking place around her. Others began to paint with it. People took notice.
“Passers-by were intrigued, it drew a lot of attention. From there, the Harmony Art Walk was born during the events of Juneteenth, ”she explained.
“Art is such an important tool of expression,” Kimble said. “Art in the community is a great way to bring value to the community, whatever the expression. Art can be used to add value to a business by making it look great. Art could also add value to the community depending on the social climate, it could tell a story of hardships and struggles that some people might not understand because they have never seen or had to struggle and it can create new perspectives and understanding. “
Art, in all its forms, is a common thread within a community and Kimble’s work links these pieces together around the Juneteenth theme. Things look a little different from before, but as she points out, it’s a natural progression.
“Our community is constantly evolving and we need to be flexible and willing to allow change,” said Kimble, who hopes the connections she has made with organizations like Open Door Studios, Femdustry and others, “can make an impact in the community. I’m hopeful because we’re getting such a good response at the City Wide Art Event as well as other events like Pride. “
She said that increasing community engagement “makes me happy. I think what is needed since last year is a chance to put the baton in the hands of the new generation and allow them to be themselves in their own expression.
Juneteenth Oxnard: www.juneteenthoxnard.org
New generation Juneteenth: www.instagram.com/newgenjuneteenth/
- J. Lynn (aka Jessica Kimble): www.instagram.com/805jlynn/