Reading the theme at Vallejo Juneteenth Celebration at City Park

Children 8 and under will be given a free book. Two Kindle readers will be won in a drawing during the book fair, with a mural painted at the park helping children focus on literacy, literature and the arts.

“The connection to Juneteenth is basically that slaves weren’t allowed to learn to read,” said Angela Jones, Juneteenth Central Committee president. 

It’s reading, added Jones, “that is the foundation of empowerment and success, and that ties into the small business entrepreneurs who promote their businesses at the event.”

Hazel Wilson, the education chairperson of Vallejo Juneteenth, said local schools play an important role in the local celebration, with the Vallejo City Unified School District, Solano Community College, and Touro University participating in the 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. event.

“Read, read, read. We can’t emphasize reading enough,” Wilson said. “We want to introduce books as early as possible to all age groups. You want to put books in kids’ hands and hope they will continue to read and focus on their education.” 

It’s important, added Wilson, a former school trustee, that young people find a subject they enjoy to read about.

“I think that’s very important,” she said. “Then they’ll want to read more.”

When age-appropriate, Wilson said African-American children should understand Juneteenth and “the sacrifices made to ensure they have an education, are able to go to school and are able to read and know their rights. That’s what Juneteenth is all about. You want them to know their history, their culture and not take anything for granted. They stand on the shoulders of many who have gone before them who have sacrificed and died.” 

Reading while young “will set their path for their future,” Wilson continued. “For jobs, for education, for higher education. And it all begins here.”

This is the second year at City Park at Sacramento and Alabama streets after 25 years before City Park. Jones estimated 2,000 visitors came out last year.

“It’s an excellent location,” Wilson said. “Some were skeptical, but that always happens for the first time of anything. But we love the location.”

“Things are coming together nicely,” Jones said.

There are more than 50 vendors and about 25 “community partners” participating Saturday at the free event.

Entertainment includes the Kenya B Trio and Osunfemi Wanbi Njeri, a neo-soul singer from Oakland. Also, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Praise Dancers, Guardian Nights Drum Corps, Amos Carter, Tyler Dudley, Alex Harris, and Erika Blue of Ozcat Radio 89.5 FM.

The 27th Annual Vallejo Juneteenth Celebration is Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., City Park, Vallejo. For information, visit vallejojuneteenth.com or call (707) 322-5748.