Last year, President Biden signed the National Independence Day Act, officially making Juneteenth a national holiday that commemorates African-Americans' liberation from slavery on June 19, 1865.
This year, Starex Smith, the Miami-based writer behind the Hungry Black Man and co-owner of Smith & Webster restaurant, hopes people will mark the occasion with food.
"For starters, Juneteenth marks the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to ensure all slaves were freed. They celebrated with food, dance, and music. So, it became America's spiritual Fourth of July. I think the entire nation needs to get around the table and celebrate that," Smith tells New Times.
To celebrate the occasion, on Saturday, June 18, Smith presents the Juneteenth Food & Wine Festival in Miami Beach's Lummus Park. From 4 to 11 p.m., the festival will offer items from the Black chefs from around the nation, cooking Creole, Cajun, barbecue, soul food, Caribbean, African, and vegan dishes. "It will be everything from the Black diaspora, says Smith, adding that Black cultures have contributed far more than Southern food. "Cornbread came from Black Seminoles. Rice was brought here from Africans. This is a celebration of all Black cuisine," he says.
The festival will also host a friendly competition between chefs visiting from Detroit and New Orleans to determine which city has the best culinary treasures. Chefs making the trip include Charles “Pee Wee” Armstrong of PeeWee's Crabcakes, representing New Orleans, and Detroit-based chef Max Hardy. "Chef Hardy has roots in Miami, but he's a Detroit chef with four different restaurants doing Detroit classic soul food," Smith notes.
Celebrity chef and Top Chef alum Carla Hall will serve as cohost, along with chef Cecil G, who won the 2018 Miami Gardens Food and Wine Festival battle.
Smith says he's excited to bring the festival to Lummus Park, adding that Miami Beach officials have been very supportive. "Miami Beach has been such a great partner, especially the Parks and Recreation manager [John Rebar] and the city manager [Alina Hudak]."
There's no place he'd rather have the festival than on the sands of South Beach, he adds, noting, "The beach belongs to everybody."
Juneteenth Food & Wine Festival. 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at Lummus Park: 1130 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. Admission is free. RSVP at eventbrite.com.