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How a backyard barbecue turned into one of Leimert Park's biggest Juneteenth celebration

How a Leimert Park family's annual backyard barbecue turned into a Juneteenth staple
How a Leimert Park family's annual backyard barbecue turned into a Juneteenth staple 03:49

It's a day of joy at Leimert Park — one where the community comes together to celebrate freedom.

"This is 75 years of our family celebrating Juneteenth at Leimert Park area," Ariyana Leonard said. 

Leonard's father, Jonathan, started the tradition in 1949. When the patriarch moved from Houston to Los Angeles, he noticed that no one knew what Juneteenth was, let alone celebrated it. So, that summer he decided to host a backyard barbecue.

"He made it his mission to inform the community about Juneteenth — share his traditions," Ariyana said. 

While Jonathan passed away in 2017, his legacy lives on year after year through the Juneteenth celebration named after him. It features classics like the family recipe barbecue, the watermelon, and the big red soda water.

Jonathan's mission continues through his family, with some, like Rocky Michelle, celebrating Juneteenth for the first time.

"The free food was an amazing surprise and it's really good," she said. "It's kind of taking us back to our roots because we never really celebrated it. We're more stuck on the Fourth of July ... We have to pay attention to this, too."

There are also dozens of food trucks and vendors like Bunaama Giagne, who's from West Africa.

"The whole purpose of my brand is to basically bridge the gap between Africa and America," he said. 

The Leonard family received a certificate of appreciation from the city of Los Angeles for the celebration. It hopes Jonathan Leonard's Juneteenth Celebration will live on for many generations.

"My father always said traditions are the foundations of great cultures and that's what we have here today in Leimert Park," Ariyana said. 

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