Credit: Courtesy

A piece from the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat is part of a lively live auction to be held at the Juneteenth celebration in Solvang, but it’s just one aspect of a Roaring Twenties take on Black culture that includes music, dancing, specialty cocktails, a mouth-watering menu, and a whole lotta fun — or as organizer Vashti Wilson tagged it: “A little party neva’ hurt nobody.”

Juneteenth marks a celebration of freedom for the last African Americans held in bondage in the United States, and this will be the fourth event that Wilson has organized for the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s still sponsored by Madi’s Treasure Box, a “world-changer” project by her young daughter, Madi Wilson, to disperse crayons of all skin tones, but the festivities moved indoors this year from its child-friendly venue outdoors in previous years, is geared toward adults, and will cost $75-$135 to attend.

The change was prompted by the cultural biases some in the valley hold. Even when Juneteenth was a family event, Wilson said she’d been personally targeted by “comments from certain people” — she preferred not to go into detail — that ranged from rude to threatening. LGBTQ-unfriendly political decisions and violence toward a student of color were just the tip of a noisome iceberg for Wilson. “The event has been carefully curated to offer a reprieve from the noise,” she said, “the ugly noise generated by a small sect in the community who unfortunately wield great influence.”

Last year’s event at Solvang park had been largely funded out-of-pocket by Wilson, and she hopes to at least break even this year. As for the theme, “The Roaring Twenties was a time of great progress for the Black community as they all came together. This year, I felt that adults needed a space where they could take a breath. I wanted it to be a place where they could step back to a time when camaraderie, respect, and glamor was huge.”

Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted President Obama’s official portrait, has a piece in the live auction, as does Faith Ringgold, born in 1930 in Harlem and a professor emeritus of art at UC San Diego. “We are absolutely floored by what was donated for this auction,” Wilson said, going on to list a wine tour, a chef’s dinner, and a 10-person charcuterie picnic.

Fearing the price might be steep for some couples, Wilson crunched the numbers one more time recently. “I don’t want price to be a barrier for anyone. I want people to come for a night of dancing, laughing, fun, and good food.” A statistics and marketing analyst by trade, Wilson worked out the break-even point and decided to lower the early bird ticket price to $75, which includes the dinner and entertainment. “If you buy a pass in advance for two signature drinks for $20, that comes to just under $100,” she said.

That gets you emcee and comedian Chris Williams, spoken-word artists Tayllor Johnson and Kalyan Balaven, singer/songwriter Talitha Gabrielle, and Sade Champagne on the auction gavel. The dance music spun by Les the DJ will include “fun songs from that time,” Wilson promised. The menu is the topper, which she taste-tested with several friends and organized to represent five areas many Black Americans dispersed to after Juneteenth: New Orleans, France, Chicago, California, and the Mississippi Delta. The spread starts with fried green tomatoes, cruises through crab cakes and fondue, serves up a tomato salad, then shrimp and grits and more, before bringing it home with beignets and coffee.

“Harlem Nights Renaissance ” takes place Friday, June 16, 7-10 p.m., in the ballroom of Craft House at Corque in Solvang. Tickets and information can be found at; prices go up after June 8, and ticket sales end June 14. Costumes from the 1920s are encouraged, and a classic Talbot automobile will be on hand for period photographs.

Juneteenth events take place across Santa Barbara County, starting with Harlem Nights Renaissance on Friday, June 16; then a Lompoc celebration on Saturday, June 17; a “Nourishing the People” block party in Santa Barbara on Sunday, June 18; and a number of events at Pacifica Graduate Institute June 20-23. Look for the complete listings in the Santa Barbara Independent on June 15.

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