JUNETEENTH BEACH BASH: In the spirit of Miami’s only “colored” beach, the event will turn back the clock with a vintage concession stand selling $10cent soda pop and 75-cents for a hotdog and hamburger. PHOTO COURTESY OF JUNETEENTH BEACH BASH

Miami – For the first time since Juneteenth became a legal federal holiday in 2021, the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust is throwing a Juneteenth Beach Bash at Miami’s formerly “colored only” beach.

The event, scheduled for Saturday, June 22 from noon to 4 p.m., at historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., is expected to draw thousands of participants to commemorate the end of slavery on June 19, 1865.

The celebration recognizes the beach’s special status during segregation, and as the site for the cultural, environmental and Black museum slated to be built in the next five to ten years.

In the spirit of Miami’s only “colored” beach, the Juneteenth Beach Bash will turn back the clock with a vintage concession stand selling $10cent soda pop and 75-cents for a hotdog and hamburger.

“We are selling them at prices like the heyday of Virginia Key Beach,” said Kechi Okpala, marketing coordinator for Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. “At those prices, who doesn’t want to come to the beach with the heat, to cool off for that day?” Okpala said activities will include horseback riding, a petting zoo, education sessions, raffles, bounce houses, face painting and live music.

She said the event will also educate people about the end slavery of and the events in its wake.

Okpala said emancipation happened in Florida on May 20, 1865 and the transition to celebrating it as a federal holiday is a reflection of resiliency for Black history not only for people of color but all people.

Early celebrations date to 1866 in Texas when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger ordered the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in the state at the end of the American Civil War.

Participants in the Great Migration brought celebrations to the rest of the country. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the celebrations were eclipsed by the nonviolent determination to achieve civil rights. They grew in popularity again in the 1970s with a focus on African – American freedom and African-American arts.

Beginning with Texas by proclamation in 1938, and by legislation in 1979, every U.S. state and the District of Columbia has formally recognized the holiday in some way.

Historic Virginia Key Beach was part of the Civil Rights Movement, including when Black community leaders fought for Miami’s only “colored” beach during segregation, and today is undergoing an overhaul to restore the outdoor facility after the City of Miami closed it in the 1980s due to financial issues.

Despite its status, Okpala said historic Virginia Key Beach was named among the top 10 beaches by New Times and is open for educational and environmental tours and efforts to fight the threat of sea level rise.

Athalie Edwards, executive director and CEO of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, said the Juneteenth celebration ties in with the group’s vision in redeveloping the beach park and promoting public access to passive open green space.

“As the first Black female to oversee the trust, it’s very special to me because it’s aligned with our mission and history, not only for Black families but other minorities,” she said. “The diversity shows a sacred space and how important it is to the beach and for the City of Miami.”

The event is expected to include questions about the completion of the long-awaited cultural, environmental and Black museum.

Edwards said the proposed facility is in the final stage of business planning and the trust has scheduled a virtual workshop on Saturday, July 27 with a time to be announced, She said the trust will distribute information regarding proposed business plan, designs and operation for the facility.

“We are still in the planning process for the designs and once they are ready will be put for development,” she said.

For more information on the Juneteenth Beach Bash or the museum virtual workshop, call 305-960-4600 or email the trust at VKBPT@miamigov.com.


WHAT: Juneteenth Beach Bash WHEN: June 22, noon to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami

COST: Free, $10 vehicle entry (cash only), concessions

CONTACT: 305-960-4600, info@virginiakeybeachpark.net