Juneteenth on the Waterfront celebrates Black-owned businesses in San Francisco

In honor of Juneteenth, several local black-owned businesses came together at the Ferry Terminal Plaza on the Embarcadero Saturday. The 4th annual Juneteenth on the Waterfront, part of a series called Pop-ups on the Plaza, gave entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their brands and products in honor of the holiday. 

Juneteenth is a federal holiday on June 19th that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Smoke Soul Kitchen, which is located in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood, sold its most popular dishes, including chicken-stuffed waffles and banana pudding.

"It means the world to me to participate in this event. It opens up my business to people who would normally not be able to find me, so it's a great opportunity for small local black-owned businesses," said owner Vanessa Lee. 

Lee said last year's participation led to more catering gigs.

"It brings me so much joy and Juneteenth is a real celebration," she added. "It gives me a really warm, fuzzy feeling and I'm just excited and happy to be here."

San Francisco resident Christopher Wiseman returned to the 4th annual event for gumbo from Gumbo Social.

"I think it's wonderful. Any community event's great and it's bringing more people to Downtown San Francisco. Also, it just reminds us, why are we here. Juneteenth is a community event to bring us together and celebrate," Wiseman said. 

Mayor London Breed said some small businesses have gone on to open their own brick-and-mortar locations, including some in the Ferry Building. She applauded the event for highlighting the city's diversity. 

Breed, who grew up in San Francsico, said Juneteeth represents joy, freedom, and community. She recalls celebrating Juneteenth, before it was a federally recognized holiday.

"It's when everyone showed off their best food, their best dishes, we had a lot popcorn balls, and icees, and barbecue and fried chicken, but also we came together in community to highlight our talents," she said. "We talked about the history of Juneteenth. We couldn't google it, we had to go to the library, and get those books."

The free event was put on by the nonprofit Foodwise and MegaBlack SF, and sponsored by the Port of San Francisco. 

Foodwise operations coordinator Deven Okry said her favorite part about the event is seeing new connections made among visitors and vendors.  

"Earlier I heard vendors when they were setting up, how they want to collab together and they're exchanging phone numbers. So just to be able to be that connecting point for them and just to be able to come down here and celebrate something that is very special to the black community," said Okry.

A portion of the proceeds from participating vendors will go to the Megablack SF Black Wellness Fund.