Richmond council approves Juneteenth underpass mural project

Mural planned for Richmond underpass to honor Juneteenth
Image of the mural design courtesy of city documents.

Richmond City Council on Tuesday approved renaming the South 37th Street Underpass as the “Juneteenth Freedom Underpass,” as well as the creation of a mural honoring the federal holiday on the southside of the underpass.

The annual Richmond Juneteenth parade passes through the underpass located between Chanslor and Ohio avenues as part of the route to the festival in Nicholl Park each June.

The underpass mural and renaming project was requested by the Pullman Neighborhood Council and recommended for approval by the Recreation and Parks Commission last fall. 

Slated to be completed ahead of the next Juneteenth parade and celebration, the mural will include a section honoring Jerrold Hatchett, a longtime community advocate, organizer and retired Sims Metal manager who is credited with making the annual event possible long before Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year.

Joey Schlemmer, a Richmond resident, retired Richmond Police Department captain and board member for the Neighborhood Block Association (NBA), which organizes the Juneteenth Family Day Parade and Festival, said Hatchett often took on a lot of the work to hold the festival himself and a lot of the financing when funds were short.

Councilmember Nat Bates called Hatchett a “pilar” in the community and commended Sims Metal for its financial support of the celebration and other city initiatives, including supporting the city in cleanup and beautification efforts.

The undeprass mural project received a Love Your Block Mini-Grant in the amount of $9,775. The Pullman Neighborhood Council worked with Bay Area muralist Desi Mundo of the Community Rejuvenation Project to aid residents in the design and painting of the mural. The mural concept design was approved by the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission in September.

“This upcoming Juneteeenth, it’s going to be amazing,” Richmond Councilmember Demnlus Johnson III said.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX and announced the Civil War had ended and that slaves were free. The historic Texas event occurred more than two years following the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863).

While the Juneteenth celebration was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, Richmond has been holding its annual Juneteenth Family Day Parade and Festival for more than two decades. The event “showcases community, music, art and culture by descendents of the Great Black migration from the rural south that happened in the 20th century,” community members say.

“The parade honors the historic achievements of its ancestors and descendants by passing through the southside neighborhood, an area that was largely settled by Black Americans from the south coming to work during World War II,” supporters state in city documents. “While many states have actively recognized Juneteenth as a major holiday, its presence in California went largely unnoticed. Jerrold helped keep the flame alive, and it is evident now what an important holiday it has become as it is now a federal holiday.”