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Milpitas community members will host first Juneteenth celebration

On June 17, a Juneteenth celebration will be happening in the Sunnyhills neighborhood. 

Although the City has hosted Juneteenth events in the past, this is the first time that members from the community are coming together to organize one. 

The Beat interviewed Donnie Eiland, producer of the documentary ‘54, which delves into the history of Milpitas’ Sunnyhills neighborhood as the first planned racially-integrated community in the country. 

Eiland recalled how, a couple of years ago, Chris Norwood stopped by his home and brought up the fact that the community has never thrown a Juneteenth event. 

“So I told him, let’s do it,” said Eiland. 

They joined forces with the Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association and got a committee together to start planning. 

Juneteenth is an annual celebration that commemorates the freedom of enslaved African Americans after The Civil War. It was June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received word that they were free. In 2021, President Joseph Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Act, ensuring that Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday.       

Chuck Gary, who was principal at Milpitas High School for two decades and recently served as Interim Principal for the past year, will be the keynote speaker at the event. 

“He grew up in Sunnyhills and has a very strong connection to Milpitas,” said Eiland.  

There will be other guest speakers, along with a food vendor and live music. 



“An event like this is important because I think that over time, Milpitas has lost its core values,” said Sanae Alexander, a longtime Milpitas resident who is helping with the planning process.

“Juneteenth celebrates the abolishment of slavery. For me, it’s personal because of the history we have here in Sunnyhills and with so many strong African American leaders here.”

On his Facebook page, Norwood, who is currently serving as President of Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD) Board of Education, wrote: “This will be a historic family moment and event for the Milpitas Community and Sunnyhills legacy.”

Eiland feels that it will allow everyone to come together to recognize the efforts of the African American leaders in the community…

“I want to encourage everybody to come out,” said Eiland. “We want to host community events where we can get out and make new connections. Building relationships has been key in this city. There are lots of new people who have moved here who don’t know the history of Sunnyhills and Milpitas.”  

Sponsors of the event include The Milpitas Beat, Milpitas Historical Society, the City of Milpitas, Milpitas Police Officers Association, Mil’s Diner, Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee, Assemblymember Alex Lee, and Milpitas Firefighters Local 1699. 

The Juneteenth event will go from 11am-5pm on Saturday, June 17. It will take place at Albert Augustine Jr. Memorial Park at 400 Roger Street in Milpitas.


Paid for by Evelyn Chua for Milpitas City Council FPPC#1470209spot_img
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self” and “Magic Within: Womb-Centered Wisdom to Realize the Power of Your Sacred Feminine Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.


  1. LoopWorks, the company creating the advanced transit demonstration project in the Metro Area of Milpitas, is a co-sponsor of the event. Learn more at our booth about Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), the project, and the company driving it.


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