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Virginia Beach leaders approved a $50,000 grant to support a Juneteenth festival at the city's Oceanfront next month.

It's a notable increase from its last investment in the festival, called Juneteenth at the Beach.

Local business TEAM LAMB is organizing the event through its nonprofit arm. 

Here's what TEAM LAMB CEO Israel Leader said about the city's support and the upcoming holiday:

This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.


TEAM LAMB is an acronym that stands for Tell Everyone Around Me, Love All My Brothers.

We got started back in 2011 out of the death of our best friend Cordaro "Lil Lamb" Simpkins. He was a professional boxer from the Hampton Roads area who lost his life at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

We asked his family for permission to use his [nickname] to turn it into our brand name. And that's where TEAM LAMB came from.

We started off as a fashion brand and we transformed the brand to more pillars, which is mentorship and community events and festivals.

On how they started planning Juneteenth events:

Honestly, 2019 is when the brand took a turn. We were we were doing the clothing brand and we always would do like small community events. Our main trajectory was always to give back to the community.

So we would do like community food drives or teens for jeans drives or we would give clothes away to young adults that were homeless or in need of extra clothes.

And then 2019, we did our first Juneteenth festival at a juice bar in Virginia Beach.

It was something that we felt was overlooked. [It's a] holiday, a federal holiday at that, that actually marks the freedom of all of the United States' citizens.

So we wanted to highlight that and give our culture more of a celebration for it. And even just identifying [for] ourselves as this is something that's important to us, that we should be coming outside and experiencing it and just like we do 4th of July or any other major holidays.

It was just on our hearts to make make Juneteenth as prevalent as any other major holiday.

On how they began working with the City of Virginia Beach:

My partner Ed [Walls] came to the city for that and they approved of it.

It was like, okay, let's see what you guys can do. They actually gave us $15,000 as a partnership.

I don't live with a lot of fear, or expectations. I just do what I feel needs to be done.  And when I saw that there was an opportunity, my team and I jumped on it.

But as far as Virginia Beach, just seeing Pharrell come to Virginia Beach and do Something in the Water and realizing that, you know, they're open to festivals from outside sources - we were like, 'Yeah, this should be a green light.'

I'm glad that they partnered up with a grassroot company. We're not just someone from outside, [we're not a] big celebrity name. We're a company that's here that's bringing attendees from our own backyards to come and spend money and build with our own community. 

It's an honor to be in this position and have the city backing us.

On what to expect at this year's Juneteenth at the Beach event:

I believe besides the planned programing, which is really dope, we have certain things like the return of Miss Tidewater, a Black beauty pageant.

That's very, very well-planned out event where we have 10 to 12 models. They'll come out and they'll speak on why they feel they should be the next Miss Tidwater.

And that's actually a historical event that was done with Seaview, which was a Black beach that they discontinued.

We also have car show, concessions. We have the emerging artists showcases where we have some local talent come out and perform, some of the best in the area. And then we also have national acts coming out this year, too.

But outside of the planned program, what I feel like what makes our Juneteenth special is our purpose for it.

We don't want Juneteenth just to be a local event. We want to Juneteenth to be like when you go to New York to watch the ball drop - everyone goes to New York for that. We want Juneteenth in Virginia Beach to be the destination for the Juneteenth celebration.

We have the most history, the richest history in this country. And so piecing things back together and coming here to heal, I feel, is a necessity for our culture and for our country.