San Jose Gears Up for 37th Annual Juneteenth Festival in Downtown

The 37th annual Juneteenth festival takes place Saturday at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. Organized by the African American Community Service Agency (AACSA), the festival celebrating the abolition of slavery in the U.S. will be a day of food, culture and live performances headlined by Grammy-award winning R&B singer, Brandy.

The highly anticipated theme decided on for this year’s Juneteenth festival is “Celebrating Sankofa,” meaning that understanding our present and ensuring our future requires us to know our past.

“This symbol, this word and meaning is to remind us as people to look back into our roots into which we came from,” AACSA Executive Director Milan Balinton said. “It’s about teaching and encouraging each other to reach back into our potential, resources and knowledge as a community and what we have contributed to society.”

In the spirit of “Celebrating Sankofa,” Silicon Valley’s African and African-American culture will be highlighted through live reggae and Caribbean music performances on the main stage, a “Soul Food Row” and arts and crafts vendors.

Festival partner San Jose Jazz will also be entertaining the crowd throughout the day at their mobile boom-box stage with a lineup of bands soon to be announced.

Attendees have the opportunity to visit health screenings, a community resource tent with representatives from more than 30 community-based organizations as well as a kids and youth area packed with fun and games.

The grand opening will welcome 5,000 anticipated festival goers with a procession of San Jose city and elected leaders.

“The festival encompasses community, education and learning about our resources,” Balinton said. “It creates camaraderie to celebrate what our people fought for.”

The Juneteenth weekend kicked off with a pre-Juneteenth Sankofa open mic night Thursday and continues tonight with an event at Milpitas City Hall titled, “Education Before Celebration—Let America be America,” and hosted by the San Jose-Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP. It continues with the Saturday festival and a Father’s Day celebration on Sunday at Bible Way Christian Center.

Tickets for this Saturday’s festival are available for purchase online at, in-person at the event or ahead of time by contacting the African American Community Service Agency at 408.292.3197.


  1. Kudos to Milan Balinton and AACSA for their dedication to community service and building bridges among diverse groups! Thanks, SJI, for a positive story.

    • Thank you! We are doing our best with what we have. Thank you for seeing and being present to know what it takes to do this work; bridges help get us there faster and together!

      We hope you will join us at our 40th Gala in October!

  2. > African American Community Service Agency (AACSA)

    I’ve never heard of this group.

    > The African American Community Service Agency (AACSA) is one of the only African American cultural centers in the Silicon Valley. Our Vision: it to provide quality educational, cultural, social and recreational programs, services and activities in order to perpetuate and strengthen African American identity, culture, values, traditions, knowledge and family life-is at the heart of all programs. AACSA’s membership is open to everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.

    Is this group privately funded?

    Do they receive any grants or subsidies from government agencies?

    What do they mean by their “culture, value, and traditions”?

    • Hey Bubbles, I concur with your assessment of this organization. My wife and I inquired last year about renting this place for a quincenera and executive director was asking thousands of dollars to use the kitchen and hall. The place was dark, dingy, and looked as if it hadn’t been remodeled since the 1950″s. The only positive I seen was that he was going to allow us to serve alcohol their for no extra charge. It seemed pretty empty for the only African American cultural center in Silicon valley.

      P.S. Ladies, you should go to the mayors office because I believe this is a City building and I’m sure they”d be interested in what you got.

    • Hi,

      Great questions! I would love to invite you to the agency for a tour, observe one of our ongoing programs and events, and add your email to our once a month newsletter lost service. The newsletter will inform you about the culture and values that are engaging when participants get involved.

      We have various types of funding to support the mission. We need more to support programming and services, as well as staffing to manage the work we call our passion!

      I’d be honored to meet you in person at AACSA!

      • > I would love to invite you to the agency for a tour, . . .

        Thank you for the invitation, but Saint Matthew never suggested that onsite inspections were necessary to assess performance or legitimacy:

        “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

        Matthew 7:16

  3. Our church made donations to this group many times and discovered this so called African American Community Services Agency or AACSA is a sham. The Executive Director Mr. Milan Balinton is a con artist and should be a ashamed of himself.. We reached out to them in 2017 because we never received a donation receipt and then discovered their nonprofit tax exempt status was revoked for not filing tax returns for three consecutive years. We have lived in this community for years and as African American females we are appalled at their inability to manage their finances and scam donors out of funds.

    • Hi Athena,

      I hope your day is going well. After reviewing your post I contacted the board member you requested information from to make sure you knew we were in compliance with the laws that govern this organization. I retrieved the emails but there was no response unless we had the wrong email address. I invite you to stop by the agency as well or we can come to you so this can be cleared up. Depending on when you donated, you would have received a letter from us as you stated with our fiscal agent information. Again, keeping our promise to our donors.

      I’d like to know which church are you referring to so I can answer all questions to the body of Christ that is unaware, misinformed, or felt that you didn’t get accurate information.

      Currently, under my leadership the organization is solvent with the help of committed partnerships new and existing, membership, and adjusting to the low population of African Americans living in Silicon Valley. I would encourage you to attend the next board meeting which is open to the public, apply to join the board, and or volunteer in the office. I would love to get your perspective on how to raise 2 million dollars which is the goal during AACSA’s 40th years in service.

      AACSA is open from 9 am to 6 pm but because I am dedicated you can find me here most night until around midnight.

      I look forward to meeting you in person or chat over the phone.

      • Hi Mr. Balinton, “compliance with the laws that govern this organization” really! What about the laws that govern the IRS requirements for nonprofits charities. How could your board allow under your leadership to have the African American Community Services Agency’s 501 c 3 status revoked by the IRS from 2013-2017. Revocation for not filing taxes for 3 consecutive years is extremely serious? Wow, yea under your leadership. Send the next mtg date of the organizations board mtg. You should be ashamed of yourself for using Christ’s name in vain.

        • You are misinformed. 2013-2017 taxes were filed thanks to the dedication of volunteers that supported the nonprofit during some of our darkest hours! We are in compliance and that is a fact. I hope to see you soon because we have so much work to do and need more doers! If you would like to join the finance committee— I will fill support you so we can get this work done!

  4. Hey Athena, thank you for referring me to this site. Girl, they got some juicy stuff on here. Anyhoo, we found out that the African American Community Center has been using different Tax Id Numbers. When my grandma made a donation we were given 77-0574409 which is SVCED or the . We think they may be funneling funds through multiple numbers to avoid IRS. Called the IRS and they have another Tx ID on record. Something needs to change this puts a serious black mark on us now and for the future. Girl, call me. So where’s the JuneTeenth $$$

    • Hello Sam,

      I would like to address your thoughts with facts. AACSA was not at the time using different tax number to hide money or funnel it. During the one period in question the Black Chamber was our fiscal agent, so ever donation to us would permit the donor to receive the tax benefit. We also formed a relationship with another non-profit after our agreement was complete with the Black chamber. This was in accordance with the laws of the IRS. Did you make a donation and not receive your letter of confirmation? Do you receive our once a month newsletters informing the general public about events, programs, and services being offered by AACSA? If not, I would encourage you to send us your informations so we can keep you in the loop.

      In regards to Juneteenth, it’s not a fundraiser for AACSA. Every year, 19 committee of dedicated community members work on behalf of the community to make sure the event is a success based on the objectives set by our elders years ago! The budget is not a secret. If you would like to stop by the office to sit with me to review I am more than open to do so! It’s important to me to be transparent with our donors, members, and volunteers.

  5. Hi Athena, the wife asked me to write in. This brother needs to resign. After talking with the wife we plan on helping you all encourage the board to ask him to resign thats if they will listen. Maybe, they need to be replaced too. Its a shame he’s living off the black community. This is the reason we have it hard everywhere. Next thing you’ll hear is he’ll be asking for the community to provide him with a airplane.

    • Hi AJ Jackson,

      I am puzzled and troubled by your post. Anyone whom knows me knows I don’t need a plane to do this work! I need help with my team to do the work! If you would like to shadow me at the agency to see what It takes to run this dynamic organization for a better understanding or share with me best practices. I’m open to it. One of my favorite quotes by Socrates is “I know nothing.” It puts me into a space where I am always trying to learn to do better and be better.

      Just so we are clear, I don’t live off the Black community— I work for our community tirelessly and welcome you to every meeting, program, event, staff meeting, opportunities to request funding to keep the doors open here at AACSA. I’d welcome you to sit in these meetings with me; so please introduce yourself and your wife. I would love to hear your solutions to problems you have identified but I can’t address what I don’t know or build a friendship to a post that is claiming I’m living off the community. FYI- I don’t get benefits working here but that will change very soon as we work tirelessly to implement a benefits program so we can attract employees to join us on this mission.

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