A Preview of Juneteenth Events

The federal holiday is Monday, June 19, but there are many celebratory events happening before then.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, is the official commemoration of slavery ending in the United States (June 19).

Considered the longest running Black holiday in the U.S., Juneteenth has long been called America’s second Independence Day, though it wasn’t recognized by the federal government until two years ago, 155 years after it was first celebrated.

The Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved people may have been signed in 1863, but Texas went right on operating as if slavery was still legal. The reason was simple: there wasn’t much enforcement in areas still under Confederate control. It took another 2.5 years for Major General Gordon Granger and his Union Army troops to march into Galveston, Texas and free the enslaved people there. Because it happened on June 19, the name Juneteenth evolved as a combination of the two words.

In the early years after Juneteenth began, many people celebrated with family gatherings and picnics, prayer and religious services, speeches and educational events and festivals with food, music and dancing. But there were far fewer Juneteenth celebrations during the Jim Crow era when the lives of Black Americans were strictly controlled.

It was the Civil Rights era that reignited interest in the anniversary of enslaved people being freed. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s March on Washington was purposely scheduled to coincide with Juneteenth. Many march participants took the celebration back to their home states after the rally and eventually a movement was born to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Finally in 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

As for Juneteenth’s message, Ohio State University professor Dr. Trevon Young told Bloomberg last June that “Juneteenth should remind Americans that emancipation was necessary but insufficient. There needs to be an actual grappling with how racial injustice is still shaping the lives of Black Americans and Black folks in America by extension, today.”

Juneteenth used to be mainly celebrated by southern Black people -especially Black Texans- with big and small gatherings, comfort food and Black anthems. But since becoming an established holiday, it’s now celebrated countrywide. With the informal holiday becoming an official one comes commodification - yes, Virginia, Walmart did come up with a Juneteenth-flavored ice cream, resulting in plenty of outrage.

But there's also an array of public events. Here are a few.

For the 27th year, Elegba Folklore Society will be hosting Juneteenth 2023: A Freedom Celebration during the weekend of June 10-11. Events kick off Saturday with the Torch-Lit Night Walk along the Trail of Enslaved Africans which begins at the Manchester Dock. It’s free to attend with donations welcomed. Water will be provided, and buses will return attendees to their cars after the walk.

On Sunday, June 11, the African Burial Ground is the setting for Dancing with the Ancestors, with music provided by Kenneka Cook. Admission is $5 and children under 12 are free. Attendees are asked to wear white and may bring offerings of flowers, sweets, fruit or items of personal significance. Elegba Folklore Society’s African dancers, singers and drummers will perform, and the Marvin Taylor Experience will provide music to close out the day.

The Get Woke Youth Summit at 4 p.m. on Sunday welcomes youth of all ages for a cultural education exchange. Speaking later will be scholar and activist, Dr. Shawn Utsey, president of the Virginia Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists. Utsey and chapter members will have a panel discussion on the legacy of generations of enslavement on mental health.

Juneteenth 2023: A Freedom Celebration. Torch-Lit Night Walk along the Trail of Enslaved Africans will be held on Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m. at 1308 Brander Street. Dancing with the Ancestors June 11, 5-9 p.m. at the African Burial Ground, 1540 East Broad Street. Efsinc.org.

Henrico County is getting in the Juneteenth spirit with a celebration in Dorey Park that includes food trucks, a kids’ zone, and a vendor fair. The entertainment ranges widely from a drumline battle to Back N Da Day to Mighty Joshua, with fireworks closing out the evening.

Come celebrate early with Henrico’s Backyard Barbecue Juneteenth block party, which covers an array of interests including a live DJ, a rock-climbing wall, a game room, a scavenger hunt and a community gardening project. Enjoy hot dogs and ice cream courtesy of the county while supplies last.

Backyard Barbecue Juneteenth block party is held Friday, June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hidden Creek Park, 2417 Brockway Lane. Henrico Juneteenth Celebration will be held Saturday, June 17 from 4 to 10 p.m., Dorey Park, 2999 Darbytown Road. rec-eventsteam@henrico.us

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in partnership with Maha Vira Yoga is offering space, place, and time for healing inter-generational harm as their way to commemorate Juneteenth and celebrate the life, liberation and legacy of enslaved people. Attendees are requested to bring a mat and an open heart for a pay-what-you-can class.

The session will acknowledge the land, honor the ancestors, and celebrate the self-determination of Black people through a yoga experience created to transform historical harms. Everyone from beginners to experienced yogis are invited to practice together and contemplate how they show up in the community.

Juneteenth Yoga will be held Saturday, June 17 from 9 – 11 a.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave. https://www.lewisginter.org/event/juneteenth/

Showcasing various forms of Black excellence, the Black Village of RVA is presenting their third annual Juneteenth Block Party Festival as a way to celebrate and support the legacy of those who were enslaved. The festival features more than a hundred Black-owned businesses along with food, live music, dance, spoken word and games. Part of the Black Village of RVA’s mission is to help in circulating Black money within the community in order to provide opportunities for Black entrepreneurs.

Juneteenth Block Party Festival is held Sunday, June 18 (Father's Day) from noon to 10 p.m. at Richmond Diversity Center, 1407 S. Sherwood Ave. Diversityrichmond.org.

Juneteenth Freedom Day is a free presentation of the Love Movement Social Event Series in collaboration with The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The two have joined forces to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth’s importance at Brambly Park Winery in Scott's Addition.

In addition to DJ Adapt and Eone, there will be live performances by reggae and roots artist Sista' Nickey and Stable Roots, JTucker and Krewe, and a special dance performance by the City Dance Theater. Over 30 vendors will be on site and food will be available from Charles Kitchen Caribbean Cuisine, K & M Salmon Balls and Cakes and Yum Yum Food Truck.

Juneteenth Freedom Day will be held on Monday, June 19 from noon to 7 p.m. at Brambly Park Winery, 1708 Belleville St.

Older Post Newer Post