Juneteenth Conversations

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, is celebrated throughout the nation and as a state holiday in Michigan. This uniquely American holiday commemorates the day in 1865 that news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved people in Texas and other parts of the southwest– June 19th, a good two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The day is honored or recognized as a day of remembrance in 47 states. It is also in its 27th year of being officially observed in Ann Arbor–and this year, the city of Ann Arbor has also made it an official holiday.  

And this year, we are celebrating all over the place! But first, take a moment to check out this 21-Day Equity Challenge – kicking off Juneteenth. The Challenge examines the history and impacts of racism on people’s lived experiences in Washtenaw County. Take this self-guided journey from the United Way of Washtenaw County. Along the way, participants will receive examples of ways to undo racism and tools to help build racial equity and justice. Register here.

Notable events: first off, beginning on the 14th, U-M is hosting a Juneteenth Symposium: Celebrating Black Joy, Hope, And Healing. A partnership between U-M and the Ann Arbor Branch of the NAACP, this Juneteenth observance aims to celebrate and recognize the liberation of all Black people from slavery. This is a chance to bring together the U-M and Ann Arbor communities virtually,  to “underscore the importance of Juneteenth and to ensure that all students, staff, faculty, and residents feel a deep sense of belonging.” 

The opening program, Monday 14, introduces many strands that will be explored as we go along. Larry James Walker II, worship and Creative Arts Pastor, leads us in the Black anthem, Lift Every Heart; we hear from Susan M. Collins, Provost, from Elizabeth James of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, who offers a libation, a traditional African observance, and an overview of the history of Juneteenth from William Hampton, President, NAACP, Ann Arbor Branch along with a fascinating history of my church, the Bethel AME of Ann Arbor, from Deborah Meadows of the African American Historical and Cultural Museum of Washtenaw County– all skillfully introduced by Gregory Thomas of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Tuesday’s program features music, dance and art, with Praise Dance from Michelle Dennis; the wonderful choir from Bethel (Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church); Artist Talk from Tylonn J. Sawyer, Multidisciplinary Artist Educator and Curator; and the Michigan Gospel Chorale

Wednesday will have more art and culture, with a welcome from Mike Solomon, Dean of Rackham Graduate School followed by a Spoken Word offering from Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd, Visiting Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, accompanied by stellar Detroit musicians Tariq Gardner, Drums and Marion Hayden, Bass and a presentation titled Articulations of Blackness, Black Life, and Black History in University of Michigan Museum of Arts’s Collections by Ozi Uduma, Assistant Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the U-M Museum of Art and a Poem from monét cooper, Doctoral Student, English Language and Literature. The program will conclude with the powerful piece Seven Last Words of the Unarmed sung by the U-M Men’s Glee Club.

Thursday is hands-on, a workshop day. First, from Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – White Fragility: How to Be Antiracist: a discussion about the practice of Anti-racism and the importance of allyship: topics discussed will include dismantling systems of oppression, advancing Black liberation, and other social justice principles.

Register for White Fragility: How to Be Antiracist

Second, from the Association of Black Social Work Students (ABSWS):  A Seat at the Table: Knowing Your Worth and Candle Making Event: a creative discussion event that explores how we can define Black Excellence through self-worth and self-care. It will feature a mindfulness and reflection candle-making activity.

Register for A Seat at the Table: Knowing Your Worth and Candle Making Event

In the evening, the 3rd Workshop: Black Mental Health and Self-Care: Paint and Conversation, is again from the Association of Black Social Work Students (ABSWS) and Public Health Students. It features a conversation about the current state of mental health awareness in the Black Community: topics discussed will include mental health stigma in the Black Community, mental health resources for Black identifying individuals, and the importance of mindfulness through creative expression.

Register for Black Mental Health and Self-Care: Paint and Conversation

And this will wind up on the Day with the NAACP’s traditional march.

Read the full schedule and stream events here.

Again, leading up to Saturday’s celebrations, on Friday, June 18, 8:30 am–1:30 pm

Join the Women of Color Task Force for their observance of Juneteenth with a day-long conference consisting of panel discussions and keynote speeches. The theme for the event is “Improving Intercultural Race Relations to Develop Intercultural Solidarity.” For a full listing of panelists and speakers, please visit their site

And also on Friday, at 7:30 pm

Temple Beth Emeth is celebrating “June for Justice,” with a different focus each Friday night of the month at “Erev Shabbat” services. On the night before Juneteenth (i.e., Erev Juneteenth), TBE will be welcoming a special guest speaker, Trische’ Duckworth from Survivors Speak. The community is welcome to attend. Join in by clicking here

And finally! 

The NAACP’s traditional event, in collaboration with Protectors of Equality in Government and with U-M, starts with an in-person, one mile community march from Fuller Park to Wheeler Park (MAP HERE)  The walk will pass along Riverside Park, across the Broadway Bridge to Summit Street before reaching Wheeler Park where there will be refreshments, conversation and information.

Later, at 1 p.m. the Ann Arbor Branch of the NAACP and other event collaborators will present a Juneteenth virtual program that will be broadcast on CTN, and viewable on YouTube.

Visit the Ann Arbor parks for additional details or for the program link which will be available at noon on June 19.

Ypsi BLM and Value Black Lives are hosting a festive unveiling of the new murals downtown, with live music, dancing, and great food. 11-4 p.m. on the 19th, in the parking lot behind Puffer Reds. Don’t miss it! Great for a family outing. 

AND there’s another family offering Saturday 1:30 to 3 p.m. from Ann Arbor’s YMCA, hosted by the YMCA’s Multicultural Employee Resource Group. You’re invited for an afternoon of games, art activities, stories, music– and the Goodie Truck for ice cream! In the parking lot of the Ann Arbor Y, 400 W Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.  

Listen to this recording of interviews with A2 NAACP President William Hampton and Leslie McGraw, up close and personal.

Written by -

Poet, Writer, Digital Strategist, and Founder of the Elbert Williams Voting Corner

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