KALAMAZOO, MI — President Abraham Lincoln may have issued the emancipation proclamation on New Year’s Day in 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Texas slaves were informed of their freedom.
The date, known as Juneteenth, began to be celebrated by many, and became recognized as a state holiday in Texas in 1979.
In the wake of national civil unrest following the 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the date became a federal holiday in 2021.
As equality continues to be strived for by many in their daily lives, Juneteenth offers an opportunity to step back and celebrate the freedoms and accomplishments that have already been achieved, Yolonda Lavender, CEO of Soul Artistry, LLC., Tell the Kalamazoo Gazette / MLive in a prior interview.
There is no shortage of opportunities for individuals throughout the community to celebrate those freedoms and accomplishments this weekend. The holiday itself will be observed federally, Monday, June 20.
Here is a compiled list of events taking place in the Kalamazoo area this weekend, Friday through Sunday, in honor of Juneteenth:
Friday, June 17
Online discussions on ancestry, emancipation celebrations: On Friday, a pair of online discussions hosted by the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine and the Institute of Public Scholarship are planned for noon and 3 pm
The noon session, titled “Ancestry for All” will trace and tell Black and Brown local stories through ancestry and city directories, military records and other sources, and provide a hands-on opportunity for those interested in tracing their own stories. The 3 pm session, billed as “Before Juneteenth: Emancipation Celebrations and Michigan’s Role,” will explore the roots of American emancipation celebrations and shed light on anti-slavery activists from Michigan.
Both sessions can be accessed by visiting live.zoom.us, clicking on the blue “join meeting” button and entering meeting ID 784 480 0915 and passcode 290628.
Saturday, June 18
Juneteenth Celebration in Bronson Park: Hosted by Rootead and sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, the Saturday afternoon event will take place from noon to 5 pm at 200 S. Rose St. and feature appearances from DJ Boogie, Migizii, Ayodele Drum and Dance, RYDDE, the Samuel Nalangira Trio, DC & the DC Quintet and food from PJW Creole Cuisine.
Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom Black Film Fest: Taking place from 1: 30-3: 30 pm Saturday at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 230 N. Rose St., the free event is open to all ages and aims to appeal the voices of Black filmmakers.
The Trinity Prep Center presents “The Show Stoppers” at 2pm at the Comstock Community Auditorium, 2107 N. 26th St. Tickets for the dance recital are $ 10 in advance or $ 15 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased by searching “Trinity Prep Center” on Eventbrite.com.
Black Women Elevated: This Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom visual and performing arts showcase features a live vocal performance from Stephanie Payton and live visual art from Shaquona Espinoza. Hosted by Soul Artistry, LLC., The event will be from 4-7 pm at The Space, 320 E. Michigan Ave.
A Young Poets Community Poetry Slam will take place from 5-8 pm in Bronson Park, 200 S. Rose St., in downtown Kalamazoo. The free event, hosted by the Black Arts & Cultural Center, in partnership with the Kalamazoo Public Library, will also feature cultural playground games ..
The Juneteenth Gala will take place from 7-11 pm at The Xperience, 143 Farmers Alley in downtown Kalamazoo. Hosted by the Black Graduate Student Association, the gala welcomes Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo community members committed to efforts toward Black liberation and the celebration of Black culture. The event will feature free food, music and dancing and is free to attend. Contact email@example.com for information.
Sunday, June 19
DC & The DC Quintet take the stage Sunday in the Bell’s Eccentric Café Beer Garden, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., along with special guest DJ Boogie. The family-friendly event takes place from noon to 4 pm with music beginning at 2 pm. Bell’s will have its special release, Seneca Village Black IPA, on tap and available to-go.
Washington Square hosts Juneteenth Celebrating Freedom from noon to 8 pm at 1350 Portage St. Hosted by the Edison Neighborhood Association and Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, the event features live music from Santino Jones, food and drink from Twine Urban Winery and Ty’s Joint, kids activities, arts and crafts, a double Dutch contest, flag-making and more.
The Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration at Arcadia Creek Festival Site, at 145 E. Water St. in downtown Kalamazoo, will feature performances by the Suicide Squad, Trinity Prep Academy, Mark Barnes, Natalie Sako, Breakin’Ballet and Motown Velvelettes and Orchestra Jammbo’laya. The free event takes place from 1-6 pm Sunday.
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