Written by Aarika Lauryn
June 25, 2021
WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?
One Day in 1865...
Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on June 19th to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.
This year, the law was signed making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The law went into effect immediately, making this the first federal Juneteenth holiday in American history.
Ypsilanti BLM Street Mural Project
Well before the holiday was nationally recognized, the city intended to make Juneteenth the official reveal of the Ypsilanti BLM Street Mural Project on Washington Street - one of two new "Black Lives Matter" murals painted by 80 volunteers in early June.
Puffer Reds intended to celebrate the day in our community with food, music and giveaways. We later found out the city of Ypsilanti had bigger plans to take over the city parking lot in our "backyard" and create an entire program to bring in the holiday.
We were very excited to join forces to make the vision even bigger! After the unveiling of the mural project, the celebration kicked off with dance lessons (hustles to be specific), speeches, storytellers and a headlining performance by John E. Lawrence.
Black Owned Businesses in our community had the opportunity to vend and showcase their businesses for the day.
We invited Biggies Soul Food to be our partner in providing free food to those who attended. We also partnered with 2 of our local black-owned printing companies for our limited edition, Juneteenth T-Shirt giveaway (The Print Giants) and our Juneteenth Celebration banner (Ypsi Marketing & Print Co).
Michigan legislators like U.S Representative Debbie Dingell, Mayor of Ypsilanti, Lois Richardson and Washtenaw County’s Health Dept and Prosecutor’s office gave a heartfelt speech. The prosecutor’s office even offered their services to help expunge criminal records to those eligible in the community. A sincere acknowledgement of how the criminal system disproportionately affects the black community.
Various storytellers spoke about the plight of the African Americans, the work we have yet to accomplish as a nation and recognizing the importance of this holiday.
It is important to note that this is the only US holiday that we have to celebrate the end of slavery [as we know it]. For over 400 years this country enslaved people that were robbed of their culture, their families, their land and their freedom. This is bigger than a celebration. The plight of African Americans and their contributions to the development of this nation should be honored every day. We are truly our ancestors' wildest dreams.