Significant Events to Honor Juneteenth in New York

This Sunday marks June 16, the youngest federal holiday in the United States, signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. It commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas saw their freedom realized, more than two years after Lincoln issued Emancipation. Proclamation. Texas was the last Confederate state to announce the proclamation, and many of the state’s slaves were not freed until after federal troops arrived to enforce an end to slavery.

Juneteenth – which received widespread awareness during the wave of protests that took place in the summer of 2020 after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black people at the hands of police violence – recognizes the differing freedoms that continue to affect black people in the United States, despite the rights codified in the 14th Amendment. As people and businesses increasingly recognize and celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday remains one that contains the “duality of jubilee and grief,” as Anthony Conwright wrote in the Nation. While it is a cause for rejoicing, denoting the end of a brutal and dehumanizing institution that involved the entire nation, it is also a reminder of the continuing inequity and endless fight for freedom.

Several events around New York this weekend invite the public to reflect collectively on Juneteenth through tours, workshops, discussions and a variety of artistic activities. We’ve rounded up a selection of major events across the city in the list below.

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Juneteenth NY Jubilee

Organized by the Juneteenth NY organization

Juneteenth NY is New York’s longest running festival celebrating the holidays, taking place over three days. This year’s theme is “Unity in the Black Family Unit”. Among the festival’s many events, a fashion exhibition showcasing the work of black designers, musical performances by Iniko and Renee Neufville, and a quilt-making project that will invite attendees to offer their own in memoriam patch to loved ones who have been lost to COVID-19. Food from black-owned restaurants and food trucks will also be offered, and a limited number of discounted Uber rides to the festival will be available.

When: June 17-19
Where: Linden Park and Prospect Park, Brooklyn; see here for more details

Juneteenth NY, New York’s oldest festival (photo courtesy of saintsperspective)

Green-Wood Cemetery Trolley Tour and Free Art Activities

Green-Wood Cemetery, the rural and lively neighborhood of Brooklyn cemetery that inspired the creation of New York’s public parks, is hosting a trolley tour that will visit the burial sites of historical figures who contributed to the struggle for emancipation and civil rights for Black Americans. The two-hour tour will be led by Jeff Richman, a Green-Wood historian, and Moses Phillips, professor of ethnomusicology, music theory and critical theory at Medgar Evers College. Phillips will also sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” an anthem the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has recognized as a “Black National Anthem,” at the grave of its composer, James Weldon Johnson. The cost to participate is $30 for non-members and $25 for members.

Starting at 11 a.m., free arts and crafts activities will be available for families, along with a suggested self-guided tour of the Tombs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). A cart will run between 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m., and educators will share information on notable stops.

When: June 19, 10am-2pm
Where: Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn; more details about the tram tour here and a link to free activities here

Explore the history of Seneca Village

Prior to the construction of Central Park, a black community called Village of Seneca flourished between 82nd and 89th streets. The land was eventually seized through eminent domain, displacing existing residents. The Central Park Conservancy has undertaken ongoing research and work to learn more about life in Seneca Village over its 32-year history.

A series of Juneteenth events will celebrate the history of Seneca Village through art, dance, poetry, storytelling and song. Grammy-nominated spoken word artist Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin tell stories about the Seneca Village school accompanied by five-string banjo player Ayodele Maakheru; singers and actors will reconstruct conversations that could have taken place between local women; and metallurgical artist Myles NurseThe “Dancing Ancestors” sculptures of will be exhibited.

When: June 19, 10am-2pm
Where: Seneca Village Landscape, west side of Central Park between 82nd and 89th, Manhattan; More details here

Lewis Latimer House June 16 party

The Lewis Latimer House is hosting a June 19 celebration that will include artist-led workshops. (photo courtesy of Lewis Latimer House)

Lewis Latimer was a black inventor and autodidact who worked with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and was instrumental in the invention of the telephone and the popularization of the incandescent light bulb. The home he lived in for the last quarter century of his life, located in Queens and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, will host his first-ever in-person celebration on June 19. A mini poetry and portraiture workshop will celebrate the great creativity of Latimer as a writer and poet, and Dario Mohr — whose exhibition The blood is thicker than the water that separated us is currently on view at the Lewis Latimer House — will lead a Sowing the Seeds workshop. Artist Sophia Chizuco will also lead a flag installation activity.

When: June 19, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Lewis Latimer House, 34-41 137th Street, Queens; see here for more details

The Schomburg Center Literary Festival

The Schomburg Center Literary Festival returns for the fourth time. (photo by William Farrington; courtesy of the Schomburg Center)

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the Harlem-based New York Public Library’s Research Library, is hosting its fourth annual literary festival — the first time it’s been held in person since 2019. The event d a day will include workshops, discussions and book signings with personalities such as Jason Reynolds, Roxane Gayand Linda Villarosa. The festival will also include craft activities, readings and a celebration of books of all genres. As Novella Ford, associate director of the Schomburg, said in a statement, “On a weekend when black communities across this country celebrate the anniversary of June 19, I can’t help but be reminded that reading was a revolutionary act whenever a person of African descent challenged society’s relegation of what enslaved people should know about the world around them.

When: June 19, 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Where: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard (135th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard), Harlem; full festival program available here

Bryant Park June 19 Dance Celebration

This year, Bryant Park has programmed a contemporary dance series the whole month of June. It concludes with a June 19 performance on the evening of Saturday, June 18, featuring Josh Johnson, who hails from Harlem and rose to fame tap-dancing on New York trains; Music of the Sole, a acclaimed Afro-diasporic tap group; and Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance, a mentoring organization for dance students.

When: June 18, 7–8.30 p.m.
Where: Bryant Park, Manhattan; More details here

Carl Hancock Rux at Harlem Stage, Park Avenue Armory and Lincoln Center

The Park Avenue Armory is holding a “retrospectivefrom the work of Archer Aymes, the fictional Métis subject of Talka play premiered at the Public Theater in 2002. The plot of Talk revolved around the late Aymes, an obscure writer and experimental filmmaker. Now its playwright Carl Hancock Rux will unveil ‘newly discovered works by Archer Aymes’ – including his film Mother and son and ephemera from the Aymes collection that together paint a portrait of racial injustice in the 21st century.

The exhibit is the second in a series of three events Rux is taking part in to celebrate June 19th this weekend. Tonight, Thursday June 16, Rux and New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow will have a discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation and the lasting legacy of slavery at Harlem Stage. On Sunday June 19, Rux will organize I have a dream that comes back to me at Lincoln Center, a multimedia performance that includes original music by Vernon Reid and Nona Hendryx with lyrics by Lynn Nottage, a “musical recitation of a deconstructed national anthem,” and concerts of rock and roots music.

When: June 19, 3-6 p.m.
Where: Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, Manhattan; More details here

Brooklyn Museum “Freedom Ride” and family fun

A photo from the Brooklyn Museum’s June 19, 2021 celebration (photo by Kolin Mendez; courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

The Brooklyn Museum will celebrate both June 19 and Father’s Day with a series of back-to-back family events. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, the Good Company Bike Club, founded to encourage cycling within the black community, will host a “freedom ride” that will meet in the museum square. Various art-making, reading and treasure-hunting activities will follow for children, as well as sound baths, guided meditations, musical performances in the sculpture garden and dancing.

When: June 19, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Where: Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn; the program of the day is available here

Maria R. Newman