Juneteenth events in and around Detroit commemorate end of slavery

Darlene A. White
Special to The Detroit News

To honor Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States,  there will be nearly weeklong celebrations across Metro Detroit that include live entertainment, food, movies, events along Detroit's Historic Avenue of Fashion and the city of Detroit will host a virtual celebration.

“Juneteenth is the longest celebrated African American Holiday,” said Edward Foxworth III, director of external affairs at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “It’s an opportunity to learn and to commemorate what was experienced by so many people of African descent in this country.”

The holiday, which got its name by combining June and 19, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved Blacks in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free and that the Civil War had ended. It's also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Juneteenth Independence Day.

Britnee Carter does a West African dance accompanied by African percussionist Sowande Keita during a Juneteenth celebration in Spirit Plaza in 2019. Detroit's Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity hosts a Freedom Party in honor of Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery, in Spirit Plaza in Detroit, Michigan on June 19, 2019.

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The bill would lead to Juneteenth becoming the 12th federal holiday. It is expected to easily pass the House, which would send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

"Juneteenth is a commemoration of the countless innocent whose lives were destroyed by the slave trade and a day of celebration that the era of chattel slavery in this country has come to an end," said William Winkel, assistant curator for the Detroit Historical Society. "Juneteenth has been called “America’s Second Independence Day” because on this day the United States took a step closer to living up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. But it is also a day to recognize that the economic, social, and judicial inequalities created by the enslavement of Black and brown people have not been abolished and that there is work that still needs to be done.

"People should use this day to reflect on their family’s history. Metro Detroit is home to the descendants of many Southerners, White and Black, who came to the North during the Great Migration. The lingering effects of slavery permeate Metro Detroit to this day. Juneteenth can be a day for Detroiters and Metro Detroiters to celebrate a good day in American history."

The exhibit “And Still We Rise” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The museum is hosting a series of Juneteenth events.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to relax, more people are planning unique Juneteenth celebrations. The Wright museum is one of several organizations to host events that focus on education, economic independence and engagement. Some events will take place online, but this year some in-person elements will return as well.

“It's been said that you have to know your past to understand your present so that you can excel into your future,” Foxworth said. “Similarly, Juneteenth acknowledges a difficult past that can be used as a source of motivation and inspiration to do better.”

The Wright Museum will host a virtual screening of "Juneteenth: Lift Every Voice," a film documenting the anthem, on Thursday. That will be followed by a free screening of the film "Concrete Cowboy," starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, at Campus Martius Park on Friday. The grand finale will be a Juneteenth Jubilee Stroll along Detroit’s Livernois Avenue of Fashion that will promote education, economics and Black-owned businesses on Saturday.

Foxworth says Juneteenth events at the museum will have something for everyone regardless of race and he hopes more people will learn about the experiences that people of African descent have endured and will seek additional insight while gaining a greater connection to their journey, he said. 

“It’s been said that you have to know your past to understand your present so that you can excel into your future,” he said. “Similarly, Juneteenth acknowledges a difficult past that can be used as a source of motivation and inspiration to do better. Juneteenth is geared toward anyone with an interest in history and culture. Participation in any of the Juneteenth commemorations happening across the metro area are not just for African Americans, but for Americans from all walks of life.”

Jeri Millen, owner of Greenhouse of Walled Lake, is sponsoring this year’s Walled Lake Beach Party, featuring tours of a house that was part of the Underground Railroad.

“We hope for several things — hoping to give everyone a chance to get outside and enjoy the Michigan summer, especially after the past year and half we have had under COVID,” he said. “It’s important to try to get back to normal as much as possible and hopefully this event will fulfill that need. More importantly, we are hoping that it will educate the young and old about all the history that surrounds us and give them a better understanding of our past so we can learn from it. We invite everyone out to Walled Lake to experience all that is Juneteenth and Walled Lake Summer party.”

Here’s a list of Juneteenth celebrations:

Wayne County

Juneteenth Jubilee Freedom Weekend, featuring the Juneteenth Jubilee Stroll on the Historic Avenue of Fashion: Today-Sunday. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Museum will host a virtual screening of "Juneteenth: Lift Every Voice," a film documenting the anthem on Thursday. On Friday, there will be a free screening of "Concrete Cowboy," starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, at Campus Martius Park. The grand finale will be a "Juneteenth Jubilee Stroll" along Detroit’s Livernois Avenue of Fashion from noon-6 p.m. that will include a live podcast, health and wellness resources, a raffle and more. Tickets for the event are $10 and include a map of participating businesses and swag bags. The Historic Avenue of Fashion is on Livernois between Eight Mile and McNichols, Detroit. 

"Freedom of Summer": Noon, Saturday. There'll be a Juneteenth Virtual Celebration featuring presentation of spoken word, prayer, African dance performances and remarks from offiicials. Visit www.detroitmi.gov/CRIO for a full schedule.

Juneteenth in The D: Noon-10:30 p.m. Saturday. A day of festival fun that includes food, entertainment and learning the history of Juneteenth.  Dabls Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum, 6559 Grand River Ave., Detroit.

Juneteenth In Detroit Family Day: Noon-8 p.m. Saturday. This 11th annual event will have food, music, games, challenges, keynote speakers, Father’s Day tug of war, Mr./Ms. Juneteenth and more. Maheras Gentry Park, 12550 Avondale, Detroit. Free.

Juneteenth Night Market: 6-11 p.m. Saturday Local vendors and live music will be featured at Beacon Park's Night Market. 1901 Grand River Ave., Detroit.

Juneteenth March and Teach-In: Noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Detroit Will Breathe will host a march and discussion on the dispossession of Black Detroit. 18100 Meyers, Northwest Activities Center, Detroit.

Hamtramck’s Juneteenth Clean Up: 2-6 p.m. Saturday. Residents of Hamtramck are welcome to participate in a neighborhood cleanup at Sarah Garrett Park and the surrounding area. Trash bags and gloves as well as hand sanitizer will be provided to all participants. Volunteers are needed to help haul filled trash bags to area dumpsters. Sarah Garrett Park, 11369 Dequindre St., Hamtramck. For more information, call Dwydell Garrett at 586-871-6682.

Oakland County

Emagine Entertainment Juneteenth Film Festival: This second annual month-long film festival at Emagine Royal Oak benefits the United Negro College Fund. The film festival, which began June 4, continues with screenings on Friday of "Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse" and "Get Out"; and "Ray," "MLK/FBI," "Whose Streets" and "Just Mercy" on June 25. Tickets are $5. Emagine Royal Oak; 200 N. Main St., Royal Oak; (248) 414-1000; emagine-entertainment.com.

Underground Railroad House unveiling and tours, featuring the Walled Lake Beach Party and Summer in Bloom Art Show: 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday, Walled Lake.  For the first time, the Banks house, a former Underground Railroad stop and the home of Michigan's first female doctor, Sarah Banks, will be open for small tours throughout the day at its location in Riley Park, at the intersection of E. Walled Lake Dive and Common Street.    The Walled Lake Beach Party, at Mercer Beach, will feature appearances by former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty at noon, and at 1 p.m., former Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson and Rob Simms will make appearances. There will also be a Summer in Bloom Art Show featuring 40 local artists. A 10 p.m. fireworks show will conclude the celebration. All events are sponsored by Greenhouse of Walled Lake.

Juneteenth Family Reunion: The annual event takes place all day Saturday at Catalpa Oaks Park in Southfield. Since 2019, the Family Reunion focuses on empowering, educating, and entertaining through cultural events. Located at 27705 Greenfield, 1,250 attendees are expected at this year's socially distanced event filled with live entertainment, music, games and more. More information, including an event packet, can be found at juneteenthfamreunion.org.

Madison Heights First Juneteenth Celebration: Noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Madison Heights will host its first-ever Juneteenth celebration with live music, food trucks, vendor booths, children's activities, a petting zoo, rib-cooking competition, art contest, a mobile COVID-19 vaccine site, and an educational exhibit explaining the history of Juneteenth. Civic Center Park, 360 W. 13 Mile, Madison Heights; 248-589-2294; madisonheightsjuneteenth.com.

Detroit Black Wall Street Juneteenth Father’s Day Celebration: 5:45-10 p.m. Saturday. This indoor/outdoor event will feature a DJ performance, vendors, and food and drink specials. 21380 Coolidge Hwy., Oak Park

'Miss Juneteenth' Movie Night: 7-9 p.m. Saturday.  Southfield's municipal complex will host an outdoor screening of the critically acclaimed 2020 film Miss Juneteenth on the front lawn. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, snacks, and beverages. The event costs $10 per carload; advance purchase recommended. Southfield Municipal Complex 26000 Evergreen Rd., Southfield; bit.ly/34NbxKX.

Unity in the Community: A Juneteenth Celebration: 4-8 p.m. Saturday. Lathrup Village's first celebration will include music, entertainment, food trucks, fun for children and a panel discussion. Registration required. 27400 Southfield Road, Admission is free. Visit eventbrite.com.