Ypsi's Juneteenth weekend to feature "educational celebration," live music, and kids' activities

Attendees of Ypsilanti’s annual Juneteenth weekend celebration will be able to attend events focused as much on community building and education as on fun. 
Ypsilanti’s annual Juneteenth weekend celebration is back this year with a packed schedule including live music, food trucks, raffles, and more. From June 21-23 at 107 Ferris St., in the parking lot behind Puffer Reds in downtown Ypsi, attendees will be able to attend events focused as much on community building and education as on fun. 

"We’re branding the event as an educational celebration," says festival organizer Trische' Duckworth. "We can’t bring the community together in a mass amount of folks and not mention things like voting and that Ypsilanti was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad."

The event will again include efforts to register voters and connect community members with local resources, plus a few new events for attendees to look forward to. One addition is a sickle cell disease awareness walk on June 22 at 9 a.m., hosted by the Michigan chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association. Sickle cell trait, according to the American Society of Hematology, affects 8-10% of African Americans. Duckworth says members of her own extended family struggle with the disease, and she feels it's important to share resources about it. 
Doug CoombeTrisché Duckworth.
Another change to the weekend’s events is an expansion of youth programming, headed by Black Men Read founder Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Our Community Reads founder Kallista Walker. While in previous years youth programming was in a designated "kids’ corner," this year's event will feature a "Black Joy Youth Takeover" on the main stage June 22 from 12:30-2 p.m. The takeover will feature youth performances, African dance by Ann Arbor’s Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theatre, and community storytime and book donations sponsored by Washtenaw County.

"I believe that it is really important that children have the experience of the multiplicity of Blackness, especially while shaping their identities while they’re young," Mesfin Johnson says. "This is not about conforming to a standard, norm, or expectation. It’s about the ways in which we develop many narratives about who we are and where we’re going."

Mesfin Johnson says feedback from previous Juneteenth celebrations showed that guests wanted to "be able to experience the entire event and still keep an eye on their kids," as well as find more ways to "center the youth" throughout the event. She says she's excited to highlight so many different Ypsilanti organizations that "contribute to the vibrancy of the community," as well as provide opportunities for children in attendance to be unapologetically themselves.
Doug CoombeYodit Mesfin Johnson.
"I’m proud to continue the tradition of Black folks community building in the face of adversity, exclusion, and racism," Mesfin Johnson says. "Our ancestors would be so proud of Trische’s vision and inviting us to make that a reality."

Also making a comeback to the celebration this year is the National Pan-Hellenic Council Ann Arbor (NPHC-AA), who will be hosting the "Power in Our Blackness" event on June 21 from 6-9 p.m., emceed by Cherisa Allen and Taryn Willis. NPHC President Stafford Watts says the evening will celebrate the "Divine Nine" (a group of historically Black fraternities and sororities) and other historically Black organizations, but this year's event will also include a focus on voter registration.

"We are all about service," Watts says. "We don’t want to sway to a specific candidate, but inform everyone about voter registration and have forms available for individuals to register."
courtesy Trisché DuckworthJuneteenth celebrations in Ypsilanti.
Both Allen and Willis belong to Black sororities – Allen to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Willis to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. They're excited for Juneteenth attendees to find networking opportunities while enjoying live music and food trucks throughout the evening. They also highlight that the event is open to all, regardless if they are members of these organizations or not.

"This is going to be an open evening of networking, food, and fun," Allen says. "We’re really proud and excited that Trische' pushed for Divine Nine to get involved."

"We want people to know this event is open to everyone, and it’s a really good time to learn about these organizations," Willis says. "It’s a really big weekend this year. This event started off small and now it’s grown into something that we’re really proud of."
Doug CoombeCherisa Allen.
Other highlights throughout the weekend will include raffles, hustle lessons with Ypsi’s Dance With Elegance Health and Fitness Dance Studio, and the return of the Gospel and Giggles comedy show hosted by local comedian Big Dooley on June 23 at 2:30 p.m. Live music will take place throughout the entire weekend, featuring artists including Detroit native Dwele and Ypsi native Kid Jay. The weekend will close out with a church service at 1 p.m. and gospel music concert at 4 p.m. on June 23 .

To see a full schedule of events throughout Ypsi’s Juneteenth Celebration, as well as a list of all vendors and performers, visit the event's Facebook page

"It’s the joy of coming together as a community and building something greater than we already have," Duckworth says. "This celebration has something for every individual, and I would love for folks to come out and be involved in any way."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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