Kalamazoo Juneteenth event celebrates freedom, supports ongoing fight for justice

A new Kalamazoo-area event celebrating the end of slavery will also generate funds to fight mass incarceration while participants enjoy a great meal and community night out.

It’s been 154 years since Abraham Lincoln signed away slavery in the United States. The holiday Juneteenth, an Independence Day for African Americans, commemorates the anniversary of the last slave settlement learning of the Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom on June 19, 1865.

The Juneteenth Freedom Dinner, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 19  at Webster’s Prime in downtown Kalamazoo will focus on the beauty of African American culture and the end of slavery following the Civil War.

Like traditional Juneteenth celebrations, at the Freedom Dinner “we will be joining hands in a celebration of love, life, and freedom over food in the same way of our ancestors,” says Daniel May, organizer of the event.

He says he hopes the dinner will become an annual event.

May says the Juneteenth Freedom Dinner is an extension of his event-planning business, Public Skool, which partners with local venues and creates events that appeal to and are accepting of a broad range of people.

“Although Juneteenth commemorates the independence day of African Americans,” May says, “we encourage everyone to celebrate — because freedom is a concept that all humans should embrace with open arms.”

In recognition that the fight for freedom continues, he says, a portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to the National Bail Out Collective, a community-based movement to end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.

Juneteenth Freedom Dinner tickets are $35 each and include dinner of one of four entree choices plus dessert and entry into the private dining room. Taxes and gratuity are included in the ticket price. Cocktail wear is the suggested attire for the evening.

Reserve seating is available now by clicking here

Tickets will be sold at the door the night of the event only if seating is still available and those want to attend are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.

May says Juneteenth is often “a forgotten holiday,” so an event that brings the community together to support a cause of freedom seemed like a good way to change that.

“We wanted to celebrate the beauty of freedom while giving back to others,” May says. “After running my company, Public Skool, for the last nine months, and our successful Sunday Skool and AfroFest events, I wanted to continue to push the conversation forward about inclusion in Kalamazoo,” May says. 

“Our goal has been to create positive experiences that bridge the cultural divisions among marginalized groups.”

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.

Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.