Kalamazoo is set to celebrate Juneteenth 2022 with song, dance, and fireworks

If you don’t know what you have, do you really have it?
That was the case as slavery ended in the United States in the late 1800s. And, for people unfamiliar with it, that has often been the case in modern times with Juneteenth, the celebration to commemorate the end of slavery.
The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1863 for most African-Americans (those living in Confederate states that had been defeated by Union troops). But more than two years passed before Union soldiers (including many Black recruits) arrived in Texas and other remote areas to help ensure that all slaves were freed.
A reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, is the benchmark for the end of slavery, although it was not officially abolished until the 13th Amendment was ratified in December of 1865. Nonetheless, freed men, women and children in Texas started celebrating the occasion on the first anniversary of that date as “Juneteenth” -- a combination of “June” and “19th,” according to historians.
Juneteenth should be recognized by all Americans, says Yolonda Lavender, but it is a special occasion “for Black folks to be able to have an opportunity to celebrate their joys, liberation, and freedom. That’s what the event was originated for.”
Lavender is the creative officer and founder of Soul Artistry LLC, an artistic development, entertainment booking, and consulting firm. She has worked with more than a dozen area organizations to compile a list of  this year’s events. 
There has been an intentional effort this year to promote the efforts of more than a dozen Kalamazoo organizations that have hosted Juneteenth celebrations in the past.Juneteenth started with people gathering to sing and pray. It became a state holiday in Texas in 1980 and was declared a federal holiday in 2021. The celebration now continues across the country with festivals, lectures, speeches and people gathering to sing, dance, pray and share food.
So in the spirit of knowing more about the holiday and recognizing its importance, there are several free events planned in the Kalamazoo area during the weekend of Juneteenth.
“We were really intentional this year about bringing together all the community members and organizations that have historically hosted Juneteenth celebrations in the Kalamazoo community,” says Lavender. “So the intention is for us to promote all of the different opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth.”
As compiled by Lavender, here is what’s happening:
Friday, June 17
What -- It is a hands-on opportunity to learn how to trace your own stories. Art of Fact presents: Ancestry for All - Tracing and Telling Black and Brown Local Stories through Ancestry.com, city directories, Fold3.com and other primary sources.
When and where -- 3 p.m. on Facebook/Zoom
Who -- The Institute of Public Scholarship
What -- Black History Bingo & Soul Food
When and where – 6 and 8 p.m. at the Black Arts & Cultural Center
Who -- SHARE – The Society for History and Racial Equity
Saturday, June 18 
What – Musical and dance performances will be a part of the annual meeting and Juneteenth celebrations of the Rootead Enrichment Center, a nonprofit organization focused on cultural liberation through healing of the mind and body. Jeanne Baraka, founder and chief executive officer of Ujima Enterprises, is also to be honored.
When and where -- 12 to 4 p.m. at Bronson Park
Who -- Rootead Enrichment Center
What -- Resident led barbeque and youth activities
When and where – Noon to 2 p.m. at Reed Street Park
Who -- Edison Neighborhood Association and Edison Neighborhood residents
What -- Black Film Festival
When and where -- 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Who -- Soul Artistry LLC and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
What – Live musical performances and visual art
When and where – 4 to 7 p.m. at The Space, 320 E. Michigan Ave.
Who -- Soul Artistry LLC
What – Young Poets Community Poetry Slam, and cultural playground games
When and where – 5 to 8 p.m. at Bronson Park
Who – Black Arts & Cultural Center and the Kalamazoo Public Library
Sunday, June 19
What – Live music, food, and fireworks
When and where – 4 to 8 p.m. in Washington Square area of the Edison Neighborhood
Who – Edison Neighborhood Association, Black Wallstreet Kalamazoo, and Twine Urban Winery
What – Live music, featuring DC & The DC Quintet, and the release of “Seneca Village” beer, a brew developed by employees of Bell’s Brewery.
When and where – The time is to be announced. The event will occur at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
Who – Bell’s Brewery
What – Performances by The Velvelettes with Orchestra Jammbo’laya in partnership with the Helen L. Fox Gospel Music Center, Djembe Yaru, Suzuki Academy, and others.
When and where – 3 p.m. at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place in downtown Kalamazoo
Who – The Gilmore
What – A community read and discussion of the book “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon and queer picnic in the park
When and where – 3 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Nature Center
Who – Radicale (A Branch of Rootead Enrichment Center)
More information is expected to be available on Instagram at @juneteenthkzoo and on Facebook at juneteenthkzoo, or by contacting soulartistryinfo@gmail.com.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.