Photo Essay: 2020 Juneteenth was a celebration

What was originally expected to be a gathering of a few people to celebrate Juneteenth with a little food and a little music, ended Friday afternoon in the Vine neighborhood as a full-fledged block party celebrating freedom and unity.

Singers, speakers, artists and others melded with dozens of others – trying to maintain a semblance of proper, anti-COVID-19, social distancing -- in the parking areas adjacent to the Vine Neighborhood Association.

The VNA, which was a partner in sponsoring the event, is located off the southwest corner of South Westnedge Avenue and Vine Street.

“It started out being something that we thought would be about 20 people and a grill, celebrating Juneteenth,” says Willie Riddle Jr., a music producer who organized the gathering. “But then it blew up into more than 200 people committed to coming and more than 1,000 saying they were interested.”

Riddle said entertainers, speakers, local entrepreneurs, and food were added to a mix that ultimately attracted several hundred people. He worked with local activist TC Custard and artist Maya James, in collaboration with the Vine Neighborhood Association to manage the 3- to 9:30 p.m. event.

Among the many things to see was the start and artistic progression of an 8-by-16-foot mural by James, depicting 72 people who have been victims of police brutality or killed while speaking up for civil rights.

Juneteenth is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day the last enslaved African-Americans were officially freed in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed into law more than two years earlier, the law was not enforced in remote areas of the slave states until that time.

A drone flying overhead captured an overall view of the Black Lives Matter mural on Rose Street, between Lovell and South streets.

A part of the creation of the Black Lives Matter mural on Rose Street, between Lovell and South streets painted on Friday afternoon.

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.