Vermont Business Magazine On Saturday, June 19, 2021, the City of Burlington’s Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (REIB) hosts the City’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration in multiple locations around Burlington.
Featuring music, performances, traveling exhibitions, discussion panels, educational and networking opportunities, food, and more, the day-long festival focuses on celebrating Black liberation in the United States while looking ahead to the significant improvements to society that are yet to be fulfilled. All food and events are free, though tickets are required for the Gospel Brunch.
Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated African American holiday, commemorating June 19, 1865, when the last remaining slaves in Texas were informed by Union soldiers that they had been emancipated and freed from slavery following the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, on January 1, 1863. The next year, in 1866, freed slaves celebrated “Jubilee Day,” which we now recognize as the first ever Juneteenth celebration.
Texas became the first state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1979, and since then a growing number of cities and states have organized their own annual Juneteenth celebrations to celebrate, as well as honor, the history, culture, and struggle of African Americans in the United States.
“By recognizing Juneteenth as holiday, it opens the door to meaningful discussions about this country’s history, what it’s like to be Black, and how slavery, its emancipation, and following civil rights legislation came to be,” says Tyeastia Green, the director of REIB.
Burlington’s inaugural Juneteenth event kicks off at 10 am with a Gospel Brunch in City Hall Park on the Burlington City Arts patio, featuring the Lake Champlain Mass Choir and Band and southern brunch food by Great Northern Chef Frank Pace. Those without tickets are invited to enjoy the choir from the lawn. Tickets are available at juneteenthtbv.org.
“We realize that being Black is not a monolith, and that we collectively and individually have unique experiences, but also want to emphasize an overarching Black experience,” Green says. “I cannot think of a better way to do that than to begin the Juneteenth Celebration with a Gospel Brunch. Whether you’re religious or not, the Gospel Brunch will be an amazing event.”
In addition to City Hall Park, performances throughout the day will take place at Flynn Elementary School, Champlain School, and Roosevelt Park.
The lineup of Juneteenth performers includes: JoeMac; William Forchion; DJ Melo Grant; Judi Emanuel; M. Power Theater; Jenni Johnson; KeruBo; Jeh Kelu Dance and Drum Theater; Ferene Paris Meyer; Double Dutch; A2VT; DJ Dakota; Mikahely; Rajnii Eddins; Rivan C; Dwight & Nicole; Christal Brown; Omega Jade; Sabouyouma; Sinnn; Noble Julz; and DJ Luis Calderin. Bios, set times and locations, and more information can be found at juneteenthbtv.org.
Educational programs throughout the day include Discover African-America Farming in Vermont, outside the Echo Center at 10 am. This experience celebrates African-American heritage and the history of Black farming in Vermont through seed planting and art-making. Families will plant heritage seeds and assemble beautifully illustrated plant IDs that they can then take home and display in commemoration of Juneteenth and Black history.
At the Fletcher Free Library, from 1-4 pm, the Library will host a Farm to Table Commons, featuring informational booths, advocacy groups, restaurants and catering businesses, and opportunities to network and educate.
At 2 pm, at the Flynn School, the Black History 101 Museum presents unique collection are rare artifacts representing categories including but not limited to slavery, politics, Jim Crow, science, religion, education, music, sports, and civil rights. Some of the highlights of the collection are documents signed by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Mary Mcleod Bethune, W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, Lena Horne, Carter G. Woodson, Angela Davis, and many other historical icons.
A panel discussion on Building an Equitable Food System in Vermont happens at 2 pm, on the Fletcher Free Library lawn. Lynn Ellen Schimoler, of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, will facilitate the discussion on the state’s economic, environmental, and societal health in regards to our food system.
The True Black History Museum sets up in Roosevelt Park at 3 pm. This extraordinary collection of rare and authentic artifacts dates from the late 1700s to the 21st century. The collection was established to preserve the history of Black people and to educate others of the many great contributions that Black people have made to society.
At 4 pm in Roosevelt Park, REIB’s Belan Antensaye facilitates a discussion called Contextualizing Juneteenth. Four of Vermont’s Black leaders look back at 156 years since Emancipation, discuss the modern Black American experience, and look forward to what full liberation ultimately means. Panelists include Xusana Davis, Zoraya Hightower, Tabitha Moore, and Kiah Morris.
Ahead of this panel, at 3:30 pm in Roosevelt Park, the top three winners from the Juneteenth Youth Poetry and Speech Contest will read their poems. The contest was open to youths from grades six to 12, and the winners will receive $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively.
Free food will be served throughout the day, featuring offerings from: Jamaican Supreme food truck; Kismayo Kitchen; Chile Colorado; Jamaican Jewlz Catering; Mulu’s Kitchen; A Single Pebble food truck; People’s Kitchen; Hangry Donut; Harmony’s Kitchen; King Street Center Lemonade Cart; Taste of Abyssinia; and Healthy Kingdom.
Presenting sponsors for this landmark event include Seventh Generation Foundation, Northfield Savings Bank, Pomerleau Real Estate, and The Vermont Community Foundation, with additional support from Dealer.com, Hula, National Life Group, VSECU, Hello Burlington, Darn Tough Vermont, Switchback Brewing Company, The Greater Burlington YMCA, Citizen Cider, City Market, KND Brand Co., Vermont Teddy Bear, and Mascoma Bank. Media sponsorship comes from NBC 5.