As people gather this month for programs and other events celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, they are celebrating more than Black resilience.
By invoking conversation, they’re also helping to bridge the gap between Black communities and other communities in Kansas City, said Makeda Peterson, the program director for JuneteenthKC, a nonprofit that oversees some of the biggest local Juneteenth celebrations and activities.
The organization’s Juneteenth events include a parade June 3 and a festival on June 17 that Peterson projects will draw 15,000 people.
She is carrying on the legacy of her father, Horace M. Peterson III, the historian and founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, who started an annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1980.
There are parallel stories of oppression in America, “and the African American pursuit of freedom is just one story,” she said. “If there are ways for others to experience Juneteenth and make the connection, it can be a unifying point of coming together.”
Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States, specifically the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell enslaved people they were free. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed enslaved people in Confederate states.
Juneteenth became a federal holiday two years ago after Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law.
In Kansas City, celebrating Juneteenth and the resilience Black people have shown throughout centuries of oppression has been a long-standing tradition within Black communities. And while Kansas Citians can support the Black community year-round by shopping with local Black-owned businesses, for some the holiday is a timely reason to show extra support.
“Juneteenth has always been needed in telling our story and preserving the history and culture because at one time the history was not as accessible and embraced as it is now,” Peterson said. The following is a list of Juneteenth events happening in the Kansas City metro area.
Juneteenth events in Kansas City
Kansas City First Fridays: On the first Friday of every month in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, a variety of food and art vendors, galleries and other businesses welcome visitors. Under its Strengthen the Vine campaign, JuneteenthKC began an extension of the celebration in the historic Jazz District at 18th and Vine. The event starts at 4 p.m.
Growing up Hip-Hop in Kansas City: This JuneteenthKC event features Shawn Edwards, the first Black editor at The Pitch, a local news outlet, and a former writer for well-known hip-hop magazines, and Don Juan, a music producer and beatmaker. The two will present an oral history of 50 years of hip-hop and its cultural impact on Kansas City. The event starts at 7 p.m. at 2000 Vine St.
Sixth Annual JuneteenthKC Heritage Cultural Parade: Starting at noon, more than 100 parade entrants will march through the Jazz District at 18th and Vine. JuneteenthKC expects at least 5,000 people to attend.
JuneteenthKC Film Festival: “Miss Juneteenth” will be screened at the Screenland Armour at 6:45 p.m. as part of a monthlong event that features a mix of new and classic Black films.
Clay County Juneteenth: Learn about Black history in Clay County and enjoy barbecue and blues music at theLiberty African American Legacy Memorial. The event starts at 8 a.m. on June 9 and ends June 10 at 8 p.m.
Juneteenth at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center: Guests can enjoy art, music, food, free museum admission and more from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center in Overland Park.
Juneteenth Celebration at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: There will be music, storytelling, dance performances and other art activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Juneteenth Twilight Parade and Festival: The Leavenworth branch of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, is hosting the events, which start at dusk at Leavenworth’s Haymarket Square and feature live music, food vendors, games and more. The exact start time will be posted closer to the event.
2023 Heritage Festival: JuneteenthKC’s 12th annual Juneteenth festival will take place in the Jazz District at 18th and Vine from noon to 10 p.m. There will be live entertainment from local artists, including a gospel jubilee, as well as food, vendors and child-friendly activities.
One Night Only Festival: This inaugural music festival hosted by The Kansas City Defender, a local Black news publication, will showcase performances by local musical talent such as BlackStarKids, Eelmatic and Jass. The event will take place at The Truman from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. A portion of the proceeds will be used to purchase books for Black people who are incarcerated and to support organizations that advocate against racism in the prison system.
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