For Marline Martin, Juneteenth is about the quest for freedom and the resilience and determination of Black people as they commemorated the end of slavery more than 100 years ago. But the holiday also serves as a reminder to educate people on the history of the holiday.
“It’s one of our oldest holidays, but a lot of people don’t really know about it,” said Martin, who is the director of learning and engagement at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “And people don’t understand, to find out that you’ve been free for two and a half years, what jubilation that meant. And so, we need to honor that and to preserve the history of our ancestors.”
Martin will celebrate the holiday at the Wright Museum, which is hosting its Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration Monday. The festival is one of several events happening in Detroit this weekend, including a shopping stroll, a 5K run, parade and a festival at Eastern Market.
The events are a collaboration between several Detroit organizations and institutions: the City of Detroit, Detroit Public Schools Community District, NAACP Detroit, the Charles H.Wright Museum, Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, Black Leaders Detroit, Detroit Means Business and Eastern Market
This year marks the 158th anniversary of Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Proclamation Emancipation into law. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to inform remaining slaves that they were free.
The news prompted celebrations to break out and in the following year, Black residents in Texas began hosting a “Jubilee Day.” Texas became the first state in the country to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. In 2021, President Biden established Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Highlighting Black businesses on the Avenue of Fashion
The third annual Juneteenth Jubilee Stroll will take place Saturday from 12-6 p.m. on the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois between Six and Seven Mile roads. More than 20 businesses on the strip will be participating in the event, such as Fel’le Gallery, The Energy Zone, Simply Casual Clothing Store and Good Cakes and Bakes. The event will include discounts, giveaways, food trucks and a fashion show at Teasers Boutique.
“There’s a plethora of businesses on the Avenue of Fashion and it’s the highest concentrated area of Black-led businesses in the city,” said Sharea Ayers, the director of membership and events for Black Leaders Detroit, an organization that financially supports Black entrepreneurs in the city, “It’s important to shop Black and to celebrate economic liberation by activating Livernois.”
Ayers said it was important for Black Leaders Detroit to host the event because economic empowerment is a part of the liberation Juneteenth celebrates.
“It just goes together and it’s building up a community and celebrating freedom because we went from being the source of economics to now building our own economic ecosystem.”
Showing off Black excellence
On Sunday, people can check out the Juneteenth Freedom Fest at shed 5 in Eastern Market from 12-6 p.m. The free event will feature food, activities and live entertainment, said Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance COO Kai Bowman.
Representatives from the Pistons, Lions and DCFC, will be hosting kid’s activities such as basketball, face painting and video game trucks. The Tigers mascot Paws will also be there handing out tickets to a game, Bowman said.
When it comes to music, the event will open with a performance of the national anthem by Detroit singer Isis Damil. Other performers include R&B singer Charity and five DJs celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
“We got Gary Chandler starting off,” Bowman said. “We’ve got Waxtax-N-Dre, Don Q, DJ Mo Beatz, who is Big Sean’s DJ and we also have DJ BJ 2535 who will be there. They’ll be taking the crowd through the eras, so we’ll have about a 20-minute set and they’ll close out the last two hours of the event.”
Guests can purchase food from vendors such as Cooking with Que, Authentic Jamaican Food Truck & Catering and Views Bar & Grill.
In honor of Father’s Day, Freedom Fest will host a Dad Cook-Off, where fathers can show off who has the best ribs to judges Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison, Chef Max Hardy and former Piston Earl Cureton. In addition, five fathers will be honored by former Lion Jimmy Williams.
Bowman said the festival is a celebration of Black excellence.
“This is an opportunity for us to really celebrate our culture,” he said. “Spending Black dollars with Black businesses is critical. We want to make sure we’re buying Black everything, especially on Juneteenth. We just want people to come out and enjoy themselves.”
A Juneteenth Jubilee
On the actual holiday, the Wright museum will be open for its free jubilee celebration from 12- 6 p.m. Music and entertainment will include DJ Righteous, MC J Bell, cellist and vocalist King Sophia, storytelling and music by Mama Jahra, diasporic drum, dance and folklore from Ngoma Za Amen-Ra and the Alnur African Dance Company and Hustle for History with Thomasenia Johnson.
Spice Rack Catering, Junk Food and Friends and La’s Lemonade will be some of the food vendors there.
“This year, we’ll have some engagement with the League of Women Voters, Detroit Hive and Detroit Equestrian Play Theatre,” Martin said. “We’ll have pony rides on Warren Circle and we’ll also have the museum open all day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.”
Martin said Juneteenth and its legacy should be something everyone learns about.
“It’s up to us to know more about the holiday and to figure out a way that we could bring that kind of jubilation into our lives,” she said. “I want people to find the importance of it for themselves in their own life. No one should necessarily have to tell you how to celebrate it, but it should have enough meaning for you to recognize that this is an opportunity for us to emancipate ourselves.”