Where and how to celebrate Juneteenth in Madison this year

This American holiday deserves more attention, even if there is still much anti-racist work to be done.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Earlier this month, the Dane County Board of Supervisors officially recognized June 19, Juneteenth, as a holiday, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding the holiday. Fabu Phillis Carter broke it down for us back in 2018, but the convoluted and traumatic history of slavery in America leaves a confusing trail of how to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation now in 2021. While Juneteenth marks the day that Southern slaves were hypothetically freed, June 19, 1863 didn’t mean freedom for all Black Americans.

Let’s celebrate how far we have come since the original Juneteenth with a commemoration of Black food, music, art and culture, while continuing to put in work to better conditions for Black Americans moving forward. Local racial justice organizations have been planning and prepping for in-person and virtual Juneteenth celebrations, so stop by and educate yourself this weekend.

Kujichagulia Madison
Throughout the weekend, Kujichagulia (a Madison-based center working to unite Madison-area African American communities to address collective issues) is holding a handful of events highlighting Black resilience and excellence in Madison. Thursday is the “Our Voices Matter” virtual event, which will address voting and social justice for youth, young adults and more. Friday is the “Feed Our Bellies, Feed Our Souls” programming, concluding with a community prayer and family dinner after chef demonstrations and health panels during the day. Saturday is the big, in-person celebration at Penn Park in South Madison, and will consist of a parade and festival. For more details, visit kujichaguliamcsd.org.

The Biergarten at Olbrich Park
Grab a brewski and benefit Black lives with this collaboration event between The Biergarten, Delta Beer Lab and the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development. Enjoy drinks by the water, and try out the Black is Beautiful beer with proceeds benefiting Nehemiah. This Black IPA is reminiscent of orange zest, chocolate and pine, with flavors of grapefruit and chocolate for an invigorating philanthropic drink.

Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus
On Friday at 10 a.m., Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Congresswoman Gwen Moore will be holding a presentation at the Capitol Rotunda on the idea of pursuing freedom and resiliency. Guest stars include blues group Tani Diakite and the Afrofunkstars, Jaquetia Tate, and Leotha and Tamara Stanley. Bishop Sedgwick Daniels from the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God and Christ and Pastor Keith Evans of the Greater Mt. Eagle Baptist Church will also be present to offer their insight.

Shades of Black, a Black Cultural Festival
Urban Triage and its community partners are hosting a weekend of festivities, with a kickoff festival of free food and art on Thursday at Hilldale Shopping Center. Kids will flock to Mifflin Street for a paint-balloon fight on Friday, and the main event will be at Elver Park on Saturday. Many Black-owned businesses and Black-led groups will be there selling their foodstuffs, artwork and more, all while promoting the growth of the Black economy here in Wisconsin. Sunday is Fallen Soldiers Day, which will take form as an educational vigil to, “honor our brothers, sisters, mothers, uncles and children that have been victims of police brutality and a system of neglect.”

Freedom, Inc.’s Freedom Fest
The community leaders at Freedom, Inc. are flocking to Aldo Leopold Park this Juneteenth for a day of free fun. In celebrating the ancestors that came before, Freedom, Inc. will share out their resources while orchestrating raffles, engaging activities for all ages and loads of free food to munch on.

Black Thought Wall
Stop by the interactive community art installment, the Black Thought Wall, on Friday between 4 and 6 p.m. for an event celebrating and centering Blackness in South Madison. Snowcones will be had and a dance party will commence, in addition to the altar for folks to express gratitude for their loved ones with pictures, flowers and more.

The Experience in Their Eyes, DreamBank – Madison
On Thursday night, DreamBank will be holding an online panel of Black professionals from the greater Madison area to discuss the holiday and how they themselves acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth. Yvette Craig, the publisher and editor of UMOJA Magazine, Debbie Biddle of The People Company and Percy Brown Jr., the Director of Equity and Student Achievement for the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District and Senior Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, will all be there to offer their experience and answer questions.

Forward Madison FC
This Saturday’s Forward Madison FC game is a special one, and The Flock will celebrate Juneteenth with a few different offerings. A limited edition scarf will be sold by the Black fan group, the Featherstone Flamingos, with all of the proceeds benefiting our local YWCA. Opera singer Prenicia Clifton will perform the Black national anthem before the game, youth group Black Star Drum Line will show the stadium what they’ve got, and lastly, poet Matthew Charles will perform spoken word at halftime.

Madison Jazz Festival, Donna Woodall
This Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter is bringing her soul and funk to Madison with two Saturday concerts. At 2 p.m., Donna Woodall will be at Kujichagulia’s celebration in Penn Park, and at 7 p.m., will be at the Memorial Union terrace with the Madison Jazz Festival. Folks can also watch the concerts on Facebook and Youtube, either after the event or as a livestream.

Working Draft Beer Co.
This East Wilson Street brewery will also be throwing a Juneteenth event, and will be celebrating with drinks and artwork from local artists. Madison-based creators and activists Lilada Gee, Brooklyn Doby and Mike Lroy will be showcasing their work — some pieces for sale — and Working Draft will debut its new beer, “Lift Every Voice,” which is a Single Hop Citra Hazy with African Queen hops. Artists will be present from noon to 4 p.m., so stop by for a midday sip and stay a while.

Consider donating this year to Urban Triage’s Juneteenth Fundraiser, which can be accessed online here.

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