“Juneteenth is part of all of our history. The Emancipation Proclamation and the freedom of the slaves were a significant part of all our American history. The contributions of African Americans – the Harlem Renaissance, soul music, jazz, blues, hip-hop, dance, comedy … educators, scientists, inventors. It’s important for our young people to know that we are much more than rappers,” says Annie Weatherby-Flowers. “Young people need to know that there are so many possibilities and opportunities and that they should not limit them.”
What makes Juneteenth 2017, which will be held Saturday, June 17, noon-6 p.m. at the Labor Temple, different this year than years’ past is that there will be a significant focus on the youth of Madison.
Weatherby-Flowers, along with Mona Winston, has been the visionary behind Juneteenth since it was first a conversation in Madison and has been organizing Madison’s annual Juneteenth celebration for 28 years.
“Mona is still my partner in crime via telephone. We still support each other and bounce ideas off each other,” she says of Winston, who now lives down south. “We’ve had so many people rally around us over the years who have been so supportive of our vision, so I want to keep it going and I want young people to embrace it. I’m getting older … but I still really love Juneteenth.”
The event is once again being organized by Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self Determination, a non-profit that promotes African-American cultural and educational events here in Madison that she founded in 2006 with Winston. This year’s theme is “Juneteenth 2017 … Passing on the Spirit of Freedom.” Madison’s Juneteenth Celebration is just one of more than 250 cities across the country celebrating Juneteenth, a day that recognizes the heritage and history of the African-American community.
“One of the things that we want to do is to make sure we have longevity and sustainability by getting our young people involved,” Weatherby-Flowers tells Madison365. “We will have a Rob Dz and some other young people performing. There will be a passing of the torch and a passing on the spirit of freedom. We really want our young people to be a big part of this event and to buy into this event. I remember I fell in love with Juneteenth as a young person and soon I really began to understand the meaning of it.”
The older that Weatherby-Flowers got, she says, the more of the great history she learned about Juneteenth. “Our young people need to know the history of struggle but also of the triumphs and many, many accomplishments we have achieved,” she says. “The resilience, our faith and our determination … I want young people to embrace it.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, a day when African-American slaves in Texas were told by Union forces that they were free. They were the final group of slaves to realize their freedom. Deep in the Confederacy, they were unaware of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier. A celebration of the day has been held annually in Texas ever since, which eventually spread to other states.
Here in Madison, Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1990, sometimes with very large crowds. In fact, a few years back, USA Today ranked Madison’s Juneteenth Day Celebration as one of the top Juneteenths in the nation. Weatherby-Flowers is hoping for a big Juneteenth turnout this year. The summer schedule in Madison is very packed for most people, and Weatherby-Flowers estimates that there are about 600 more non-profits now than there were years ago.
“We’ve been around for 28 years and we want to make sure we are around for many more,” she says. “We need to have young people. And young people bring parents and friends.”
This year’s Juneteenth will feature a tribute to Clyde Stubblefield and Al Jarreau and local youth performers, food vendors, community-based resources, various types of activities all in a festive family-oriented atmosphere.
“In the heritage area we are really going to focus on local African American history. Our youth area will really focus on edcuation. Women in Focus will be in the children’s area with their traditional book giveaways and a scavenger hunt. I think we’re really going to have a good time at the Labor Temple.”
The event has been traditionally held at Penn Park in the heart of Madison’s south side but because of redevelopment, they are having it at the Labor Temple this year.
The Juneteenth Implementation Team are hard at work planning this year’s celebration. The event is truly an exhibit of the community’s talents, expertise, and resources. The team is always in need of community volunteers to assist with a variety of tasks. Most importantly, they are in need monetary donations to cover the costs associated with the celebration. Donations are welcome from community members.
This year’s Juneteenth co-chairs are Corinda Rainey-Moore and Natasha Woods. Juneteenth 2017 kicks off as it does every year with a parade starting in the Fountain of Life Church parking lot over to Penn Park.
“We want to make sure that we have a good Juneteenth this year and we inspire our young people because all we hear about is disparities and the school-to-prison pipeline, so let’s start talking about what is good in Madison and what people are doing to create a better life and helping our kids reach their full potential,”