Home Local News 34th annual Madison Juneteenth Celebration will celebrate Black resilience, collective liberation and...

34th annual Madison Juneteenth Celebration will celebrate Black resilience, collective liberation and transformation

Juneteenth Madison (Photo by David Dahmer)

Once again, Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self-Determination will host Madison’s Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 17, noon-6 pm, at Penn Park. The theme this year will be “Juneteenth 2023…Black Resilience: Collective Liberation and Transformation.” 

A whole day of activities is planned at the 34th annual Madison Juneteenth Celebration as local artists will showcase resilience through their respective talents. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the rich history of Black Americans through various forms of entertainment, lectures, performances, exhibits, visual presentations, food, music, and other activities. For longtime Juneteenth Madison organizer Annie Weatherby-Flowers, who grew up attending Juneteenth in Milwaukee, the holiday is a very special event.

“I really enjoy seeing the people at Juneteenth. It reminds me of Juneteenth back in Milwaukee when I was young. You would see all these young people who would come back from college on Juneteenth. You would see everybody there. You’d interact with all of the community leaders,” Weatherby-Flowers tells Madison365. “It was a little different in Milwaukee — Milwaukee’s got generations-deep Black folks, and they don’t have the separation you see in Madison.

“Over the years, I’ve been trying to pull all of us together [here in Madison] so that one time a year, we’re in the same space at the same time … and that’s the great part.  We all have the same heritage, you know, the same shared legacy. So that’s been the focus and will continue to be the focus.”

Juneteenth, celebrated here in Madison at Penn Park, dates to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and slaves were free.
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)

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. The United States will be officially commemorating the 158th year of the Juneteenth Day Celebration this summer.

In 1990, a group of Madison’s Black community leaders collaborated with the Madison Inner City Council on Substance Abuse to implement the first Juneteenth Celebration. For so many years, Weatherby-Flowers and Mona Winston were a dynamic duo, organizing the elaborate Madison’s Juneteenth to great acclaim.

Weatherby-Flowers has been organizing Juneteenth decades before it became a federal holiday in 2021. Her Juneteenth celebrations have always been very educational focusing on honoring history and teaching the importance of socio-economic empowerment. 

“Our mission is to empower African Americans in Madison to be a more effective part of our community so we’ve always promoted and showcased the talents in our community,” Weatherby-Flowers says. I’m glad to see that they are raising the Juneteenth Flag across the state and that we were able to push the right folks to get that done. [Wisconsin State Rep.] Shelia Stubbs helped me get it at the County and when she went to the state, she helped me get it done at the state [level]. Now everybody’s raising the flag —  the city, county, and public safety building will raise the flag this June.

“Mona and I were at the table with [Wisconsin State Sen.] Spencer Coggs to get Juneteenth declared as a state holiday [in 2009] and we’re proud of the National Juneteenth Foundation that helped it become a federal holiday. We have come a long way.”

Madison’s annual Juneteenth Celebration at Penn Park will have a variety of activities for the whole community to enjoy dedicated to the celebration of the lived experiences and accomplishments of Black Americans. This year’s Juneteenth Celebration will get kicked off as it does every year — with the 22nd annual Juneteenth Parade.

Young women celebrate Madison’s Juneteenth at Penn Park. (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

“The Juneteenth Parade will start at Fountain of Life [Church] and head down Park Street before getting to Penn Park,” Weatherby-Flowers says. “At the event, we’re going to have multiple stages and tents like we always do – the heritage, the youth, the teen, the science fair, the main stage, the church. The old school [people] wanted a shelter. So it’s going to be,  educational and similar to what it has always been. I’m really excited about this Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth 2023 will be hosted by Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self- Determination Inc. in collaboration with many community partners including All of Us –Research Project, UW WID/WARF, Urban League of Greater Madison, United Way, Madison Black Greek Organizations, African American Council of Churches, Madison Public Library, 100 Black Men of Madison, Women in Focus, the City of Madison Community Policing, Meriter Hospital Community Engagement Department, First Unitarian Society, Musicmakesadifference, Madison Jazz and Blues Fests, the Madison African, African Women and Caribbean Associations and Madison College.

“Juneteenth Madison is an event that our kids can look forward to and is something to represent who they are and the potential that they could be,” Weatherby-Flowers says. “It’s letting them know that they’re more than pop culture, what they say about us. I want the young people to know that we’re ancient people. We just didn’t start at slavery … we are ancient with a long and important history.”


For more information or to volunteer at Juneteenth 2023, e-mail Irene Katana at kujijuneteenth@gmail.com or visit the Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self-Determination website.