Juneteenth in Madison (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

Thirty-two years ago when Annie Weatherby-Flowers organized the inaugural Juneteenth event in Penn Park there was a budget of just $1,000, some barbeque, and a single stage, with dozens of people.

Today, the event involves thousands of people for a week-long celebration of Black resiliency and was named one of the top 10 best Juneteenth celebrations in the country by USA Today, Weatherby-Flowers told Madison365. 

And the 2021 hybrid Juneteenth celebration will have the same tenacity and celebratory nature as it always has, she said.

The event is about the Black community, history and all the accomplishments and contributions Black people have made to the world, Weatherby-Flowers said. 

“We have the opportunity to build on Black resiliency which is the buoyancy, the ability to connect, the ability to overcome hardships, to bounce back. And you can see that throughout history,” she said. 

The week-long celebration with the theme “Black Resilience…Rising From the Ashes” will start with virtual presentations on Wednesday, June 16 that focus on self-empowerment and will close with the in-person annual parade and celebration of the Black experience on Saturday, June 19 at Penn Park.

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)

Other events throughout the week include a virtual pre-college fair, open mic night, a community health panel presentation, community prayer and dinner, live performances and presentations on voting and social justice and a vaccine clinic. 

And although Weatherby-Flowers and her team started planning this event in February, when future COVID-19 restrictions were uncertain, Weatherby said her experience helped her through the task.

“I’ve been doing it for so long it’s kinda in my head like a recipe,” she said. 

This year, like always, there is a focus on youth and family. On Wednesday, June 16, the virtual pre-college fair will take place from noon to 4 p.m. and a youth motivational speaker presentation will take place from 6-7 p.m.

“That’s something I want our young people to know that despite racism, oppression and social injustices, we still rise and we can still collectively grow,” Weatherby-Flowers said. 

There will be information about physical health, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and opportunities to listen to songs, stories and historical accomplishments about the Black community. 

She said another important aspect of the event will be virtual health panels from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, June 18. Kujichagulia-Madison Center for Self Determination is partnering with the UW Carbone Cancer Center to host the virtual health panel programming.

“Health disparities are the number one issues in our community, and racism and bias is at the root of that. In terms of access to health, in terms of affordability but in terms of access to having skilled practitioners who can really relate and see people in their humanity to give them the best care,” she said. 

The finale of the event is the community celebration which will start with a parade at 11 a.m. in Penn Park there will be dozens of information, and activity tents for participants including a vaccine tent. 

“The fact that in our community there are more people that are not vaccinated than there should be,” Weatherby-Flowers said. “In order to actually stand on our position that we want our community to be a more effective total part of the community. we are going to do some of those COVID protocols. 

“We want to promote health, safety and wellness but also look at collective good,” she added. 

Weatherby said participants should still expect to wear masks and practice social distancing. 


Juneteenth Schedule

Wednesday, June 16

Rise Up to Reach Back: Virtual Event for Youth 

Precollege/college fair, Noon to 4 p.m.

Look to the Future, 4:30 to 6 p.m. 

Youth Motivational Speaker Presentation, 6-7 p.m. 

Thursday, June 17

Our Voices Matter Virtual Event

Voting, Social Injustice and the Power of Black Voices, 6-7:30 p.m.

Friday, June 18

Our Voices Matter virtual event

Spoken Word and Open Mic, 7:30-9 p.m.

Feed Our Bellies, Feed our Souls

Legacy and Social Determinants of Health, Transitioning into a new world, noon to 2 p.m.

Welcome to Juneteenth, Community Prayer and Convocation, 5-6 p.m.

Our Family Dinner, 6-8 p.m.

Virtual Health Panels Program

Kujichagulia-Madison Center for Self Determination partners with UW Carbone Cancer Center, Noon to 2 p.m. 

Kitchen Chemist Virtual event


Saturday, June 19

Community Celebration in-person 

Parade set up, 10-11 a.m.

Parade 11 a.m. to noon

Celebration in the park, noon to 4 p.m.