“I love black people and I love our history,” says Annie Weatherby-Flowers. “I’ve seen all of the statistics and conversations and they are always about disparities and those kinds of things, but nobody really ever talks about all of the wonderful things that we do and the resilience of our community. That’s why it’s so important that we celebrate Juneteenth.”
Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self Determination, a non-profit that promotes African-American cultural and educational events that Weatherby-Flowers founded in 2006 with Mona Winston, is inviting all communities to join the commemoration of the 30th Annual Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 15, at Penn Park. This is also the 30th year that Weatherby-Flowers has been organizing the event.
“I’ve been involved from the very beginning … since it was just a conversation,” she tells Madison365. Juneteenth has been celebrated in Madison since 1990. On Dec. 1, 2009, Juneteenth was declared a Wisconsin State Holiday.
This year’s theme will be “Juneteenth 2019 “Embracing Our Legacy of Resilience.” 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 festivities will kick-off on Saturday, June 15, with the 18th Annual Juneteenth Parade beginning at 10:45 a.m. at Fountain of Life Church. That will be followed by the outdoor celebration in Penn Park beginning at noon, featuring an array of artistic and cultural presentations, displays and activities.
“For this Juneteenth, we’ve brought in a national celebrity headliner – David Banner,” Weatherby-Flowers says. “We will be having a conversation with him that will be geared toward young men 15-21. He is an activist and he has this whole revelation called #GodBox and he goes around the country and talks to young people about black resilience, self-determination, and self-responsibility – which is kind of our thing at Kujichagulia.”
The collaborating partners for this year’s Juneteenth include All of Us-Research Project, Urban League of Greater Madison, United Way of Dane County, Madison Black Greek Organizations, Goodman Community Center, African American Council of Churches, Madison Public Library, 100 Black Men of Madison, Women in Focus, Justified Anger, the City of Madison and Madison College.
Beyond Saturday’s event, Juneteenth will be a week-long celebration of events that will promote political responsibility, educational advancement, economic sufficiency, good health, social responsibility and collective well-being within the Madison black community.
“On Sunday, We’ve coordinated with the African-American Council of Churches to talk about resilience,” Weatherby-Flowers says. “On Monday, Justified Anger will host a conversation around resilience and reconstruction. Looking at the transformation from slavery to reconstruction and how we survived and the northern mobility, folks leaving plantations, the importance of church, the importance of community, the importance of family.”
On Tuesday, the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals Black Table Dinner will be a night of networking and refreshments.
“Wednesday is the actual Juneteenth Day and we will have the actual noon ceremony with Rep. [Shelia] Stubbs and some of the Legislative Black Caucus members will present an award to [the late] Dr. [Reverend Ronald V. “Doc”] Myers, the president of the national Juneteenth Committee who pushed to get Juneteenth as a national holiday,” Weatherby-Flowers says.
At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Kujichagulia will host their first annual Juneteenth Afropolitan Gala at the Concourse. “It’s the first fundraiser that we’ve ever done,” Weatherby-Flowers says of the event where Secretary Dawn Crim, Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, and State Representative Shelia Stubbs will both be keynotes.
On Friday, June 21, Kujichagulia will partner with Madison College for the Hopes & Dreams Talent Show at Wright Middle School.
“And on Saturday, June 22, Kujichagulia will be collaborating with Goodman Community Center for their 2nd annual Juneteenth Day Brunch,” she says. “From 2-5 p.m. on that day there will be a health research fair at Fountain of Life.”
The Black Resilience and Health Research event will feature keynote speaker Dr. Karriem Watson who will discuss the All of Us program and the critical need to address health disparities in health research.
Weatherby-Flowers founded Kujichagulia, which is the Swahili word for self-determination, for the purpose of organizing the annual celebration. Kujichagulia addresses the issues that impact, promote the accomplishments of and advocates for African Americans in Dane County.
“This is my 30th and hopefully my last one as a planner,” she laughs. ““I think I’m the village orator, in many ways. And it’s important to keep our story alive. But it’s time to pass it on to the next generation. It’s a whole lot of work – planning, organizing, fundraising, coordinating the details. I need some young people to step up.
“It’s an exciting day and an exciting week. It’s an amazing time full for friends – some that you haven’t seen for a while,” she adds. “It’s a partnership with so many folks. It’s important that we continue to keep Juneteenth moving forward.”
For additional information about Juneteenth, click here.