CMU to celebrate Juneteenth over three days

Events draw from past successes to build for the future

| Author: Eric Baerren | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

Juneteenth at Central Michigan University this year will look back to what’s worked at past celebrations while moving the holiday forward into a more deliberate future. 

This year’s highlight is a community gathering at Mount Pleasant’s Island Park from 4 to 8 p.m. on June 19. It culminates three days of events recognizing the 1865 date when Union soldiers told the people of Galveston, Texas, that slavery was abolished.

Organizers decided to hold this year’s day-of Juneteenth gathering in Mount Pleasant for two reasons, said Danny McQuarters Jr., the assistant director of Diversity Education in CMU’s Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The first was to create a bigger sense of community between CMU’s campus and the city, he said. The second was to give people who live in the city a way to join in a Juneteenth celebration in their backyard.

With a focus on speakers and community building, it has a lot of similarities to the Juneteenth celebration on Warriner Mall two years ago, he said. There will also be food trucks, informational tables and children’s activities.

A nod to last year’s documentary and panel discussion will take place the day before.

Organizers will show a one-hour documentary about the historic economic inequalities Black people have faced since the first Juneteenth at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18 in the Health Professions Building’s auditorium.

Following the film, attendees will move into the atrium for lunch and breakout conversations facilitated by members of the organizing committee, McQuarters said. The menu is in collaboration with a chef specializing in Caribbean food.

The film is long enough to touch on a good portion of the history, but there is also a lot more to learn, he said. Attendees will also receive resources and encouragement to do their own dive into the topic.

The event will last until 1 p.m.

A virtual keynote address will kick off the Juneteenth festivities on Monday, June 17.

Two Illinois artists – Stacey Robinson and Kamau Grantham, both faculty and staff at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – will discuss the value of culture from 6 to 8 p.m.

“How to get more culture embedded in communities,” McQuarters said. “Why culture is important.”

The virtual event was developed because much of the campus community leaves the Mount Pleasant area for summer, he said. One goal of this year’s Juneteenth is to foster a greater sense of community.

This year will also mark the start of embedding Juneteenth celebrations in the Mount Pleasant community at large.

Since it was first recognized as a federal holiday, Juneteenth celebrations have centered on raising awareness and understanding.

There is some of that this year, but also the start of an evolution into future Juneteenths. Looking at economic challenges that have persisted for Black people is an intentional way of using the holiday to shine a light on the work that remains, McQuarters said.

Future Juneteenth events will be themed and highlight areas where improvement is necessary.
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