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Juneteenth Celebrations Across Appalachia

By Blog

By Sophie Muller

Sophie Muller is the Communications Intern at Reimagine Appalachia. She is a junior at Boston University studying Environmental Analysis and Policy and minoring in Sustainable Energy and Business. 

Juneteenth, (short for June Nineteenth) is a federal holiday that celebrates the day when African Americans were legally proclaimed to be free from slavery. This commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation celebrates the freedom that African Americans were finally given, and is a day that cherishes and remembers African American culture. 
We’re also celebrating the one-year anniversary of the BLAC (Black Appalachian Coalition), who work to show how essential Black voices are in Appalachia. African Americans have shaped many parts of Appalachia’s culture, and it’s important to recognize, remember, and include their part in Appalachian history. Check out this webinar summary to learn more about BLAC.

A Juneteenth band. Photograph by Grace Murray Stephenson of celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebration begins on Friday, June 17th and stretches through the weekend. This festival will take place in Market Square and Point State Park, and is free for all! There are many events during the weekend, including live music, educational lectures, minority-owned vendors and businesses, and more. There are many bands, singers, and musicians lined up to perform, including Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth Gospel Choir, the funk-soul band War, Arrested Development, and more. And for the first time for Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebration, local, minority-owned small businesses and artisans are welcomed along Liberty and Penn Avenues. On Saturday, June 18th starting at 10am, the Grand Jubilee Juneteenth Parade will take place in Downtown Pittsburgh and travel through the city. 

But although the Juneteenth celebration takes place June 17th, 18th, and 19th, there are some awesome events happening before and after the weekend. The week before, the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy is hosting four Juneteenth events in Frick Park. The August Wilson African American Culture Center is hosting educational lectures about Black culture on June 12th, 14th and 15th, and the Heinz History Center is extending its ‘From Slavery to Freedom” exhibition. The ‘From Slavery to Freedom’ is also hosting a garden tour throughout the park, and two local artists, Sierra Sellars and Chandra Rhyme, are featured in a Juneteenth concert. 

The launch of the Black Appalachian Coalition, June 19th, 2021

And, a few weeks after Juneteenth weekend, Black culture and music is celebrated and appreciated again at Pittsburgh’s 2022 Pittsburgh Black Music Festival that takes place from July 14-17. This festival lasts four days and includes many different types and styles of music such as live jazz, RnB, blues and soul performances, among others. 

West Virginia

West Virginia is hosting its fourth Juneteenth celebration in Charleston, WV, on Saturday, June 18th, from 5PM to 9PM. This will be their first in-person Juneteenth celebration since the pandemic, and it’s hosted and supported by the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs. This free, family-friendly event is partnering with FestivALL Charleston and the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission to bring games, crafts, vendors, and food to the North Plaza of the State Capitol complex.

Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future, and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.

– Angela Davis

Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky, is hosting a week of fun and celebration leading up to Juneteenth and a weekend of history and commemoration for the Juneteenth Weekend. This is their second year celebrating Juneteenth, and they have a lot of great activities queued up! The first activity is the Miss Juneteenth pageant, which begins at 1pm on June 16th and runs until 5pm. It’s a free event that is hosted by Simmons College, and 30 contestants are competing for Miss Juneteenth! This event will also include live music. 

On June 18th, from 10am to 3pm, Louisville will hold their Juneteenth Youth Jamboree, which is a family-friendly event where youths win prizes by correctly answering facts and questions about Juneteenth.

On June 19th, from 1pm to 2pm, there will be a drumming circle, libation ceremony and more to commemorate the enslaved peoples of the past. This ceremony, ‘On the Banks of Freedom’, is hosted by a group called the (Un)Known Project, and will also feature artwork of footprints along the bank of the river to show the path of enslaved people walking along the Ohio river towards possible freedom. This art event was created by Hannah Drake, who is a spoken-word poet, visual artist, author and an activist in Louisville. Hannah’s story and inspiration behind this art was explained in an article in the New York Times (click this link to check it out). 

Finally, Louisville is hosting its official Juneteenth event, which is June 20th from 3pm to 6pm. This event will include local vendors, food, and local musical performances.

Ohio

The Juneteenth celebration in Ohio takes place in Columbus on June 18th and June 19th. Ohio’s Juneteenth celebration is their 25th annual celebration, and has evolved into the 3rd largest celebration in the country. The celebration kicks off with local musicians and includes Columbus’s concert series, a Juneteenth talent show, puppet shows, and more. The food is local and honors African American culture, and centered in their ‘Soul Food Pavilion’. The celebration each night ends in a laser light show and a classic car show. Some other fun activities over the weekend include a cultural paradise marketplace, wellness pavilion, and a gospel concert.

Black Storytelling and Policymaking in Appalachia

Working from the ground up

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We’ve gathered visions from around the region and received input from scores of community leaders. Our endorsements come from organizations representing the voices of millions of residents across four states in the Ohio River Valley: Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

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Expand opportunity through public investments

Create new opportunities for extractive industry workers and build career ladders for young people from all races and backgrounds.

CREATE GOOD JOBS

Publicly funded projects should come with strong wages, benefit and diversity requirements, and union rights.

GIVE COAL WORKERS PRIORITY

People moving out of extractive industries have skills we need to create the world we want.

BUILD CAREER LADDERS

Build pathways for women and people of color into union jobs and family-sustaining careers.

We can create good jobs while putting our region’s energy dollars to better use.

Build a 21st century sustainable economy

National climate change legislation and federal economic stimulus packages are opportunities to bring much-needed resources into our region. We must be at the table, together, if we want to get a deal that works for us.

REPAIR DAMAGE DONE IN THE LAST CENTURY

Clean up abandoned properties and put them back to good use. And provide health care and secure pensions for coal workers, especially those with black lung disease.

MODERNIZE THE
ELECTRIC GRID

By upgrading our antiquated electric system, expanding broadband, and making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, we cut emissions, save money and create new jobs.

EXPAND MANUFACTURING BY MAKING IT MORE EFFICIENT AND CLEAN

Our vision grows manufacturing in the region. Federal investments will help us repurpose shuttered coal plants, turning them into eco-industrial parks. Together, we can spur more energy efficient manufacturing and reduce operating costs in a way that doesn’t involve lowering wages.

BUILD A SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

By laying rail and expanding infrastructure for electric vehicles fueled by renewables, we can create good jobs while putting half of our region’s energy dollars to better use.

RELAUNCH THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS

To absorb carbon, we can put people to work expanding our forests, wetlands, and sustainable farms. Give hiring priority to returning citizens caught up in the “war on drugs” and opioid epidemic.

Everyone is more successful when people are paid a living wage.

Grow unions, raise wages for all workers

We must improve job quality for working people in all industries by raising the minimum wage and providing them with real rights to form a union.

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