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by Ann Clanton, “Stand-Up” feature writer
Flag Raising and recording artist Raiche headlined return of JuneteenthRI
Summer is heating up and with it, many of us are heading to the local park or a neighbor’s backyard to fire up the grill, and spend time with friends and family. Another hallmark of summer’s arrival for many is Juneteenth. Celebrated annually on June 19th, it is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Jubilee Day. The date commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the last remaining enslaved people in the United States learned that they were free.
On June 17th, President Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday
To kick off the week’s Juneteenth R.I. celebration, a flag raising ceremony was held at Providence City Hall on Monday. “We want to unite the City of Providence and (Rhode Island’s) African Diaspora“ says Juneteenth RI Board President and organizer Helen Baskerville-Dukes, aided by a committee comprised of many of her longtime friends Pamela Hughes, Michelle Lacey. Lisa Scorpio, Heather Strother. Keioffa Hie, Jill Van Leesten and Angel Cooper.
The State of Rhode Island joins communities nationwide in celebrating this holiday with an official Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19, 12-8p.m. at the Temple of Music in Roger Williams Park.
Atlantic Records recording artist RAICHE headlines the day of entertainment, which includes a DJ, vendors and more, from noon to 8pm. Later in the evening the recording artist is guest of honor at a “Meet and Greet” at the Studio Lounge Club in Providence – all to celebrate African American liberation and accomplishments.
Rhode Island’s senior United States Senator Jack Reed, State Senator Tiara Mack, and Providence Ward 11 City Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris are among the elected officials invited to address what organizers expect to be a large crowd.
This year marks a return of the celebration from 2019. First held in 2017, the state’s official Juneteenth celebration was first held in 2017. “This is an American holiday, a way to celebrate the struggles of African-Americans” says Helen Baskeville-Dukes.
Activist Opal Lee is at the center of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. Known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” “We’ve got all of these disparities that we’ve got to address and I mean all of them. While we’ve got some momentum I hope we can get some of it done. We can have one America if we try,” she told KTVT.
One week after nine-year-old Lee moved with her family to an all-White neighborhood, a mob surrounded their home and threatened their lives. “My dad came with a gun and the police told him if he busted a cap, they would let the mob have us,” she recalls.
She told CNN: Lee’s parents sent her to friends several blocks away “under the cover of darkness” she tells CNN. “They burned furniture. They set the house on fire. It was terrible. It really was.” Lee says outside newspapers in Texas reported the crime — but local papers from the community where the violence took place ignored it. The date of the attack was Juneteenth.Lee says her parents never spoke of the incident again. “They buckled down, they worked hard. They bought another home, but we never discussed it,” she explains.
For Lee, Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. In honor of the day, the Texas native hosted annual 2.5-mile walks to commemorate the seldom told history of some 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, who did not learn of their freedom until two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. “I am adamant that the schools teach the truth,” she exclaims. “We have to heal. You’ve got to know what happened and you’ve got to heal from that.”As a former educator whose job involved social work, Lee now strives to ensure future generations know about Juneteenth. She authored a children’s book entitled, “Juneteenth: A Children’s Story” which is available for purchase on Amazon.
Select Juneteenth events
Westerly ARC’s first Annual Juneteenth celebration – Saturday, June 20th from 10am-1pm on the post office steps. There will be guest speakers, music, stories and crafts for the kids, dances and refreshments.
Kin Southern Table and Bar on Washington Street, in downtown Providence will put on a Juneteenth Block Party
Millrace Kitchen, in Woonsocket, is hosting a Juneteenth Vaccine Clinic from 1 to 5 p.m. Walk-in appointments are available to anyone age 12 and older.
Bristol: Rhode Island Slave History Medallion Installation; Saturday, June 19, 12 to 2 p.m., Linden Place Mansion – They will unveil their Rhode Island Slave Medallion on June 19 at 12pm in a ceremony with local speakers, African dancers, a land acknowledgement, and live music.
Providence: Juneteenth RI 2021; Saturday, June 19, 12 to 8 p.m., Roger Williams Park
Providence: Juneteenth Celebration; Saturday, June 19, 12 to 3 p.m., Direct Action for Rights and Equality at 340 Lockwood St.
Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) will host a Juneteenth Celebration, 1-3pm with food, performances, poetry, supervised activities for children, and more in the parking lot behind their building in Providence.
Mixed Magic Theatre, in Pawtucket, celebrates Juneteenth on Saturday for an in-person, limited seating pay-what-you-can event at 3pm.
Newport Island: Niko Merritt of Sankofa Community Connection paid a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center‘s AfterSchool program to teach students about Juneteenth and lead an ornament-making workshop. Students learned about the history and importance of Juneteenth. In advance of this holiday, Ms. Niko had each student decorate an ornament, which will be displayed on Newport’s Liberty Tree during the upcoming Day of Renewal and Juneteenth festivities. Sankofa and the Newport Art Museum invite the community to join in observing the Day of Renewal and Juneteenth holiday celebration, on Saturday, June 19th from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm. The event will begin with a flag ceremony at Newport City Hall, followed by a procession to The Great Friends Meeting House, then to The Liberty Tree, with storytelling by the RI Black Storytellers, music, displays of artwork by community members, and a dedication to the Liberty Tree/Day of Renewal event written by Dr. Edward E. Andrews, Associate Professor of History and Classics at Rhode Island College.
The DeWolf Tavern will honor the lives and legacies of the enslaved on June 21 with a screening of the documentary “Traces of the Trade,” in partnership with the Rhode Island Slave History Medallions project.
All Black Lives Matter Street Mural, June 20, ribbon cutting and celebration kicking off at 4pm organized by PVDFest.
For more information on Juneteenth events: https://juneteenthri.com/
Ann-Allison Clanton was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. As principle of Ann Clanton Communications, Ann has more than two decades of experience as a communications and public affairs consultant. She has written features and profiles articles for the Providence American Newspaper and Ethnic Online Magazine.
Among the notable persons interviewed include former U. S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Cornell West, former Florida Congressman Allen West (R-FL) and Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus first African American Ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson.
Ann is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival and a founding member of the Southern New England Association of Black Journalists.