Bradley Beal, center, and the Wizards and Mystics organizations march in D.C. on Juneteenth 2020 Credit: Kelyn Soong

There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.

Juneteenth—also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day—has been a tradition in the United States for well over a century. The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, although slavery still persisted in some areas including Delaware long after the date Juneteenth celebrates. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans of Galveston, Texas, were finally told that they were free as Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and half years before by President Abraham Lincoln

According to Juneteenth.com, there was little interest in celebrating the holiday outside of the Black community in the early years. The civil rights movement revived it some. Nowadays, the celebrations are plentiful. This year—in the midst of a nationwide reckoning over anti-Black racism—Juneteenth has become a federal holiday

In response to the news that Congress made Juneteenth a federal holiday, many were quick to point out that Black people do not need “performative gestures” but policy that will move the community forward. For example, Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George tweeted “Stop giving us things we didn’t ask for and ignoring the things that MATTER.” She advocated for D.C. statehood, the Green New Deal, the For the People Act, and more.

The residents of D.C. have been celebrating Juneteenth all week, and many workers across the city got the day off on Friday. One of the biggest events happening this Saturday, June 19, is the Million Moe March, which starts at Black Lives Matter Plaza. Hosted by Yaddiya (who readers may recognize from City Paper’s People Issue), people will be marching from downtown to the U Street Corridor. You can bet the Moechella truck will be blasting go-go as people march along the streets in celebration and protest. 

Here is an incomplete list of what else is happening across the D.C. on Saturday: 

Art

“What is Black Art?” (In-person)

BlkArthouse is hosting an exhibit titled “What is Black Art?” at Eaton DC. “This exhibition aims to start a broader dialogue about what entails ‘Black art,’ what perspectives we project onto art by Black artists, and how Black artists identify themselves and their artwork,” the group writes. 

Performances

Art is + Empowerment Presents: Juneteenth Open Mic (In-person)

At Malcolm X Park, Art is + Empowerment is hosting an afternoon open mic. A few local artists and vendors—like Michael Legend and StoneLady Creations—will be there as well. 

Lift Every Voice: Part Three (In-person)

At Strathmore’s Patio Stage in North Bethesda, this concert serves to celebrate the music of past Black composers, from George Walker to Florence Price. The concert will also feature Jessie Montgomery, a New York native violinist, composer, and music educator. 

Step Afrika! (Online)

Step Afrika!—a professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping—is returning to virtual theater to commemorate Juneteenth. The group will be performing three unique works: Trane, Little Rock Nine, and The Movement.

Protest

Freedom Rides for Voting Rights Bus Tour (In-person)

Black Voters Matter is hosting a “Freedom Rides for Voting Rights Bus Tour” at Lincoln Memorial, where the group hopes to engage Black voters and build voting power across the South.  

Imagine Liberation: Juneteenth Noise Demo (In-person)

No New Jails Coalition—a coalition of organizations and individuals who are opposed to any new jail construction for folks living in D.C.—is meeting at the Stadium-Armory Metro Station at 7:30 pm. They plan to host a “noise demo” in an effort to “show love to our loved ones and community comrades behind bars and continue to demand that the city #FreeThemAll and #DecarcerateDC.” 

Supporting Black Businesses

Black Business Expo (In-person)

The Extraordinary Investment Group will host a Black Business Expo at the People’s Community Baptist Church in Silver Spring. Over 30 Black-owned businesses will be on site.

Buy Black Expo (In-person)

The National Black United Front is looking to advance Black business owners. “Are you looking to expand your network and increase sales? Do you want to support a community organization that is doing the work to improve our community? Then this is the experience for you as a vendor,” the group says. The group is hosting a meet up at 500 Malcolm X Ave SE. 

Miscellaneous Celebrations

Block Party (In-person)

Black Swan Academy advocates for police-free schools and has gotten the Council to more seriously consider this issue. The group is hosting a block party featuring food, games, and political education at Fort Dupont Park.  

Bike Ride (In-person)

Streets Calling Bike Club and Broccoli City are hosting a morning bike ride. Folks are meeting up at Sandlot Southeast. No bike? Visit Bike and Roll and use the promo code “SCBC20” to get a bike for the low, the group says

Imagining a Revitalized Pennsylvania Avenue East (In-person)

Pennsylvania Avenue East Main Street is celebrating with a block party that aims to revitalize the area. The Shops at Penn Branch is hosting family activities, where kids can write their vision for the neighborhood on the streets using chalk. There will be snacks, a DJ, and putt-putt golfing.

Soft Opening of ONE DC’s Black Workers & Wellness Center (In-person)

ONE DC is one of the city’s most prominent activist groups that aims to create and preserve racial and economic equity. After five years of grassroots fundraising and nearly two years of renovation, the group is reopening the Black Workers & Wellness Center, a space in Anacostia where the community can organize. 

—Amanda Michelle Gomez, and Michelle Goldchain contributed reporting. (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

By Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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