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With every year that passes, Juneteenth celebrations become bigger and bigger in our city of hope.
June 19 is recognized as the day slaves were freed after the civil war ended. Celebrations were first held in churches and have grown exponentially with the second civil rights movement. In The Land, new events mix with the old, with some even taking place remotely.
Events take place June 19, 2021 unless otherwise noted.
Perhaps the biggest event in the city this year, Freedom Fest is a collaboration between Ingenuity Cleveland and Karamu House. At Mall C downtown, enjoy live music and performances by Karamu House artists. The free outdoor event begins at 2 PM, following the ceremonies at University Circle. Festivities include live art performances and shopping that features Black-owned businesses including tasty food trucks. End the night with a fireworks finale.
The library and its branches will host several events surrounding Juneteenth topics throughout the month of June:
For even more events, or to register, visit the Juneteenth CPL calendar.
Start celebrating Juneteenth at Centennial Peace Plaza in the Cultural Gardens with a free event that will include a re-enactment of the 1865 Juneteenth event, a student essay contest, spoken word performances, drill teams, drumming and the Grand March.
Get out early on a bike ride through University Circle to commemorate Juneteenth. This family-friendly event will highlight Black contributions that are found in our backyard. Bring your own bike and safety gear and register in advance.
Twelve Literary Arts, a local poetry and writing focused nonprofit, is releasing its first collaborative album, “In Search of the Land,” made up of 40 poets and musicians. It is set to release on Juneteenth between 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. but the organization will also celebrate the release with a live virtual event on their Twitch account.
Drop by The BOXSPOT for a family friendly event with spoken word, live entertainment and vendors.
Learn about the contributions of African Americans during pre- and post-Civil War growth of Cleveland with a 45-minute walking tour. Tours begin at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Join Buckeye Summer Soul Series & NAACP Cleveland Branch for their Juneteenth celebration. The entire community is invited to come and enjoy live entertainment, giveaways, food and a vendor village.
This unique event aims to celebrate Black tradition in a safe space that supports a Black queer feminist framework. Created with Blk Punx Press, Drag From The Left, and The Community Care Collective, Mx. Juneteeth will feature drag performances, art, a live DJ, and food. The event is free, though there is a suggested donation of $5 or $10 for non-Black attendees. Blk Punx Press, an underground venue, supports rising local artists in our areas.
Later in the month, the Cleveland Dinners group is dedicating a meeting to The Other Independence Day. On June 27, diners can log on to engage in race equity talks about our city. Dinner groups and breakout rooms are set up with intentional diversity from age and race to geography and economics. There will be a video presentation and African drummers and a spoken word performance. New attendees are welcome and anyone can register online.
Five poets will be performing Def Jam Poetry for Juneteenth at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland. Poets hope to honor their ancestors with their rhythm and flow. Food is included in the $15 ticket price and there will be a cash bar with soda, beer, and wine.
Celebrate Juneteenth with the Association of African American Cultural Gardens’ Caravan. Car decoration begins at 9:00 a.m., followed at 10:00 a.m. by the Caravan itself.
Western Reserve Historical Society has a new exhibit opening on June 10 on Cleveland fashion designer and teacher Amanda Wicker. The brave Black queen moved to Cleveland in 1924 with only her skills as a dressmaker and she built her legacy over six decades. Fifteen of her garments will be showcased alongside archival photography. Like many eminent professionals of the time, she was also an activist in many black communities.
This month Karamu House is releasing the world premiere of “Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed” written by award-winning playwright Celeste Bedford Walker. It will air on Cleveland’s local PBS on Juneteenth. The full version will be available to stream starting on June 18 until mid-July 2021. This play tells the story of the Greenwood Massacre and its aftermath through the eyes of one family.
This church was one stop on the Underground Railroad – Station Hope – before slaves crossed Lake Erie into Canada, where freedom was guaranteed. It is said slaves hid in the towers, waiting to see signals on the lake. Founded in 1816, St. John’s Episcopal Church is the oldest in the area, even though it moved a few times, nearly burned down once and has even been ravaged by a tornado. The site is now used for Station Hope events in conjunction with Cleveland Public Theatre.
The Cozad-Bates House, located in University Circle, is undergoing renovation. The neighborhood was home to abolitionists who worked and provided aid to refugees fleeing slavery and heading for Canada. There is no evidence that the house was used for shelter itself, but today the space shares information on the Land’s anti-slavery history alongside issues of modern day slavery in the U.S., like the 13th amendment. There are plans to open the building in the summer of 2021, but it can still be accessed virtually.
At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a relatively new exhibit focuses on musicians whose song and action focus on social justice and equality. “It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope and Empowerment,” exhibits artifacts from past and present musicians.
In 2009, The Toni Morrison Society dedicated its second Bench by the Road at the cross streets of North Main and Lorain in Oberlin, OH. The project is part of the Society's initiative to memorialize unmarked sites in African American History. The site here commemorates Toni’s birth and public schooling life, all done in our city before she went to Howard University. Oberlin was also known to have hidden landmarks for refugees escaping slavery via the Underground Railroad.