These Juneteenth Celebrations Define Black Liberation

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of legal slavery in the United States. Historically, June 19 marks the day when federal troops arrived at Galveston, Texas in 1865 with news that enslaved Africans were officially free — two full years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Juneteenth — aka Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Second Independence Day or Emancipation Day — is an annual holiday that not only acknowledges the abolition of slavery, but also focuses on Black people’s continual efforts for inclusion and equity through education and community action. Whether you’re attending a family barbecue, turning up at a block party or simply resting at home, Juneteenth is all about celebrating your political, cultural and personal freedoms, in whatever way that means to you. 

The first Jubilee Day celebrations began in Texas. According to the Texas State Historical Association, those early celebrations were used as political rallies to teach newly-freed Black Americans about their voting rights. Today, Juneteenth events can be found in nearly every major city throughout the country, with many states having their own Juneteenth committees. 

Here is a list of some of this year’s biggest Juneteenth events and celebrations. 

Unbothered Live: The Glow Up – Atlanta, GA

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Refinery29’s Unbothered team is hosting their first-ever in-person event! The two-day lineup is jam-packed with musical performances from Latto, Kelis, Baby Tate, Cleotrapa and more; workshops and conversations with leading creators like Coco Jones, Courtney Grace, Sabrina Brazil and Aja Thornton; DJ sets and a dance party with YungBBQ; a live comedy show; and much more. The event will also have a full outdoor roller skating rink, a marketplace filled with Black-owned shops and vendors, and a food court and cookout featuring Atlanta’s best Black-owned restaurants.

Durag Fest – Charlotte, NC

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Durag Fest is an unapologetically Black celebration. Founded and organized by Charlotte-based artists Dammit Wesley and Lica Mishelle, the one-day festival aims to make Juneteenth “the most celebrated holiday on Earth.” The inaugural festival was held in June 2018, and has since grown to become an annual celebration of durag culture. “I’ve always viewed the durag as a symbol,” Wesley told i-D. “It kind of acts like a vehicle for the Black experience in my eyes.” This year’s Durag Fest will include a vendor market, a food court, an art exhibition and more.

Black Bodies for Black Power: 2 Days of Action for Abortion Access – Washington, D.C.

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Attacks on reproductive rights have steadily increased over the past several years, and with the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion, it’s clear that the future of Roe v. Wade is grim. During Juneteenth weekend, Black Feminist Future, SisterSong: Women of Color Collective and various other Black-led organizations will lead a march at the Supreme Court to “advocate for the biggest threat to Black lives at this moment: attacks on our bodily autonomy and freedom.” They will be providing free buses so Black people across the country can attend the rally and make their voices heard. To sign up for a bus, click here.

Juneteenth Unity Weekend – Dallas, TX

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Dallas Southern Pride is hosting a variety of Juneteenth events, including its annual Juneteenth Unity Weekend Festival and Pool Party, with performances by City Girls, Saucy Santana, Moneybagg Yo, Erica Banks and more. The festival features a vendor fair, local food trucks, a cash bar and VIP experiences. The sunset pool and club party includes a live performance by K. Michelle. Dallas Southern Pride will also be hosting its second annual Black Royalty Emancipation Ball on Sunday.

Juneteenth Food Festival – Brooklyn, NY

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Produced by Weeksville Heritage Center and Jummy’s Picks by Black-Owned Brooklyn, the Juneteenth Food Festival is a celebration of Black food and culture, with more than 20 vendors offering cuisine from across the African Diaspora. The festival will also feature a marketplace of Black-owned cultural goods, educational activities and performances, as well as a lineup of all-Black queer and trans DJs.

Something in the Water (SITW) Festival – Washington, D.C.

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Pharrell’s Something in the Water festival includes performances by Ashanti & Ja Rule, Chloe x Halle, Usher, Syd, Teyana Taylor, Jon Batiste, Tyler, The Creator and many more. Produced by Redrock Entertainment and Live Nation, the music event will also spotlight Black D.C. artists, with performances from Go-Go groups such as Rare Essence, Backyard Band and Sound of the City.

The Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival – Philadelphia, PA

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Philly’s Juneteenth Parade and Festival is one of the largest celebrations in the country, with more than 25,000 attendees annually. After the parade, which includes dance groups, nonprofits, float bands and more, the celebration continues with a festival at the historic Malcolm X Park, with more than 250 vendors, art exhibits, a musical concert and various other activities.

JUNETEENTH: A Celebration of Freedom – Los Angeles, CA

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Taking place at the Hollywood Bowl, this Juneteenth all-star concert features performances by Earth, Wind & Fire, The Roots, Michelle Williams, Jhené Aiko, Billy Porter, Mary Mary, and more. Produced by Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment, the musical celebration will also have an all-Black symphony orchestra, the Re-Collective Orchestra, performing for the first time at the iconic L.A. venue. The event will be broadcast exclusively by CNN. 

Tulsa Juneteenth Festival – Tulsa, OK

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Hosted by the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa Juneteenth Festival is a three-day event featuring a block party, an art exhibition and interactive art installation, morning wellness experiences, musical performances and more. Last year’s festival was one the largest celebrations in the nation, attracting more than 53,500 visitors from around the country, according to the Black Wall Street Times. People can support the festival by purchasing a wristband.

Juneteenth Music Festival – Denver, CO

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Denver has been celebrating Juneteenth for nearly 70 years. According to its website, the festival attracts about 50,000 people annually. The free two-day community event features the city’s annual Juneteenth Parade, as well as a street festival with live music, educational and interactive activities, hundreds of vendors and more. The concert lineup includes headliners Dave East and Twista. The celebration will take place in Denver’s famous Five Points neighborhood, historically dubbed the “Harlem of the West.”

Real Black Greatness – Los Angeles, CA

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On June 18, House Party Creative, founded by HBO Max’s Sweet Life: Los Angeles’ star Tylynn Burns, is partnering with flower truck Lenita by Grita. The two will give away custom bouquets, items from Black-owned brands and wellness products to the South L.A. community. On Juneteenth, House Party Creative and RNBHouseParty will be hosting their Real Black Greatness Day Party, which is an artist show featuring all-Black DJ sets, musical performances, Black-owned food trucks and more. The ticket proceeds will go toward raising money for nonprofit organization Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

Juneteenth Celebration at Emancipation Park – Houston, TX

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This year marks the 150th Juneteenth Celebration at Emancipation Park, the oldest public park in Houston, where many of the country’s first Juneteenth celebrations took place. The free two-day event will include lectures and educational programs, interactive kid zones, more than 40 local vendors, guided park tours and more. The festival will also have live performances by Kool & the Gang, Frankie Beverly & Maze, The Isley Brothers and Sheila E. The ABC13 news station will broadcast the concert and fireworks display from 7 to 10 p.m. to close out the celebration.

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