Juneteenth, a day of celebration and reflection in honor of the end of slavery and the date on June 19, 1865 – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – when the last remaining slaves were freed, is always an important, joyous and powerful occasion.
This year, however, with the entire globe and country loudly crying out Black Lives Matter, pushing for an end to racial injustice and making slow but substantial and long-overdue progress toward eliminating racist police tactics and brutality, the annual (and now newly County-official) holiday feels like an even more significant moment to celebrate, to learn and to unite as a community.
While Milwaukee's official Juneteenth celebration – one of the longest in the nation, started in 1971 – has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are still ways people are joining together to pay tribute to this monumental day. The state Capitol is still ringing in the special day, for instance, by flying the Juneteenth flag over the building on Friday for the first time in Wisconsin's history.
Here are eleven ways – from sit-ins, marches, virtual gatherings and new movie releases – that you can celebrate and take heed to this most unusual, unprecedented and unbowed Juneteenth in Milwaukee.
Since there is still a pandemic going around, Safe & Sound is shifting its Juneteenth party to the safety of your computer screen. But the event, hosted from noon until 2 p.m. on Friday, June 19, will be no less of a celebration, featuring discussions on Black history, spotlights for Black-owned businesses and multiple performances showcasing local talent across poetry, music, art and more, all in honor of the special day. Join in on the fun and community by following this Zoom link on Friday.
Juneteenth is a day of celebration and, in the case of this particular event, of action, focusing not only on the past but improving the present and future. The day will start at 10 a.m. with free COVID-19 screenings at Milwaukee Health Services, located at 2555 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., along with voter registration and 2020 census work from noon to 3 p.m. at Victory Over Violence Park.
From there, the Juneteenth event will take a solidarity march from 2661 N. 2nd St. to All Peoples Church at 2600 N. 2nd St., where they'll commemorate the special day with music and speakers – including Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. The celebration will come to a close to close with more voter registration and census work from 6-8 p.m. For those who can't join, the march and commemoration will all be broadcast over Facebook Live as well.
After more than three weeks of daily protests against police brutality and systemic racism, it's time to rest one's feet, sit and celebrate – though not without purpose. Hosted on Friday, June 19, at noon in front of Bader Philanthropies, Inc., at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Concordia Avenue, and stretching south down MLK Drive, this celebratory sit-in will feature live local music, food trucks, vendors, art, spoken word and more, all paying tribute to Juneteenth and bringing awareness to the fight against racism that continues to this day.
Black women take center stage at this Juneteenth march and celebration, taking off from 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 19 until 7 p.m., with each stop on their journey paying tribute to the strong Black women role models that have come before. The day begins with an opening ceremony at the Sojourner Family Peace Center, named after the iconic abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth. What follows is a peaceful march and protest which visits landmarks throughout the city dedicated to powerful Black women, such as Vel Phillips Drive and Brown Street in honor of Carolina Quarlls, the first known person to escape slavery using Wisconsin's Underground Railroad. The powerful day will end at Alice's Garden, paying tribute to executive director and community leader Venice Williams, for a block party featuring free food, tours of the garden and more.
Juneteenth hits the big screen – or at least as big of a screen as you've got – with the premiere of this Sundance-approved family drama on Milwaukee Film's Sofa Cinema virtual movie platform. Starring Nicole Beharie (TV's "Sleepy Hollow") and Kendrick Sampson ("Insecure"), "Miss Juneteenth" follows a Fort Worth single mom who signs her daughter up for the annual Miss Juneteenth pageant in the hopes she'll follow in her footsteps as a teen beauty queen. The movie debuts on Sofa Cinema on Friday, June 19, with part of the rental proceeds going toward Milwaukee Film – and while you're there, check out other Black voices and stories on screen such as the powerful documentary trio of "Whose Streets," "Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am" and "I Am Not Your Negro," which will donate all of its proceeds to LIT MKE.
School's back in session – though in a fun way with this special family-friendly rally and Juneteenth expo taking place Friday night from 5 to 8 p.m. at Carmen Middle and High School of Science and Technology, 5496 N. 72nd St. The event aims to educate, empower and entertain the growing next generation with a night of free food, raffles, entertainment, local vendors and more. All attendees and participants are asked to wear masks (which will be provided if you don't already have one) and practice social distancing measures.
Hosted the day before Juneteenth, these labyrinth walks will focus on emancipation – and just not that of Black slaves in America after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863. "In addition to our Ancestors being set free, what truly and deeply needed to be 'emancipated' was racism and white people's dehumanization of Black people," says Alice's Garden executive director Venice Williams. To help those wanting to break free from their limited perspectives and hypocrisies, Williams will guide them through a labyrinth walk at Alice's Garden, 2136 N. 21st St., with a new Emancipation Proclamation she wrote for our current times. There will be two sessions on Thursday, June 18, hosted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 3-7 p.m.; masks are required.
The fight for Black lives and against police brutality cannot be left for cities and the most affected communities to take on alone. All parts of the country must speak up. This Juneteenth march aims to break the silence in the suburbs, taking off at 6:45 p.m. from the Piggly Wiggly at 6111 W. Mequon Rd. and walking through Mequon (safely, of course, as masks are highly encouraged and recommended) on Friday night. Protesters will meet at the takeoff at 6 p.m., with an opening statement from local community leaders and members, as well as eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd.
Hosted at Cream City Print Lounge (8010 W. National Ave.) from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Juneteenth, this local business will host a special printing event in honor of the holiday, offering different Juneteenth-related designs and patterns to print all day for $18.65. In addition, the day's activities will feature special guest host Imani Ray, owner of the local clothing line Natural E. Beautiful, discussing various talking points. Only 10 people will be allowed in the store at a time and masks are encouraged, but the store also has a closed street allowing more guests to attend and social distance as well.
Earlier this month, Washington D.C. made its stance on the current protests across the country clear, bright and bold on the very streets citizens have been marching on with a mural proclaiming Black Lives Matter. Other cities have followed suit – including Milwaukee, which will come together as a community on Friday, June 19 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the intersection of MLK Drive and Locust Street to paint its own street mural representing the Black Lives Matter movement. While artist Vedale Hill and others paint the streets in solidarity and protest, attendees will also be able to make chalk drawings alongside the commissioned mural and families will be able to participate in other kid-friendly activities throughout the day. Masks will be provided, and social distancing will be encouraged during the event.
A Matter of Life Blood Drive
Juneteenth is a day to focus on Black history but it's also one to focus on Black health. Sickle cell affects one in every 12 Black citizens in the United States, so in order to help fight this disease, Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin is hosting three "A Matter of Life" blood drives across the city to replenish blood donation supplies and save lives. The blood drives will take place at three locations across Milwaukee: Mt. Zion Assembly Healing Temple (4300 N. Green Bay Avenue) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union (1442 W. Wisconsin Ave.) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Early View Academy of Excellence (7132 W. Good Hope Road) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each drive will also take a knee at 11:30 a.m. for a nine-minute kneel-in in honor of George Floyd and as a gesture of solidarity. Black lives matter – so help save them by donating blood today.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.