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Northeastern’s Juneteenth festival Friday will be ‘a celebration of freedom’

Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Northeastern University’s Juneteenth festival, scheduled for Friday on the Boston campus, will be “a celebration of freedom and the historic story” of the holiday and organizers expect it to be bigger than last year’s inaugural event.

Juneteenth, which falls on June 19 each year, commemorates the day that news of abolition reached enslaved people in Texas in 1865. Juneteenth became a federally recognized holiday in 2021.

Northeastern’s celebration begins in Boston at 11:30 a.m. on Friday with Senior Vice Provost and Chief Inclusion Officer Karl Reid introducing the speakers for a panel discussion on “America’s Racial Climate and Media Coverage in 2022” in the Cabral Center of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute.

The panel will be moderated by Richard L. O’Bryant, director of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute, with panelists Rev. Willie Bodrick, senior pastor of the historic Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury; Ted Landsmark, distinguished professor of public policy and urban affairs; and Deborah Jackson, managing director of the Center for Law, Equity and Race in the Northeastern School of Law.

On the importance of this panel’s subject, Landsmark says, “the media have a way of shaping our understanding of the world in the moment.” So often, a largely white media landscape is only interested in sharing people of color’s narratives when they’re portrayed as victims or as major entertainment success stories, he notes.

The Juneteenth festival will be an opportunity to challenge these limited narratives and recognize “how Black and brown people have in fact influenced all of American culture,” he says.

Outdoor festival

After the panel, the Boston campus will host an outdoor festival featuring live music, including a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the rhythms of the IntaAfrika drum group, the Pan Loco Steel Band, and the Northeastern dance troupe, Kaliente, which will perform to hip hop.

A DJ will also play music between live events, while Suya will keep attendees fed with West African flavors from its food truck. Other events include a reading by local poet Charles Coe, and a local health clinic will use its mobile RV to educate visitors about health resources.

Landsmark is excited for the festival because it’s all too easy to lose sight of the joyous aspects. Northeastern’s continuing commitment to generate and share these Juneteenth celebrations is important for the health of the community, by “raising the voices of people of color in a celebratory way,” he says.

As Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, U.S. campuses will observe the holiday on Monday, but celebrations across the Northeastern network will continue the following week.

Global campuses

On Friday, at Northeastern’s Bay Area campuses, students have been invited to take a tour of the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco, which “celebrates Black cultures, ignites challenging conversations and inspires learning through the global lens of the African Diaspora.” Community members can find a list of events happening across the Bay Area here.

In Seattle, from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, students will be treated to a showing of the film “Hidden Figures,” with time for discussion after. The Seattle Summer Solstice Celebration will be held for the entire community from 2-4 p.m. Friday, June 24, with a barbeque catered by local, Black-owned Ezelle’s Famous Chicken.

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