Celebrate Juneteenth with Ashland is United
In its second year as a national holiday, Juneteenth will be celebrated at the Corner Spot in Ashland, on June 18.
The holiday celebrates the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas — the last state to allow slavery — on June 19, 1865.
Ashland Local Town Pages spoke with members of Ashland is United about the upcoming event.
Why is this event so important to the Ashland community?
Our town has an evolving demographic landscape. Per latest official records 29% of Ashland residents are foreign born. Each ethnicity brings new opportunities of interaction and learning. Ashland is United (AiU) has celebrated our community through being inclusive and recognizing differences. While we pay close attention to equity we are keen about learning from the varied cultures, faith and belief systems, age, genders and life choices. In essence, we create a culture of acceptance and inclusivity. That being said AiU has responded to events in the country and around the town. Post the murder of George Floyd, AiU with many town entities ran a campaign #StandUpAshland that rallied everyone to stand up against racism (https://www.ashlandisunited.org/events-1). This led to AiU developing resources to educate and inform new ideas that promote inclusivity. We continually update resources on Black History Month, African American history and personalities like Fredrick Douglas, Solomon and Meta Vaux Fuller, Phyllis Wheatly and many others.
Internally in AiU, we discussed that Juneteenth needs more recognition than it had been given so last year we were planning for our event and lo and behold, it was announced that it became a federal holiday. It seemed like a double celebration. Our town attended the event — it was a glorious sunny day last year and we introduced a new event in town and set a precedent for this year and onward. Neighbors who did not know each other met at the event, visitors from Texas signed in, town administration which has always been supportive of AiU was in attendance. It was a great celebration of freedom — as allies, we recognized the date, African American culture.
Who will be at the event?
All are welcome! This year AiU is collaborating with another community organization called AREA. We will have lots of entertainment - including music, dance and arts & crafts! The Drum Nomads will perform African inspired music; Lisa Abbascia, Director of Backstage Dance Center, will teach and lead everyone in the viral West African Jerusalema dance; the Ashland Middle School’s Diversity Club will host an activity to paint rocks with Juneteenth inspired symbols and flags; and Mirlande Butler, Ashland resident and AiU member, will lead us in singing (Lift Every Voice and Sing) a beautiful song used in the Civil Rights movement. Vendors chosen from the BIPOC community will sell their arts and craft items and Sentie’s Kitchen will be selling popular barbecue foods. Plenty of free fruit punch will be available too!
Is it family friendly?
Yes it is a free family event with plenty of attractions for children, adolescents and young and old — people of all ethnicities, religions, life experiences and choices. It is an epitome of an inclusive event.
Who is involved in the planning?
AiU along with AREA and additional support from the Town Administration for logistics.
What is your hope for this event?
That everyone leans in to the joy of tradition. And yet reflect on African American slavery and servitude and how discrimination on the basis of race still exists and how each one of us can contribute to uplifting marginalized voices.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to get in?
We want people to leave the event feeling empowered to do more after learning about the meaning and significance of Juneteenth.
The Juneteenth celebration will take place Saturday, June 18, from noon to 2 PM, at the Corner Spot, 6 Cherry St., Ashland.