Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, was surprised when Vice President Kamala Harris invited her to the stage during the White House's first Juneteenth concert on June 13. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, was surprised when Vice President Kamala Harris invited her to the stage during the White House's first Juneteenth concert on June 13. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Juneteenth, a significant holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, holds even greater importance this year after President Biden signed it into law in 2021, designating June 19 as the Juneteenth National Independence Day.  

The historical origins of Juneteenth trace back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce to enslaved individuals that they were finally free.  

This momentous event occurred two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. 

Speaking at the bill-signing ceremony, Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the day’s significance, stating, “We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration. It is not only a day of pride but a day to rededicate ourselves to action.” 

Kicking off celebrations of the national holiday was a highly anticipated Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House on June 13.  

The concert, which coincided with Black Music Month, featured a star-studded lineup including renowned artists such as Jennifer Hudson, Method Man, Audra McDonald, Step Afrika!, Colman Domingo, Ledisi, Patina Miller, and the Tennessee State University Marching Band’s Aristocrat of Bands. 

The White House said it intends to uplift American art forms that resonate with the soul of the American experience. 

Juneteenth’s historical significance as the day when the last enslaved individuals in the United States learned of their freedom holds a deep and powerful meaning.  

“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain and the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” President Biden remarked.  

The president said with Juneteenth solidified as a federal holiday, commemorations and celebrations are poised to grow and evolve, as exemplified by events like the White House concert. 

However, the White House isn’t the only place in the District acknowledging Juneteenth this week. People can tap into programming, expos, festivals and more throughout the Washington metropolitan region to celebrate the history of Juneteenth as well as focus on future goals for equity across Black communities.

Below are some of the many events happening across the DMV:

Juneteenth Foundation Hosts Three Days of Activations, Celebrations

Juneteenth Honors 2023 (Thursday, June 15, 7:00 p.m., The Warner Theatre,  513 13th St. NW, Washington, D.C.)

The Juneteenth Honors 2023 pays tribute to the formerly enslaved freed African Americans of 1865. Held at The Warner Theatre, in Northwest, D.C., audiences will be treated to an elegant display highlighting the achievements, history and Black distinction of African American leaders. The show will also include Grammy award-winning artists, Ashanti, Ja Rule, and many more. 

Book and Bike Giveaway (Friday, June 16, 9:00 a.m., Franklin Park, Washington, D.C.)

The Juneteenth Foundation will also host a Book and Bike Giveaway event, to highlight the importance of health and physical activity. It will be a fun-filled day that will not only encourage fitness, but an opportunity to learn about the importance of literature as well. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Panel Discussion + Career Fair & The Freedom Festival Community Block Party (Saturday, June 17, 10:00 a.m., Virtual and In-Person at the Conrad Hotel, 950 New York Ave NW, Washington, D.C.)

 If you’re looking for an opportunity to explore the job market, then sign up for the Juneteenth Career Fair. Job seekers will receive insight and resume  and application advice. Access to support from industry experts will help job seekers explore their resources, discuss cultural challenges and get in-depth questions answered. 

Freedom Festival Community Block Party: (Saturday, June 17, 5:00 pm to 9:00 p.m., Franklin Park, 1332 I Street, N.W. Washington, D.C.)

The Juneteenth Foundation wraps up all the festivities with a family-friendly community block party that will supply a final dose of live music, games, activities and a good time. Franklin Park’s newly renovated space provides room for all the community to take part in the vibes, and to create them as well. Celebrate all your hard work this year so far, and rejoice in the hard work of our ancestors!

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: “One Life: Frederick Douglass”

(Saturday, June 16 through April 2024 at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 8th St NW & G St NW, Washington, D.C.)

Journey to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the exhibit,  “One Life: Frederick Douglass.” Learn about Douglass’ extraordinary life from an enslaved person to an American abolitionist and hero, and his  journey to freedom, his strength and perseverance through trials and tribulations. 

The National Archives: Display of the Emancipation Proclamation and  Juneteenth Family Day

 (Saturday, June 17 through Monday, June 19, The National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Rd, College Park, MD )

If you want more of a quiet and reflective feel during your Juneteenth celebrations, consider making a stop at The National Archives to take a look at the original Emancipation Proclamation. Refamiliarize yourself with the moment in history that granted freedom to the last of the enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. But, if you are looking for something a bit more family-friendly, make sure to mark your calendars for Juneteenth Family Day, which will feature arts and crafts for the kids, and an opportunity to learn more about Juneteenth. 

The Montgomery County Black Business Expo 

(Sunday, June 18, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 pm at Veterans Plaza, 1 Veterans Pl., Silver Spring, Maryland)

The Extraordinary Investment Group will be hosting its third annual Juneteenth Black Business Expo, which will provide a space for 60 Black-owned businesses on the plaza. The expo will also include an educational seminar, live entertainment, food and drinks, and fun and games for the family. With free tickets, this is an opportunity for Black entrepreneurs to celebrate Black empowerment, network, showcase their work, and make connections. 

Sankofa, Local Book Store and Café, Hosts “Baba’s, Babies and Books: A Sankofa Babacue!” 

 (Sunday, June 18, 1:00 pm- 6:00 pm at Sankofa, 2714 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, D.C.) 

Rally up your friends and family, and take part in an opportunity to show your support to Sankofa, a local Black-owned bookstore and café. The celebration will feature a presentation by the author and creator of the Mekonnen comic book and puzzle series, Jerome Matiyas. Later, enjoy a live performance from Baba Bomani himself, AKA Baba Got Bars. Free food, capoeira demonstrations, and photo booths will be provided, and offer a total of $1000 in free books to the families that attend.

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) Presents Tadael Asfaha’s “God Hates Us: The Death of Chocolate City”

(Monday, June 19 through Friday, July 21, CHAW, 545 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C.)

 Take a deep dive into the  mind of D.C.-based photographer Tadael Asfaha. Gain insight by exploring Asfaha’s juxtaposed images of the city’s former glory. His powerful images illuminate topics of social issues and the impact of outside forces on the formally vibrant African- American community. The opening reception is on Juneteenth from 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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1 Comment

  1. Mr. Brown,
    Thank you and the editors and supporters of the Informer for the awe inspiring work you do daily to keep the community engaged and informed. Without you, we would have nothing. Godspeed.

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