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Tucson Juneteenth Festival highlights the history of the holiday

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Vincent Tran | The Daily Wildcat A wide view of the Tucson Convention Center where the Juneteenth festival was held.

The 49th annual Tucson Juneteenth festival was celebrated on Saturday, June 15 at the Tucson Convention Center, drawing crowds locally as well as from afar to commemorate the yearly celebration.

Juneteenth is held every year to honor and observe the official emancipation of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865. 

Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had already been in effect since 1863, it wasn’t until two years later that Texas finally announced the abolition of slavery in the state. 

Valerie Stanley, Tucson Juneteenth Festival Committee president, explained more about the  history of Juneteenth and what it signifies.

“On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, General Granger rode into Galvaston, Texas and read the Third General Order, announcing freedom to the last of the enslaved men, women and children. When the news circulated, a spontaneous celebration erupted throughout the slave communities," Stanley said. “Juneteenth became a freedom day celebration, expressing African-American pride, solidarity and cultural tradition.”

The annual festival celebration was started in Tucson in the early 1970s by residents that had moved into town from out of state.

“African-American families from Texas and Louisiana who moved to Tucson and into the ‘A’ Mountain neighborhood formed the first official Tucson Juneteenth Festival Committee and the first Juneteenth Festival celebration in 1970,” Stanley said.

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The festival was held for the first time at the TCC, since the venue offered more room for vendors, entertainment, exhibits and more. It also offered more space for the larger attendance it had this year.

One exhibit that was featured this year was the “Black History 101 Mobile Museum,” an award-winning collection that features original historical artifacts and memorabilia. 

“Khalid el-Hakim from Detroit, Michigan has collected more than 3,000 artifacts dating from slavery to hip hop,” said Stanley in regards to the mobile museum.

The festival was also an all-ages celebration, inviting families to join in the commemoration. 

“My favorite part of the festival were the performances I saw. Everyone was great. There was different performers and speakers, and the ones my family and I saw did an excellent job and were very moving,” said attendee Luis Robles. “My family and I enjoyed it very much and will definitely continue to attend every year.”

Musical acts, history lectures, poetry readings and dance performances were among some of the many showcases of the festival.

“It’s nice to sit down and really enjoy the music especially. Everyone is so talented and performed wonderfully,” Robles said. “It’s amazing to get to hear and see these really awesome local performers and come together as a community.”

After the celebration at the TCC, the Juneteenth festival after-party was held at Wooden Tooth Records in downtown Tucson, featuring live performances and an art showcase.

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The after-party was presented by Black Renaissance, a group that features black artists and creators, led by creator Seanloui Dumas, who performs under the name Seanloui. 

"Black Renaissance is an annual event, starting 2020 one full month at a venue downtown," Dumas wrote to the Daily Wildcat. "It started May 2019; it was made with the intention of highlighting and celebrating Black Creatives in Tucson and Arizona at large. 

Dumas said Black Renaissance was created to help promote local artists while giving them a platform for their creations.

"Black Renaissance(s) goal is to fill the void while inspiring others to do the same thing," Dumas wrote. "The Black Renaissance community is amazing and growing! The goal is to keep it growing until every citizen in Tucson has celebrated the Black Artists/Creatives that reside in this city." 

For more information about the Tucson Juneteenth Festival, visit their website at www.tucsonjuneteenth.org, where you can stay updated on the annual event and get their social media links.

For more about Black Renaissance, go to their website at www.blackrenaissance.online for more information or how you can get involved. 

Also, to check out Seanloui’s upcoming performances and appearances, go to his website at www.seanloui.com for more information and social media links. 


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