By Kharissa Forte | Metro Voice
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which aimed to end slavery once and for all. Yet slaves weren’t actually set free until two-and-a-half years later upon the end of the Civil War.
The stories and urban myths concerning the reason for the delay of freedom vary and include everything from the murder of a messenger to slave owners waiting to reap one more cotton harvest. Nevertheless, when the news was finally delivered, reactions of shock, dismay, jubilee and sheer excitement were proclaimed across plantations everywhere.
Since then, blacks and African-Americans have continued to celebrate June 19 as the sanctioned day of liberation each year.
According to Juneteenth.com, “Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self- improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.”
Unfortunately, involvement in the Kansas City area is on the decline, yet some neighboring cities still hold on to the almost 150-year-old tradition.
Kansas City, Kan. will host its 8th Annual Juneteenth Parade and Celebration at Big Eleven Lake on Fri., June 13 and Sat., June 14. The event consists of a classic car show, the popular BBQ and Greens Competition among other fun happenings.
The 25th Annual Juneteenth Community Festival will be held in Manhattan, Kan. June 20 through June 21 at the city park. Activities will include a gospel fest, parade, basketball tournament and more.
While actual events are scarce, there are several activities citizens of Kansas City can enjoy to create their own Juneteenth celebration.
Visit the American Jazz Museum
Located in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district, the American Jazz Museum is home to one of the most collaborative ode to the black jazz experience. Noted as an “interactive paradise” by the NY Times, the museum houses spectacular artifacts like “Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone, one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets, and a sequined gown worn by Ella Fitzgerald” (from www.AmericanJazzMuseum.org).
The museum is open from 9a.m. to 6p.m. on Juneteenth (Thu., June 19). Friday and Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for children ages 5 to 12 for $6, adults for $10 and seniors (65+) for $9.
Visit the Negro Leagues Baseball
Adjacent to the American Jazz Museum is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which is famous for being the central location of discovering the amazing truths (and sometimes startling facts) concerning baseball history. Greats such as Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige played for the Kansas City Monarchs, an all-black baseball team that existed before the major leagues were desegregated.
Prices and hours are the same as the American Jazz Museum, but stop by on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m. to get a combination ticket to both attractions. Children combination tickets are $8, adults are $15 and seniors are $13.
Grab some BBQ
It’s no secret: Kansas City knows its BBQ. Travel + Leisure Magazine ranked our town no. 3 on its “America’s Best Cities for BBQ” list and we claimed the no. 1 spot — as well as the second, fourth, and eighth — on The Daily Meal’s “America’s 35 Best Ribs” list.
We can’t think of a better way to top-off your Juneteenth celebration with grabbing a bit from one Kansas City’s great BBQ locations. Arthur Bryant’s is in the vicinity of the 18th and Vine area and the oh-so popular Gates BBQ is right around the corner. Oklahoma Joe’s is another great place to grab some BBQ as is one of the Fiorella’s Jack Stack locations across the area.
Regardless of what you do to celebrate Juneteenth this year, it’s important that you do something. With the lack of diverse black history in our educational systems, it’s important that this time is taken out to teach our children some of the really cool aspects about black history.
While it should not be overlooked, Black America is more than slavery and the civil rights movement. It’s also about creativity, arts and innovation and a lot of its amazing past is right here in our own backyard.
The festivities aren’t just for blacks and African-Americans. People of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds have benefited from the end of the slavery era and that’s something to be celebrated–and remembered. Especially on Juneteenth.