One hundred and fifty-two years later, this belated liberation and its paradoxes endure.

As we wrestle with our country’s deeply problematic past, this holiday is both a reason to celebrate and a call to address black codes, a century-long regime of Jim Crow, and our continuing, staggering racial injustices. With its contradictory nature and relative newness as a national holiday, there is little consistency from state to state and community to community in the observance of Juneteenth.

At The Newark Museum of Art, we are making our own way toward building understanding and meaningful celebration for the day also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It is a paid holiday for staff on Friday, June 18th. It is also the subject of our virtual Community Day on Saturday.

At the center of our commemoration are Shareeduh Tate and Tera Brown, members of the George Floyd family, who will present a moment of remembrance and an update on initiatives from the George Floyd Foundation. Established with the goal of creating a legacy of justice out of violence, the foundation seeks to inform, unite, and engage communities to challenge the root causes of racial inequity for positive change. We salute the Floyd family and the work of their foundation.

The rest of our Community Day also seeks to inform. With a historical lens that is equally resolute in its fact-finding, we present a unique virtual walking tour of Newark. Led by Noelle Lorraine Williams, curator and researcher of Black Power! 19th Century: Newark’s First African American Rebellion exhibition, this tour reminds us that New Jersey was the last state to abolish slavery with the telling of two interrelated stories connected to Black freedom.

Celebrating creativity is a part of every one of our Community Days and our Juneteenth event is no exception. We will have a session for the whole family focused on creative journaling, making use of all those loose crayons and glue sticks lying around the house. For those looking to be a bit more active, we are presenting a master class and performance of Soul Steps, where our audience can learn about the role of this dance style within the African American community. Bring your own hip-hop moves!

We conclude the day with our panel Tearing Down the Fourth Wall: The True Meaning of Juneteenth to explore the relevance of the holiday. Coming together for this discussion are esteemed thought leaders Junius Williams, Newark historian, author, and activist; Tezlyn Figaro, political consultant and Senior Advisor for the George Floyd Foundation; and Principal Baruti Kafele, school leadership expert and author. Leslie Short, owner of The Cavu Group, a diversity, inclusion, and culture firm, will moderate this candid exchange.

With our batteries charged from the additional day off on Friday the 18th, we look forward to doing our part to amplify the meaning of Juneteenth. I hope you can join us. We want everyone to add to our collective understanding of that day in Galveston.

With hope,

Linda C. Harrison
Director and CEO
The Newark Museum of Art