A Juneteenth Cultural Celebration Weekend

Debra Brock

By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter

Hundreds of individuals and families gathered for the African American Legacy Project (AALP), cultural celebration weekend on June 18 and June 19.

Saturday’s theme was “Heirs of Art, Black Arts Festival” while Sunday’s theme was “Gospel Jazz Explosion.” Saturday’s festivities began at 4:00 p.m. and included live entertainment, games for adults and kids, face painting and chalk art, and also food vendors.

Jeremiah Peterson

“Juneteenth represents a celebration of culture and we wanted to bring generations together. At the end of the day, it’s incumbent upon us to ensure generations understand the journey, and people without direct correlation to this experience also understand our journey,” shared Robert Smith, executive director of AALP.

Immediately following Saturday’s opening, attractions were spotlighted every half-hour or hour. Starting with the opening of the Art Exhibition, craft tables and game tables, unveil of Freedom Wall Mural, the vocal stylings of Alanna, “The Extraordinary Fashion Show,” and closed at dusk with jazz saxophonist Charles Cooper.

Sunday featured several notable gospel or jazz talents. Immediately following Sunday’s opening, attractions were spotlighted every half-hour or hour. Trina Willis opened, followed by Nikki D & the Brown Singers, Debra Brock, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Positive Force Christian Dance team, Lisa Page Brooks, Urban Jazz Coalition and Joey Sommerville closed the festival.

Vanessa Bell Armstrong

“Two individuals are responsible for organizing this festival, a University of Toledo sophomore Lydia Myrick and seasoned artists Yusuf Lateef. The young lady came to us and we wanted to support that initiative, so Lateef is mentoring her which is bringing three generations together, Myrick, Lateef and myself,” said Smith.

The weekend celebration was organized by African American Legacy Project with support provided by: Heirs of Art, Huntington Bank, Lucas County, Lucas Metropolitan Housing, NAACP Toledo unit, Shabach Productions, Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, UMADAOP Lucas County and WJUC 107.3 FM radio

African American Legacy Project is a 501c3 that documents and preserves the history of northwest Ohio’s African American community and its impact and influence. For additional information visit the website http://africanamericanlegacy.org

“We’re landscaped to handle this endeavor and will continue to serve as caretaker of history,” said Smith.

According to Pew Research Center, Juneteenth commemorates the end of the organized system of slavery in the United States when individuals who owned slaves were forced to end the practice of enslavement in Galveston, Texas. The notification occurred on June 19, 1866. Texas decades later became the first state to officially observe or recognize the occasion in 1980 by declaring it a federal holiday. Several states only observed or recognized the occasion while 24 states recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday between 2020-2022. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday.