91.7 Grand Rapids | 90.5 Bemidji | 89.9 Brainerd
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Kootasca and VEMA Create a Community Celebration of Juneteenth Under the KAXE Rotary Tent in Grand Rapids


Everyone is invited Sunday June 19th, 2022 from 11-2

nathaniel MPR.jpg
MPR News

This Sunday, June 19th, 2022, Kootasca, VEMA and the Itasca County Community Action Team are celebrating Freedom and Juneteenth at the KAXE Rotary Tent on the banks of the Mississippi from 11-2. The event includes live music, free food from Big O's Chef House, kite designing and flying and more...

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Seraphia Gravelle - Community Equity and Anti-Racism Organizer with Kootasca Community Action, Nathaniel Coward co-executive director from VEMA - Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness, and Lee Jordan: Lee Jordan has been co-organizing the Twin Cities Juneteenth celebration for over the last 30 years and is the Midwest and State Director for National Juneteenth. Over the years, the Twin Cities event has grown to be one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations anywhere in the country.

seraphia MPR.jpg
MPR News

In 2021, President Biden signed into law Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, S. 475, creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth. It is the first federal holiday approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

But what is Juneteenth?

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. This,however was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January, 1863. This day, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has become a day
for African Americans to celebrate not only their freedom, but their history, culture and achievements.

Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture says:

Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans.

The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a community space where this spirit of hope lives on. A place where historical events like Juneteenth are shared and new stories with equal urgency are told.

In our conversation, Lee Jordan mentioned the famous speech from Frederick Douglass's "What To The Slave is the Fourth of July?"

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence;your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade
and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.