Juneteenth, a holiday marking the emancipation of African Americans from slavery on June 19, 1865, will be celebrated across the Dayton region this weekend with various events seeking to educate and entertain.
At the forefront is Levitt Pavilion Dayton’s festivities, slated Saturday, June 18, featuring Grammy-nominated, Indigenous Music award-winning R&B/hip-hop artist Mumu Fresh, also known as Maimouna Youssef. Committed to “art activism,” Youssef has toured internationally and has shared the stage and or collaborated with such artists as Dave Chappelle, The Roots, Salaam Remi, Anderson Paak, Bruno Mars, Common, and Raphael Saadiq.
“Juneteenth is a reminder that Blacks will continue pushing forward and continue to fight for our freedoms in many different ways,” Youssef said. “It’s not just physical shackles but economic shackles and educational shackles. There are so many shackles we are still fighting to be freed from. So, Juneteenth, although a celebration of freedom, is a reminder that the struggle continues.”
The product of what she calls a “revolutionary household,” Youssef, a Baltimore native, says she grew up celebrating Juneteenth and was always aware of its significance. She views her aesthetic as an authentic culmination of her experiences, firmly rooted in Black empowerment.
“My music reflects the Black experience and I’ve been very uncompromising about our history and who we are and who we deserve to be,” she said. “Our self-autonomy is important. I’ve been very vocal my whole career about Blacks taking power back into our own hands. We cannot go forward, we cannot be successful as a community, if we don’t reclaim what we’ve lost, or we can’t speak the truth or can’t say what really happened to us. Our children deserve to know the truth. The times when we had to make ourselves small in order to assimilate are over.”
Last year, Levitt Pavilion, located at 134 S. Main Street in downtown Dayton, was ahead of the curve, planning a major Juneteenth celebration before it became the first federal holiday in the United States since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983. Organizers hope the community will return to support Saturday’s event as community engagement and community partnerships remain imperative to the venue’s overall mission.
“Levitt Pavilion celebrates all things community so it would be a huge oversight to not celebrate this incredible moment,” said executive director Lisa Wagner. “I never wanted our concert and celebration to be ‘the’ Juneteenth celebration in the community but additive to other community celebrations. Juneteenth is a significant historical moment that allows everyone to take time to understand each other culturally. It’s arrogant for us to think we can’t constantly learn from one another. We must continue to be open to learning new things about one another because everyone has a history. And everyone is welcome at Levitt Dayton. We are here to provide a space for everyone to come together. The intersections of our lives become more fluid through music, allowing us to have really important conversations on our lawn.”
The free festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with a community celebration curated by Sierra Leone of Signature Educational Solutions and Oral Funk Poetry Productions. Youssef’s concert will begin at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited for Mumu Fresh to come to Dayton,” Leone said. “She is grounded and rooted as an artist. She will help us answer the question we are posing for this year’s concert which is how will we be keepers of culture now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday? How are we going to continue to frame liberation? And are we going to be inclusive? Mumu Fresh has been at the helm of these ideas culturally for years. She brings forth the urban voice, the marginalized voice and the voice of the global majority. She is someone people can connect to as a North Star in many ways.”
“I’m grateful and excited to take part in the concert and be a reflection for the audience to see themselves,” Youssef said. “I look forward to us celebrating boldly.”
For more information, visit https://levittdayton.org/#0
Additional Juneteenth celebrations across the region:
Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Juneteenth Celebration”
When: Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18 at 8 p.m.
Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton
Details: DPO SuperPops concert features vocals by soprano Minnita Daniel-Cox and recitations by Herbert Martin along with traditional pieces and compositions by George Walker, Adolphus Hailstork, Aaron Copland and others.
More info: 937-228-3630 or www.daytonlive.org
Genuine Work’s “Juneteenth Celebration”
When: Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Genuine Work, 15 McDonough St., Dayton
Details: Enjoy family-friendly activities such as face painting and classic children’s games, Black-owned food trucks, and local organizations networking in this event spearheaded by Dayton’s full-service collaborative, co-working firm.
More info: https://www.genuinework.co/
When: Friday, June 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Virtual and in-person at Conference Center, Building 12, on the campus of Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St., Dayton
Details: Keynote speaker is Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor Emerita of American Social Thought, Professor of History and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania. There will also be a special performance by Siera Leone.
Cost: Free. To attend in person, email Michele Marcum at email@example.com. In-person seating is limited.
More info: https://sinclair.edu/events/article/workshops-conferences-special-events/juneteenth-celebration/
“Juneteenth in Kettering: A Celebration of Shared Freedom”
When: Monday, June 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Polen Farm, 5099 Bigger Rd., Kettering
Details: Guest speaker Faheem Curtis-Khidr, Sinclair history professor and equity consultant, will talk about the holiday. Musical entertainment will be provided. Kettering City Schools students will read their winning essays from the 2022 Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest.
More info: This event is sold out. www.ketteringoh.org/Juneteenth
When: Saturday, June 18 from noon to 9 p.m.
Where: North Park, 195 Tamarack Trail, Springboro
Details: Experience live music and performances, vendors, food trucks, giveaways and more.
More info: There are additional events planned in Springboro from June 17-20 including a chance to explore sites of the Underground Railroad, a 3-On-3 Basketball Tournament, dinner and jazz at Springboro United Church of Christ, and the interactive travel exhibit “Undesign the Redline.” Visit http://www.springborojuneteenth.com.
“A Mural Completion Honoring Virginia Hamilton and the 156th Juneteenth Anniversary Celebration”
When: Saturday, June 19 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Beatty Hughes Park, between Kieth’s Alley and Corry Street, Yellow Springs
Details: In addition to a Juneteenth overview by Carmen Lee, there will be food, live musical performances, and an artistic presentation by muralist Pierre Nagley.
More info: https://www.yellowspringsohio.org/
If your community is hosting a Juneteenth celebration and would like to be added, send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.