NEW BRITAIN – The New Britain Museum of American Art will be hosting its 21st annual Juneteenth Celebration Saturday, June 18.
“It is an important and momentous day in American history, so that’s why we as an American public institution find it so important to provide this celebration for our community,” said Stephanie Strucaly, coordinator of Community Partnerships and Outreach
Juneteenth is celebrated each year on June 19 to commemorate when Gordon Granger the Union General in Galveston, Texas read federal orders on that day in 1965 that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.
“I don’t think we’ve ever celebrated it on the exact day and it really comes down to scheduling,” Strucaly said. “Just like in the past we have consulted our Community Advisory Group, which is made up of several members of the Greater New Britain area. We asked them what their thoughts were on the day, what would be the better turnout, and what else they know is going on in the city and other cities in the region so that we can pick the best date for those in New Britain. They felt like Saturday was the better day just to be cognizant of people who attend church services on Sundays and since we make this a daylong event we thought that Saturday was the better day.”
With free admission from 11 a.m. until the event ends at 4 p.m. guests can enjoy live entertainment provided by a number of Connecticut talent, food and vendors.
“This year I’m hosting again,” Adrian Elliott said. “Last year I co-hosted with Miss Paulette Fox and I honestly accept the challenge of trying to fill the large heels of Miss Fox and continue trying to build the community.”
This year, instead of time-blocking the poetry, singing and dancing, “we’re trying to infuse some of the acts,” Elliott said. “And this year we were able to get our high school involved in that we have the drumline and their jazz band. So we wanted to make it a little more kid friendly event.”
The opening ceremony starting at 11 a.m. will feature the singing of Black National Anthem by Jenee Shree, the Juneteenth Flag Raising and music by the New Britain High School Drumline.
“I’m bringing Jenee back on the scene a little bit with this performance; she was kind of away from music,” Elliott said. “So she’s super happy to come back at this time and will also be singing Rise Up, one of my favorite songs.”
Guests can check out a performance by Belle & The Sons at 11:30 a.m. followed by poetry by Grace “PoeticSouldier” Figueroa, who is from New Britain, and Aaron St Louis.
Michael “The Chief” Peterson and Goddess will be performing at 1 p.m.
“He has a lot of poems centered around kids and fatherhood and with everything happening I thought it was the perfect opportunity to talk about holding our kids again and we have a responsibility in making sure they’re safe,” Elliott said about Peterson. “So he’s going to do old poems, new poems, but most important, poems that are more comforting.”
New Britain High School’s Jazz Band will give a performance at 2 p.m. and FriendZWorldMusic will end the day with a bang, literally, with a dance and drumming performance.
“We also have some nonprofits coming and I’m super excited about. Crave Food Truck, it’s like the biggest truck out right now,” Elliott said. “I’m also excited about Seaside Creamery coming, there is a lot of community in the operation of that business.”
A few of the vendors include Dripavellis, 2Gurlz LLC, LaMoo Designs, Jodi Cup of Health, INI Sips and more selling things like apparel, accessories and tea.
“We have a special exhibition opening up called 30 Americans showcasing some of the most acclaimed Black and African American artists of the last several decades and it coincides with the Juneteenth Celebration,” Strucaly said. “There is also going to be a vaccine clinic hosted by the Department of Health; anyone who needs the vaccine or booster they can come and get that done.”
The NBMAA started celebrating Juneteenth in 2001 and, excluding a short hiatus, has been marking the holiday every year since. Strucaly said putting together this year’s event was not as challenging as last year’s.
“We were so in the deep of the pandemic last year versus this year I think there’s more hope and we’re coming out of the pandemic a little bit more,” she said. “Last year we were a little unsure of the turnout and everything but it ended up being a great success, we saw over 500 people and families and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from it.”
NBMAA is located at 56 Lexington St.