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Juneteenth ICT Celebration Continues To Grow In Wichita

Kevin Benavides
Part of this year's Juneteenth activities included painting a mural on the Antoine Carr Basketball Courts at McAdams Park.

A local nonprofit is continuing to revitalize Juneteenth in Wichita with a number of cultural and historical events.

Danielle Johnson, vice chair of Community Operations Recovery Empowerment and chair of Juneteenth ICT, is one of the people planning and leading the celebration.

Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, celebrates the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It is the oldest known event celebrating the end of slavery in the United States and is recognized nationally.

Juneteenth has been held almost annually by different organizations in Wichita, but has not maintained a consistent record of attendance or sponsorship.

“Juneteenth is kind of one of those festivals that came and went, but there’s always been some organization to really try to pick it back up and champion it,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes that the revamped festival will bring the celebration to the forefront of Wichita and will attract more visitors than ever before.

“What I think is most exciting is that we’re finally in that fourth year, we have a level of consistency, we’re at McAdams Park.,” she said. “We are really doing some signature programs.”

Credit Kevin Benavides / KMUW

Members of CORE and volunteers kicked off the Juneteenth ICT celebration last week by painting a mural on the Antoine Carr Basketball Courts of McAdams Parks.

“When something is beautiful and it beautifies the area, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air,” Johnson said. “And for some folks, they’re like, ‘Oh you just painted a basketball court,’ but for others, it is a quality of life, it is a discussion, it is a piece that makes Wichita stand out.”

Every Juneteenth celebration includes some kind of service project, and CORE has worked with local artists the last couple years on beautification efforts.

Another goal of Juneteenth is the sharing and teaching of African-American culture. That includes working with groups such as the 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Michael Waters, founding pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church, to educate attendees about the history and significance of Juneteenth.

Johnson hopes that by continuing to sustain and build the celebration, the public will look forward to the event as much as Riverfest.

“I think it’s really exciting to be able to come out and see a program that has sustained and is growing and is getting new sponsors, and folks are really getting that exposure to Juneteenth, and also learning the history, because that’s not something that you’re taught in school, “Johnson said. “And so we’ve been able to educate and empower and really build community.”

There are several events this weekend that are open to anyone who purchases a Juneteenth ICT armband. Armbands cost $5 for anyone 8 years and up; $3 for ages 7 and under.

Armbands can be purchased at United Vybez Culture & More, T.O.P.S Steaks and Hoagies, or the WSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Remaining festival events include:

• Friday, June 21: Sounds of Juneteenth ICT, an evening of spoken word, musical guests, local food and a beer garden at McAdams Park Rec Center.

• Saturday, June 22: Juneteenth parade starting at the intersection of 17th and Hillside at 10 a.m.

• Saturday: McAdams Park celebration starts at 11 a.m., including several entertainment acts, food, drink and a Juneteenth Kid’s Corner.

Kevin Benavides is an intern in the KMUW News Lab.