On Friday, June 19, COA Youth & Family Centers held a Juneteenth celebration in Moody Park, adjacent to COA’s Goldin Center in Amani. An estimated 100 people joined together for a fun and uplifting day full of community-centered activities including COA staff, children and families, volunteers, residents, and community members of all ages.
Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of African Americans who were enslaved in the United States. It commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the last remaining enslaved peoples in Texas – two and a half years after they were officially liberated. By choosing to celebrate the last place that freedom touched, we embody the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who famously said, “no one is free until we are all free.”
COA’s Juneteenth event, organized by COA’s Goldin Center Director Ashley Harrell and staff, was celebrated in Moody Park outside of COA’s Goldin Community Center. To protect our community which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the event took place entirely outdoors – complete with masks and social distancing. Staff and volunteers barbecued and shared Black joy through family and community programming, with a theme of “Social Justice through a Child’s Eyes.”
The celebration kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with a community clean up in the Amani neighborhood surrounding COA’s Goldin Center. A group of approximately 10 volunteers from Outreach Community Health Centers joined COA staff and children to assist in neighborhood beautification. Officers from the Milwaukee Police Department, including Chief Morales, also pitched in – getting to know neighbors while picking up trash around the area. Along the route the clean up crew received encouragement from residents, some of whom joined the effort!
In the afternoon children and families enjoyed an outdoor picnic and barbecue before participating in an “express yourself” session in which children and youth decorated posters. Cue the Sun and Imagine MKE set up a mobile recording studio giving youth a safe space to share and record their thoughts and feelings on the current state of our nation. The youth projects offered a unique opportunity to archive living legacies and youth voices. Youth videos will be shared on COA’s YouTube channel.
Kids also enjoyed gardening in COA’s community plots with volunteers from Teens Grown Greens, playing and dancing, and connecting with youth from United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM). The celebration wrapped up with a “Community March for Social Justice.” From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., uniting COA staff, children, and families for a peaceful march through the neighborhood. You can watch a recap of the march below:
COA’s Juneteenth celebration was an uplifting day full of positivity and sunshine. Of all American holidays, Juneteenth falls closest to the summer solstice – the longest day of the year when the sun, at its brightest, defies darkness and shines brightly on shadows. It’s an apt metaphor reminding us once again of the words of Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Thank you to all the COA staff, participants, volunteers, community members, and residents who helped make our Juneteenth celebration a huge success!