Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

From virtual discussions to in-person parties, here are three ways you can celebrate in Michigan.

DETROIT, MI — Juneteenth is a topic of discussion in many ‘Gander households lately and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer officially declared the day a state holiday on Wednesday.

“Juneteenth is a crucial day in our nation’s history to remember how far we have come and recognize how far we still have to go,”  she said. “During a time when communities of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and when the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have shone a light on the systemic racism Black Americans face every day, we must work together to build a more equitable and just Michigan.” 

And while many Michiganders are being told to mark the day, nearly as many have no idea what Juneteenth is all about.

A Little History Lesson First 

Contrary to many American history textbooks, President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 was not the sweeping move to freedom most people envision.

Instead, the act of freeing an estimated 3.9 million enslaved Black Americans was a complicated and arduous task. These people were homeless and jobless in a region that once used them as tools and now viewed them as the enemy.

White slave owners in Texas had no interest in relinquishing their property and free labor. So many greeted each day with business as usual, never telling Black people that the war was over and their freedom had been won. This went on for over two years after the end of America’s Civil War.

After Confederate General Lee finally surrendered in 1865, Union General Granger ordered that his General Order No. 3 be read aloud to the formerly enslaved and illiterate population in Texas on June 19, 1865. It explained that all Black people were free and prompted the celebration now known as Juneteenth.

Marking a day that ended slavery more than two years after slavery was supposedly ended can feel complicated. But they’re plenty of ways for Michiganders to commemorate Juneteenth.

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5 Ways We Are Marking the Day 

Party in Person

Grand Rapids Freedom Festival

The West Michigan Jewels of Africa and the city of Grand Rapids are sponsoring this event that will feature African drumming and dancing. Attendees are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen. 

The festival is from 1-7 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at  Dickinson Buffer Park.
1635 Willard Ave SE

Detroit Juneteenth Freedom Rally

The festivities in downtown Detroit will kick off at 10 a.m. with speakers, music and dancing. The celebration will be in the Spirit Plaza on Woodward Avenue between Larned Street and Jefferson Avenue.

Party Online

Power to the People digital celebration

The Power to the People 616 is a digital campaign designed to promote and empower Black businesses, artists and community leaders in and around Grand Rapids.

Conversations for the Culture 

The City of Detroit is hosting a week-long series of thought-provoking discussions commemorating Black culture. Discussion topics will include mental health, business, and education in the Black community and be streamed on Facebook Live.

SEE ALSO: Watch This Michigan Nonprofit’s Free Webinar on Black Breastfeeding, Trauma and Resilience

Deepen Your Understanding

Juneteenth Black Author Virtual Book Fair 

Detroit Book City, an independent, Black-owned bookstore in Southfield will host a three-day virtual book fair in honor of Juneteenth. The event can be streamed via YouTube or Facebook Live and will feature Black authors from Detroit and beyond. 

Or consider picking up a book from one of these notable Michigander authors.


Lend Your Voice

Research petitions and consider which ones matter to you – and sign them!

Start by checking out the Movement for Black Lives or

Gov. Whitmer is leading the way by setting an example. 

“I’m proud to declare June 19, 2020 as Juneteenth Celebration Day,” she said Wednesday. “And will continue to work tirelessly to create a state that is equal for all.”

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