Multicultural News

Juneteenth offers variety of events ahead of weekend holiday

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Juneteenth celebrations are underway with festivals, music, bicycling and more.

Indy Juneteenth organizers say although Juneteenth has only been a federal holiday for a year, it’s been tied to freedom for over a century.

The freedoms we celebrate today didn’t come with out a cost. June 19, 1865, the last of Americans enslaved found out they were free. James Webb said, “Our ancestors fought through a whole lot of adversity and they deserve to be celebrated.”

Six years ago, Webb and his wife, Twjonia, formed Indy Juneteenth, a non profit aimed at spotlighting the holiday. This year, they’ve organized a virtual community-culture cooking segment and community conversations, and will cap it all off with a festival, parade and fireworks show.

“We are excited because now we can actually get in one space and celebrate with our supporters that have been with us since 2016,” Twjonia said.

Cassie Smith-Johnson has a different spin on the holiday. In 2020, as the country experienced protests, she put her focus on unity and health, helping found Biketeenth. “I decided I wanted to do something that would show unity and show that it’s not as much separation as much as the media was making it feel like.”

Sunday’s ride will start out at Monument Circle and end at the Madam Walker Legacy Center’s Juneteenth Block Party.

On Friday, GangGang is continuing its Taggart Memorial Amphitheatre Concert & Performance Series at Taggart Riverside Park, tying into the mission to provide a platform for local artists and building on cultural equity. Nigel Long, program manager at GangGang, said, “By being able to program space is like this like the Taggart we want to make sure that the program is it is reflective of the community.”

The Webbs say there’s something to keep in mind as the holiday grows more popular: “We understand this is America and people are going to want to monetize and capitalize on everything, but the importance is not losing the message behind it.”

Indy Juneteenth says it will be working with corporations to help guide them as they move forward with Juneteenth inspired events and more.