Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. As a result, some observers say, every year on June 19 calls for reflection, reverence and rejoicing for many, especially in the African American community.
In an effort to bring attention to this milestone in African American history, the Museum of Fine Arts hosted its first Juneteenth Takeover in partnership with Future Boston Alliance.
“From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19 as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond,” said Emily Catalano, program manager for Future Boston Alliance. “It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.”
The agenda for the night consisted of a pop-up exhibition of six local Boston artists showcasing select pieces of their work, sketching of live models and objects, a commemorative address by State Representative Byron Rushing on the significance of Juneteenth and a talk on African American artist Loïs Mailou Jones.
“I was so glad to see so many of our people out tonight,” said Michelle Cook, 42, of Newton. “I think we need to have more education about Juneteenth. There’s a lot of partying, a lot of barbeques, a lot of enjoyment but there’s not really a solid education about what Juneteenth really is. We need to teach our children what it is, we need to teach our adults what Juneteenth is and do things like this every year so it gets into people heads.”
Rev. Raedorah Stewart, 53, of Quincy is originally from Houston. “I really enjoyed tonight for what it was,” she said. “No matter where I go I am still a native Texan and so Juneteenth is really, really big. There are pageants, music, Juneteenth festivals as opposed to here everything is so compartmentalized. You get your day like tonight, we got what, five hours? But Juneteenth in Texas is a movement.”
Linda Apple, Museum of Fine Arts director of volunteer and community engagement, said she was hopeful that events such as the museums’ Juneteenth event would help attract more visitors.
“I’d really love for [community members] who have an idea or perspective about the museum that’s perhaps negative, or for those who don’t really know much about the museum, that this will really opens their eyes to it as a community resource,” said Apple. “It’s a great place to visit, a place I hope they will want to come back to and look at beautiful art, meet up with friends, eat or drink, hear a talk or go to an event like this.”
Click here to view published article: “Diverse crowd attends Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts celebration of Juneteenth”