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Events Planned in State College to Commemorate Juneteenth

Updated 2:45 p.m. on June 18.

Several events will be held around State College this weekend to commemorate Juneteenth, which marks the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans on June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth celebrates the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and declare freedom from slavery.

In 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 9, which designated June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” in Pennsylvania. On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed into law legislation passed by Congress making Juneteenth a national holiday.

State College held its first Juneteenth celebration in 2020.

Here’s a look at what’s planned for this year.

Friday, June 18

6 p.m.: Tierra Williams and Latisha Franklin have organized a “Juneteenth Jubilee” in Sidney Friedman Park.

The event will recognize local Black leaders, educators, artists, organizations and Black-owned businesses. It will include performances by musicians and poets, remarks by local activists and politicians, food and festivities.

The program will be dedicated to the late Rev. Dr. Donna “Mama” King, who was pastor St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bellefonte and lecturer in African American studies at Penn State. King, who died in January, was a beloved community figure known for her work as an advocate and historian of local Black history who gave tours of Bellefonte locations involved in the Underground Railroad. Funds raised at the event will benefit St. Paul AME.

Williams is the host of “Black Tea,” a community activist and candidate for Ferguson Township supervisor. Franklin is a Penn State doctoral candidate in biochemistry and molecular biology and the founder of Gratified Grad LLC.

Saturday, June 19

10-11 a.m.: Williams and Franklin have organized a “Freedom Flex” restoration yoga session in Sidney Friedman Park.

1-2:30 p.m.: The State College NAACP Chapter and the borough will celebrate Juneteenth at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on the 100 block of South Fraser Street.

The celebration’s theme is “Remembering Our Freedom, Empowering Our Future.” It will include live music, song, dance, poetry and spoken word with performances by local artists, State College Area School District and Penn State students and other community members.

Following the performances will be a screening of a documentary film, “District Greenwood: The Amalgamated People,” which tells the story of the Tulsa, Oklahoma race massacre that occurred May 31-June 1, 1921 and of the successful Black entrepreneurs of “Black Wall Street” who persevered during a time of segregation.

A panel discussion moderated by State College NAACP members will be held at 3 p.m. at 3 Dots Downtown, 137 E. Beaver Ave.

“I am excited about what we have planned for Juneteenth this year,” State College NAACP President Lorraine Jones said in a statement. “We have so many talented people involved in this year’s project. The State College community will be inspired to learn more about our untold history and the tenacity of African American people. We must continue to educate and give hope to our youth.”

7:30 p.m.: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State will commemorate the holiday with “Juneteenth: A Fierce Urgency Celebration!” The free one-hour film, produced in partnership with Electric Root, will feature performances and reflections from artists and academics. It will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and be available on demand until 7:30 p.m. Monday at cpa.psu.edu/events/juneteenth2021.

Multigenre artist, activist and historian Michael Mwenso will host the film, which will feature a variety of Black artists, organizations and Penn State faculty sharing performances and historical context.

“We are very happy to have this space as Black artists to reflect on our ancestral history and the sacrifices they made for us,” Mwenso said in a statement. “We use this significant day as a reflection of celebration as we continue the work toward social change and an equitable and just world.”

Artists featured in the event include funk-jazz band Mwenso and The Shakes, dance troupe Urban Bush Women, creative innovator Shariffa Ali and vocalist Dashon Burton. Participating Penn State faculty members include J. Marlena Edwards, assistant professor of African-American studies and history; Charles Dumas, professor emeritus of the School of Theatre; and Aquila Kikora Franklin, associate professor of theater/dance.

Sunday, June 20

5 p.m.: Williams and Franklin will host “Community Connection” in Sidney Friedman Park. All people of African descent are invited for a community conversation and to build connections within the Black community in State College, according to a press release.