On June 16, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) joined friends and neighbors in West Baltimore to celebrate freedom with the UMB Community Engagement Center’s (CEC) second annual Juneteenth Jubilee.
“We wanted to continue to celebrate Black culture with a free community event that people can come out to and have a great time,” said Danielle Harris, LCSW-C, associate director of the CEC. “Every year this event gets bigger and bigger, and we’re so happy to be bringing the community together while also celebrating this important holiday.”
Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Also known as Freedom Day or Black Independence Day, Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in the United States and was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. Its observance is a reminder of the importance of the ongoing struggles toward a truly free and democratic society and the urgency of promoting and protecting human rights and justice.
“Today is all about freedom,” said Rosalyn Tripp, a community member who attended the Jubilee. “I had celebrated Juneteenth for a long time with my family and now everybody is celebrating, which is a great thing.”
As part of the Juneteenth Jubilee, all participants were given a tote bag with free event-related gifts including a Juneteenth children’s book that explains the meaning and significance of the holiday. Tripp was thrilled to give the book to her nephew. She explained that she had noticed that many young people did not know about the importance of Juneteenth before it became a national holiday last year.
“We have to celebrate, but we also need to break it down and tell him about this day and why we’re here together,” she said. “If we explain this and we show them why we celebrate, then maybe they will take that as inspiration to help the community. If we just keep talking and sharing like this, the world will be a better place.”
The Jubilee was a fun event for all that highlighted several Black-owned local businesses and vendors including the Baltimore Beat, Healing Youth Alliance, Black Yield Institute, and food from Sobeachy Haitian Cuisine, Cajou Creamery, and Jerk at Nite. There also were also pony rides from City Ranch and a dance performance by Moving History.
Even Baltimore City Councilman John T. Bullock, PhD, who represents the 9th District, came to join the neighbors to celebrate.
“Now that Juneteenth has become a more recognized holiday, it has the power to really connect people, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Bullock, who also picked up a couple of Juneteenth picture books for his children. “Yes, there’s a history in terms of freedom, but think about freedom. We exercise our freedom in how we celebrate with our communities, with our partners, and with our neighbors. I had to come out here and support that and be a part of it all today.”
The neighborhood event was just one of several Juneteenth events hosted by UMB throughout the week. The University of Maryland School of Social Work also held two virtual events, one with a panel discussing the importance of rest on Juneteenth and another with a panel discussing equality for Black Americans in the 21st century. The University of Maryland School of Nursing, meanwhile, held an in-person event featuring storyteller and Baltimore native Renee Emanuel.
After a successful second annual Juneteenth celebration, organizers at UMB are looking forward to putting on an even bigger celebration next year.