June 2024

Juneteenth Jubilee Brings Joy and Unity to UMB Community

June 26, 2024    |  

The University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Office of Community Engagement (OCE), in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the UMB Intercultural Center, celebrated Juneteenth with the fourth annual Juneteenth Jubilee Community Day on June 13.

This celebration not only honors the oldest nationally recognized commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States but also aims to create safe and joy-filled spaces for the community to come together.

The significance of Juneteenth dates to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free — 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Danielle Harris, LCSW-C, director of community engagement operations, OCE, emphasized the event’s crucial role.

“Having an event such as the Juneteenth Jubilee is integral to the priorities of the Office of Community Engagement,” Harris said. “We strive to have opportunities that strengthen social connectedness and incorporate learning. Neighbors have expressed the need of having free opportunities that are family-oriented, and what better way to not only connect with families, but neighbors as well, in celebrating Juneteenth.”

Amanda Benjamin, a play facilitator for the play zone hosted by Jubilee Counseling and Wellness during the event, highlighted the importance of creating joyful spaces for community engagement.  

“Jubilee Counseling and Wellness is about bringing joyful spaces to people, giving individuals of all ages a chance to connect with their inner child and find joy in a world that often tries to take it away,” Benjamin explained.

Jubilee Counseling and Wellness provides therapeutic group experiences tailored to support healers, caregivers, and Black and Brown individuals, who are most susceptible to burnout from prolonged stress. Through art, movement, and play, Jubilee teaches skills that strengthen the mind-body connection. 

Rosie Sunshine, also a play facilitator, highlighted the inclusive nature of the event, noting how it encourages multigenerational participation.  

“It’s really cool to see the adults play with hula hoops and football, connecting with joy even if they’re 75 or 50. It’s a great opportunity for Black people to celebrate and remember our history and struggle,” she said. 

The impact of these events is deeply felt by regular participants like Charlotte McGoines, who lives just blocks away from the UMB Community Engagement Center (CEC). She praised the variety of programs offered at the CEC, saying, “I come to all their programs, and they’re really informative and fun. We have a lot of free giveaways, and it’s a great way to spend my day since I’m retired.” 

McGoines added that the Juneteenth event is particularly meaningful because it helps educate the community about the importance of Black history and the significance of the holiday. 

The celebration also featured local food vendors who are passionate about giving back to the community. Key, owner of Taste of Passion, expressed his dedication to community service through his culinary talents.  

“My ultimate goal is to inspire, motivate, and add value to everyone I come across through cooking. Events like this allow me to give back and make a positive impact,” Key said. 

The Juneteenth events at UMB not only commemorate a pivotal moment in American history but also foster community connection and joy. By providing spaces for play, learning, and cultural celebration, UMB continues to support and uplift its diverse community. 

Courtney “C.J.” Jacobs, owner of Craving Potato Factory, expressed his pride in participating in the Juneteenth celebration.

“Juneteenth is a day to recognize the trials and tribulations our ancestors faced and to celebrate the progress we’ve made. I’m proud to be part of this community celebration,” Jacobs said.