Everyone is invited to celebrate Juneteenth on Race and Pine streets this Saturday, June 18.
Two downtown murals will provide scenic and meaningful backdrops to Juneteenth community celebrations, dedicated to honoring the past while moving forward with hope.
On Race Street, in front of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, the thoroughfare will once again be closed to vehicle traffic, as art activists refresh and add additional imagery to the Black Lives Matter mural.
Artist Miriam Moran's design, which debuted in 2020, was created in conjunction with the Alpha Genesis Organization and the Dorchester Center for the Arts, with Sherwin Williams donating paint. Several of the block letters contain tributes to historical figures including Harriet Tubman and Gloria Richardson, plus local legacies and landmarks, punctuated with Maryland symbols such as the state flag and flower.
Last year, Moran added the words "Together We Rise" and a portrait of inauguration poet laureate Amanda Gorman and her quote, "For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it."
Each time, volunteers spent hours adding paint by hand brush and roller, a spontaneous crew unified in helping bring the designs to life. But the final letter R was designated as an open space for community members to offer individual expression.
This year, community teens are invited to participate in retouching, enhancing and adding fresh designs to the mural, reconfiguring a special design honoring Frederick Douglass within the letter K, along with adding their personal touches to the letter R.
The beautification efforts will also provide a means of paying homage to local victims of gun violence, Moran noted.
"We would love our teen leaders to be a part of this public art and join with us in celebration, restoration and recognition of the momentous healing journey of Cambridge in honor of Juneteenth," she said.
On Pine Street, a sidewalk celebration from noon to 6 p.m., featuring music, food, vendors, African drumming and activities for children and families, will honor Juneteenth, welcome summer and mark the official kickoff to Second Saturdays on Pine, which will continue monthly through October.
The event, sponsored by the Groove City Black Heritage & Culture Group, which also puts on the August Groove City Culture Fest, is billed as a tribute to celebrating local African American heritage, notably the numerous Black-owned businesses operating on Pine Street before the 1967 fire, by promoting Black entrepreneurs and businesses, according to the group’s director, Veronica Taylor.
In 2021, another local artist, Bobbie Jo Elle Ennals, created a mural montage at Cedar and Pine streets paying tribute to the once thriving Pine Street business community and the catastrophic 1967 events. The mural was commissioned by Cambridge Arts and Entertainment, DAC, Cambridge Main Street, and Cambridge Economic Development.
"More murals are on the way," according to Veronica Taylor, Groove City executive director/president.
The public artwork adorns the side of the Pine Street Deli, Grocery, Soul Food and Sub Shop, which Walter Reed opened a year ago.
To help celebrate Juneteenth and his anniversary, Reed will provide several bounce houses plus free hot dogs and hamburgers for kids, along with playing cards for grownups to enjoy at the shop's outside tables and deck area, decorated with an eye-catching checkerboard design, also painted by Ennals.
GCBH & CG's overall mission, realized through sponsoring and supporting numerous events and activities, is to "unite, educate and rejuvenate the historical essence of the African American music, art and culture in the community. We also work to support efforts to revitalize historic Downtown Pine Street, Cambridge, MD by creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to promote and advance their businesses," according to the group's website.
For more information or to donate to the nonprofit organization, contact Taylor at 443-225-0819 or visit groovecityheritageculturegrp.org.
Note on Juneteenth history:
It took two years for news that slaves in the South had been freed by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to reach Galveston, Texas, following the Civil War's end, on June 19th, 1865. After federal troops arrived to enforce the measure, the state's 250,000 slaves were able to begin tasting freedom. (Passage of the 13th Amendment ended slavery across the U.S.)
Since then, June 19 became annually observed within numerous African American communities nationwide, marking a day of not only deliverance but renewed dedication to preserving and paying forward that freedom.
It took another 156 years, but the observation became a fully recognized federal holiday in 2021.