Juneteenth Roundup

A rundown of of local events scheduled in Richmond around Freedom Day.

Call it Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth is the official commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

The Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved people may have been signed in 1863, but Texas paid no heed. With little enforcement in areas still under Confederate control, it took another two-and-a-half years for Major General Gordon Granger and his Union Army troops to arrive in Galveston and free the enslaved people there. Because it happened on June 19, the name Juneteenth evolved as a combination of the two words.

A federal holiday since 2021, Juneteenth is a commemoration of a history that acknowledges the impact of the trade of enslaved Africans in Virginia during the 246 years (that’s approximately 10 generations) between the arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619 and 1865, the year government-sanctioned enslavement ended.

Considered the longest running Black holiday in the U.S., Juneteenth has long been called America’s second Independence Day. The aim of many Juneteenth events is to provide a cultural framework for building bridges of understanding by paying homage to enslaved Africans whose agency and family lives were sacrificed for generations.

The granddaddy of Richmond Juneteenth celebrations is Elegba Folklore Society’s three-day Juneteenth 2024, A Freedom Celebration taking place June 7 through 9. This year’s theme is “Dancing with the Ancestors” and kicks off Friday evening and continues through Saturday with the Black Book Expo at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

Featured at the Expo will be a vast display of literature featuring topics including Black history, social justice, science, health, African Diasporic culture, African spirituality, personal development, novels, and children’s books. Friday evening, science writer, editor and ethicist, Harriet Washington will speak on her National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book, “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.”

On Saturday, the Black Book Expo will also include short talks by other authors, book signings, a keynote speaker, and live performances of “The Talking Drum,” featuring folktales and narratives combined with vocal and instrumental music to celebrate the drum as a legendary communications tool. Also on tap are the Freedom Market filled with unique finds, food and beverages and the Get Woke Youth Summit.

Author Harriet Washington poses March 5, 2015 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services) Photo provided by

The Juneteenth observance continues Sunday afternoon at the Manchester Dock with a “Tribute to the Ancestors” along the trail of enslaved Africans. Conceived as an evolutionary, experiential, and visceral walk along the trail, the journey aims to allow attendees to immerse themselves in past occurrences that impact our perspectives today. From the African arrival point at the dock to Shockoe Bottom and the sites of holding pens, jails, blocks and the African burial ground, interpreters will interweave the narratives of enslaved Africans with the historical record. Participants will have the chance to ponder the impact of enslavement on the enslaved as shared in their own words and from their viewpoint. The program also includes riverside meditative community rituals for ancestral homage. Attendees are asked to wear white and are welcome to bring ancestral offerings such as flowers, water, or fruit. Places to sit along the way will be available and buses will return attendees to their cars at the program’s conclusion. Food and water will also be available.

Juneteenth 2024, A Freedom Celebration featuring the Black Book Expo June 7, 5-9 p.m. and June 8, 2-7 p.m. at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, 428 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard. A Tribute to the Ancestors Along the Trail of Enslaved Africans June 9, 2-7 p.m. at the Manchester Dock, 1308 Brander Street, efsinc.org

 A full schedule of music, dance, and theater on two stages make up Henrico County’s Juneteenth celebration on June 15 at Dorey Park. In addition to a vendor fair and kids’ zone, there will entertainment of many kinds, from the Speaking Spirits Choir and Legacy Band to the Hermitage High School Drumline and Black Virginia Theatre Alliance. To conclude the celebration, the Art of Noise RVA takes the stage at 8 p.m., followed by a festive Juneteenth fireworks celebration in the sky.

Henrico County Juneteenth, Jube 15, 4-10 p.m., Dorey Park, 2999 Darbytown Rd., https://henrico.us/calendar/juneteenth2023/

The Juneteenth Day Festival the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds features hours of live music from DJ Ace, Leezus the DJ, Crush Groovey, DJ Landmark and DJ Sweetestvein. Also on tap will be art, games, and guest speakers running throughout the afternoon and evening. To avoid the heat of a summer afternoon, VIP cabanas and parking are available for those who reserve ahead of time. This is a major party Chesterfield County is throwing, so you can count on food trucks, adult beverages, games and hookahs to enhance the Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth Day Festival takes place June 15, 3-9 p.m., Chesterfield County Fairgrounds, 10300 Courthouse Rd., chesterfield.gov

A beautiful way to celebrate Juneteenth is at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where Juneteenth is being honored as a community day with free admission for all and extended evening hours with the Splashpad open late. Feel free to bring lawn chairs and blankets, but no outside food. Water fountains and water bottle refill stations are available. Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen and bring a water bottle. Carpool if you can since once the parking lot is full, no additional guests can be admitted.

Juneteenth Free Community Day will be held Wednesday, June 19 from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., lewisginter.org

Also on Juneteenth in Virginia Beach:


[Editor’s out of town pick: If you’re looking to head to the beach for some sun this week, there is a free oceanside concert by legendary reggae band, Burning Spear, on Wednesday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at 17th Street Park in Virginia Beach, located at 1701 Atlantic Ave. Also on the bill is Kabaka Pyramid. It will likely be a massive turnout, but definitely one of the finest options for live music on Juneteenth that could be found anywhere in the state.]

Everyone celebrates Juneteenth in their own way. Consider “Rootin’ for Everybody Black, ACT II,” the second annual burlesque and variety show produced in Richmond to celebrate Juneteenth. Head to Strangeways Brewing for craft beer and an immersive experience showcasing blackness in it its most artistic forms, a tribute to Black joy and liberation. Performers include Bunny Noir, Cami Oh, Darshe Dazzles, Kayy Lovely, Jungle Julia, Qing Blaze, Santobella Spark, Storm Psycho 6, and Zorra Diosa Valentine. This is burlesque, folks, so tipping the performers is encouraged. And if you forget cash, virtual tipping options will be available.

“Rootin’ for Everybody Black, ACT II” is held on Friday, June 21, doors at 8:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m. at Strangeways Brewing, 2277A Dabney Rd., Tickets here


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