Not so long ago, Phyllis “Tee” Adams embarked on a personal mission to learn all that she could about the history of Juneteenth. An idea to create a celebratory event in Annapolis developed after the visionary and founder of the Annapolis Juneteenth Celebration had a dream which sparked her to assemble a team and plan a festival amid the pandemic. As a result, an inaugural celebration was held on June 19, 2021. Additionally, a ticketed VIP reception kicked off festivities the preceding Friday night.
Adams’ motivation to act was partially fueled by Juneteenth’s critical tie to the freedom of enslaved African Americans. According to www.juneteenth.com, information provided on the website reminds that on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. They informed individuals that the Civil War had ended, and enslaved people were free. Delivery of the news occurred two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had already abolished slavery. Initial festivities held thereafter were a motivator and partial comfort from tensions African Americans experienced. Some of them stayed near Texas and relocated in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, while seeking to connect with “family members.”
The U.S. Department of State held a briefing with Dr. Brenna W. Greer. The Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College also pointed out that “within a half-year, in 1866, on June 19th, 1866,” the inaugural Juneteenth celebrations held by freedmen were implemented in Texas.
“And they referred to these celebrations as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Freedom Day, and these are all still names that are used to describe Juneteenth and Juneteenth celebrations,” Greer said.
And now, celebratory Juneteenth gatherings are extensively celebrated in communities around the United States. For example, a second annual Juneteenth celebration in Annapolis—which will consist of a libation ceremony, parade, festival, food, entertainment, and fireworks— is drawing near on June 18, 2022. The Annapolis Juneteenth Gala VIP Reception & Awards Ceremony takes place on June 17, 2022. However, a June 18 festival highlight will be musical. Community members who love singing will back up gospel vocalist, Beverly Crawford. Dr. Craig N. Coates of Fresh Start Church will direct them, according to Adams.
“It’s crucial that we have volunteers to help us get the word out,” Adams said, mentioning that help is still needed for Annapolis Juneteenth.
Adams is attempting to add additional parking attendants and support staff. Tiffany Butler, Team Lead of the Annapolis Juneteenth Celebration, remarked that the event reminds of elevation and work that still lies ahead.
“Juneteenth is an important part of American history, and to be able to celebrate that monumental day prominently in a city that served as a major port of enslaved Africans is powerful,” Butler said.
Adams previously informed The Baltimore Times that she did not want future generations to miss knowing Juneteenth’s legacy and significance. Her sentiments remain unchanged.
“With this now being a national, state, county, and city holiday, it is important to keep this event going so that our children, and children’s children, will know the significance of Juneteenth. It was not taught in the school system. It is time to educate and celebrate,” Adams said. “When the president signed it into law to make it a holiday it took the awareness to the next level. More people want to know its origin and why we celebrate it.”
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth, which is also June 19, a federal holiday.
“You know, today, we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be: a national holiday,” Biden said while making remarks at the signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
Additionally, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as an official county holiday on Friday, June 18, 2021 and Gov. Larry Hogan announced closure of Maryland’s state government offices and agencies.
As commemorating Juneteenth gains momentum, Annapolis Juneteenth 2022 remains progressive, accessible, and free to the public. Two main stages will feature headliners such as Crawford and the Chuck Brown Band. Local talent will also be featured.
“Annapolis Juneteenth is 100% funded by businesses, companies, corporations, and donors. The County (Anne Arundel) was our top sponsor. The city (of Annapolis) has partnered with us to provide services,” Adams said, “Funding also comes through vendor support, sale of Annapolis Juneteenth t-shirts, souvenir coins, and proceeds from the gala.”
Please visit www.theannapolisjuneteenth.org for more information about festival details, sponsorship opportunities, and ways to volunteer.