Juneteenth Symposium at U-M set for June 20-21


The fifth annual Juneteenth Symposium will take place June 20-21 at the Michigan League, showcasing two days of visual art, performances and thought-provoking discussions, all celebrating Black activism and progress.

The free event is hosted by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives in partnership with the Juneteenth Planning Committee.

“Juneteenth represents a pivotal step in integrating Black people as full citizens of the United States. This year’s symposium will explore the power of art to challenge authority and advance equality, sparking discussions about how African American activism and creative expression go hand in hand to advance social justice on our campus and beyond,” said Rachel Dawson, director of OAMI.

Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. On that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, federal troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the state’s enslaved Blacks were free by executive decree.

The U-M symposium will kick off June 20 with a Juneteenth Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the Trotter Multicultural Center, followed by an Activist Art Display at the Michigan League Concourse and Vandenberg Room.

The opening keynote address, titled “Effective Activism in the Age of Hate and Divisiveness,” will be delivered by Loretta J. Ross, activist, 2022 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award recipient and an associate professor at Smith College, in the Michigan League Ballroom. It will be followed by a panel discussion on “The Activist Artist Engaging with Community.”

The evening will feature a Negro League Baseball Display at the Ann Arbor Top of the Park – KidZone Tent and the Activist Art Display at the Ann Arbor Top of the Park Exhibit Tent.

The June 21 closing keynote will feature Debbie Mitchell Covington, director of strategic partnerships and equity initiatives in the College of Engineering, and post-disciplinary artist Damon Davis, who co-directed the documentary “Whose Streets?” about the 2014 uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri. They will speak on “Using Art as an Effective Means of Activism” in the Michigan League Ballroom, followed by “Activist Art in Action Live Performances.”

The event concludes with a Juneteenth Block Party at Regents Plaza.

Besides Ross and Davis, featured speakers include Harold Green, an artist, poet, and event producer; Sherrie Nunn-Berry, a renowned gospel singer; and U-M alumna Erika “Red” Stowall, who will perform an original dance for the event.


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