By Lydia Morgan
Cincinnati Juneteenth organizer
Juneteenth organizers defied gloomy weather forecasts—and Cincinnati was blessed with a bright, beautiful weekend for Cincinnati’s 30th annual Juneteenth Festival in Eden Park.
The Festival was opened with its unique parade of “flags of the African diaspora.” Folks of all ages marched with the flags of some 70 nations, representing both the origins and destinations of enslaved Africans during almost 300 years of slavery in the Americas. After President Lincoln (accompanied by his wife, Mary Todd) proclaimed the emancipation of those enslaved in the Confederacy (but, alas, not those in the Union states). Festival participants enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment, enlightenment, and food.
Basic Truth, Ms. Jazz, Harriet Tubman, Bi-Okoto, Jazz Renaissance, Colour of Rhythm, and Rameer Roebuck were among two dozen performances on the two Festival stages. Denmark Vesey recalled his role as the leader of the 1822 slave revolt in Charleston, Bass Reeves spun tales of his exploits as the first African US Marshal, and members of the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment shared the perspective of almost 200,000 African American troops who helped assured the Union victory—and the end of American slavery.
Kids had a great time, making Father’s Day cards, interacting with the petting zoo animals, and, of course, riding the Heavenward Farm ponies, and returning home with a free book.
Saturday evening closed out in Seasongood Pavilion, where The Deele performed to an overflowing and enthusiastic crowd.
Sunday was the Father’s Day concert, Juneteenth’s revival of the June Festival that provided a venue for African Americans from the 1920’s to the mid ‘50’s when they were not so welcome in Music Hall. Sunday’s inspirational performers included the Gospel Workshop Choir, Charles Fold Singers, Dunimus Sign & Mime, Empty Vessels, and Prodigal Sunz.
Simply put: a terrific time was had by all.
The 30th annual Juneteenth Festival was made possible by the sponsorship and support of many organizations, including Arts Wave, the Ohio Arts Council, Mercy Health, UC Health, Boost Mobile, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, Kennedy heights Community Council, S&S Printing, The Cincinnati Herald, League of Women Voters, Speedy Signs & Apparel, and John Morrell Meats. In addition to the organizational support, about 50 individuals made personal donations to assure that Juneteenth Cincinnati could cover the expenses of an event that was completely free to the public.
Juneteenth Cincinnati Inc. is a 100 percent volunteer organization, with no paid staff, and dedicated to educating the public about the history and legacy of slavery and emancipation—and assuring a great festival for freedom lovers.