Here’s what’s happening for Juneteenth 2021 in Kansas City

JuneteenthKC Parade
The annual Juneteenth parade held June 12 by JuneteenthKC/Courtesy photo

If you missed the annual JuneteenthKC parade through 18th Street last Saturday, don’t fret. There are still plenty of upcoming ways to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

JuneteenthKC, the oldest organizer of the holiday in Kansas City, is returning to in-person festivities after a mostly virtual 2020 experience.

“Everyone was really excited and anticipating getting back into the swing of things,” says Makeda Peterson, program director of JuneteenthKC.

Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to free the remaining enslaved people in the state. This was over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Peterson says the date signifies that it takes more than words to create action.

“There has still been a constant fight for civil rights and social equity,” Peterson says. “It’s important for us to continue to advocate, stay educated and tell the story.”

Peterson’s father, Horace Peterson III, launched the city’s first Juneteenth celebration in 1980. He also founded the Black Archives of Mid-America and co-founded the American Jazz and Negro Leagues museums.

Since joining the nonprofit JuneteenthKC in 2012, Peterson has seen the festival grow. Kansas City designated Juneteenth as a paid holiday for city employees in May, and a bill to make it a federal holiday passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday.

“A rallying point between all cultures is that we all have the right to be free,” Peterson says. “So we definitely welcome everyone to share the spirit of emancipation with us.”

Upcoming Juneteenth Events

  • The JuneteenthKC Cultural Heritage Festival takes place June 19 from noon-9 pm at the 18th and Vine Jazz District. The festival will have over 150 vendors, live performances and free all-ages activities such as balloon art and face painting. There will be a gospel show at noon-2 pm followed by community performances and the awarding of Mr. and Mrs. Juneteenth.
  • “The Last Dance”: JuneteenthKC’s Stepper Challenge is a two-hour stepping contest June 19 from 6-8 pm at the KC Juke House. The grand prize is $500 for the last couple standing.
  • Kansas City Juneteenth “All Black Everything Party” is a live concert featuring rapper K Camp June 18 from 6-9 pm at the Union Station. Organized by Kansas City Juneteenth, this performance kicks off its celebrations. Tickets are $20-150.
  • Kansas City Juneteenth Celebration will be held June 19 from noon-9 pm at Blue Hills Park. The festival includes an artist showcase, car & bike show, bounce houses and line dancing.
  • Testimony is an art exhibition organized by the African American Artists Collective in partnership with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The gallery centers around the artists “authentically speaking one’s truth.” Visitors can reserve tickets for in-person viewing or look through the gallery virtually on its website.
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