Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the official ending of slavery in the United States. Although enslaved people were emancipated throughout the Confederacy by Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that federal troops arrived at Galveston, Texas, to free the remaining enslaved people in the remote Confederate stronghold.
Though an important cultural holiday within the African American community since its inception, Juneteenth was only officially recognized as a holiday on both a federal level and in Kansas City this time last year.
To commemorate Juneteenth in Kansas City, there will be a wealth of events in the coming days. To continue supporting and celebrating Black communities beyond the holiday, we offer some ideas below.
Kansas City Juneteenth events
Saturday, June 18
JuneteenthKC 2022 Heritage Festival: Kansas City’s annual celebration of freedom, liberty and community will be from noon to 9 p.m. at 18th & Vine in Kansas City’s historic Jazz District. The Heritage Festival was brought to Kansas City in 1980 by Horace M. Peterson III, founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America. A variety of musical performances and other live entertainment will take place throughout the festival in addition to a bike and car show. Retail, food, nonprofit/public service and youth-oriented vendors will also be present. This year’s event is projected to attract over 20,000 attendees, according to JuneteenthKC. Weather forecasts say highs will be in the 90s on Saturday, so be prepared.
The second annual Leeds-Dunbar Juneteenth Picnic, 100 Year Park Anniversary: Featuring games, prizes, bounce houses, music and entertainment at Yvonne Starks Wilson Park, 34th Terrace and Stadium Drive, starting at 8 a.m.
Juneteenth 2022 Cultural Celebration: Hosted by WeBuyBlaKCK LLC and The Black Marqet, the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point, 1 River City Drive, Kansas City, Kansas. Attendees can expect food, fun, live music and a variety of vendors and activities.
Juneteenth OP Celebration: Hosted by The Women Of Purpose Of Johnson County and Prairiefire, an entertainment and shopping district in Overland Park, Kan., the event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5661 West 135th St. There will be a parade, speakers, musical performances, food and more.
Sunday, June 19
Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow is an exhibit at the National World War I Museum and Memorial exploring the struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded after the Civil War and leading into WWI. In honor of Juneteenth in Kansas City, admission to the exhibit will be free to the public on Sunday, June 19, and Monday, June 20 (observed holiday).
THE BLK + BRWN Block Party will take place from noon to 5 p.m. at 104 1/2 West 39th St. Hosted by BLK + BRWN, the Black-owned bookstore dedicated to amplifying Black and Brown storytelling, the party will celebrate the store’s first anniversary. All are welcomed to RSVP and enjoy an abundance of Black literature, food, music and culture.
The Juneteenth Bicycle Tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hosted by the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Kansas City, the 19-mile tour will begin at 1722 E. 17th Terrace and include several stops as cyclists learn the historical and cultural context of the Emancipation period in Kansas City.
Buy with Kansas City Black-owned businesses
Shopping with Black-owned businesses like BLK + BRWN is one of the most effective ways to bring in the holiday and show support to the community. Luckily, Kansas City is home to a wide range of Black-owned businesses. While we have listed a few notable businesses below, a directory for more options can be found here.
Equal Minded Cafe & Event Center at 4327 Troost Ave. is a Black-owned cafe with a declared mission to “provide resources, opportunities and beneficial connections for people from all districts of Kansas City.” Founded in 2018, the center’s event space has hosted more than 50 nonprofit events and fundraisers as well as open mics and community events.
Fannie’s African and Tropical Cuisine, 4105 Troost Ave., is a restaurant founded by Liberian-born Fannie Gibson and her husband Kelechi Eme. They serve authentic West African cuisine including jollof rice and cassava leaf.
John’s Java and Jazz at 2003 1/2 N. Fifth Street in Kansas City, Kansas, is a community coffee shop and jazz parlor located in a building with a long line of generational history and Black business ownership.
Elevate Bar & Grill at 7543 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas, was founded in 2018 by four friends who dreamed of creating a unique dining and entertainment experience for Kansas City.
The Black Pantry at 325 E. 31st St. curates items sourced from Black makers, creators and artists.
Mattie’s Foods at 633 E 63rd St. #110 is a Black-owned vegan restaurant. Their food can be found at any Made in KC cafe on the days their location is not open.
Support Black nonprofits in KC
Vital to the celebration and reinforcement of liberty and equality is uplifting the people, organizations and institutions that support or preserve our region’s Black communities. Here we include a few organizations around Kansas City doing this work. Those who want to support the cause can donate or attend events.
Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit organization that partners with all types of Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. The core focus is on the launching, developing, promoting, sustaining and growth of the Black community in Kansas City.
Give Black KC is a weeklong annual fundraiser that focuses on providing funds for high-impact, Black-led organizations operating east of Troost. The campaign was launched to address the problem of philanthropic redlining. The nonprofits Generating Income for Tomorrow and BeGreat Together have partnered with the United Way of Greater Kansas City this year with a goal of raising $500,000. From May 2020 through April 2021, GIFT has raised $443,369.68 for grant funding. You can donate here.
High Aspirations is a faith-based mentoring program that focuses on working with young African American males, ages 8 to 18. The program supports them socially, academically, emotionally and spiritually. Donations can be made on their website.
We Code KC introduces youth in Kansas City’s urban core to various programming languages, technology, cybersecurity and computer science concepts. Its mission is to “give youth the opportunity to learn technology concepts, and leadership skills; creating a pipeline of future-ready professionals through project-based learning and innovative programs.” You can donate here.
Reale Justice Network is a Black-led grassroots organization that supports organizers and community members advocating for a variety of social justice issues. The network centers the experiences of survivors of violence — whether domestic, interpersonal, sexual or state-sanctioned. You can donate here.
Black Excellence is a resource organization founded on the mission of connecting and supporting Black professionals. BXKC provides members learning and social experiences, personality mapping, and job placement matchmaking and communal support. It has partnered with foundations, corporations and executives to create pathways for career acceleration for Black professionals. You can donate here.
The Future of Us was founded in 2020 by three Ruskin High School graduates in Kansas City. The organization invests in students by offering finances, time, guidance, leadership, support and encouragement for their academic goals. You can donate here.
The Kansas City Black Mental Health Initiative has the goal of promoting, destigmatizing and bringing awareness to the mental health and well-being of Black people in the Kansas City area. In 2021, founder Cecil Wattree launched The Black Therapy Initiative, a program for Black clients to receive free therapy sessions from licensed Black therapists. The effort was funded through donations from the initiative’s financial partner, Uzazi Village, a nonprofit organization dedicated to decreasing maternal and infant health inequity among Black and Brown communities in Kansas City and around the country. You can donate to Uzazi Village here.
Other Juneteenth and Black history resources
Here are a few local resources to learn more about Black history and liberation.
The African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City, Missouri, is a virtual trail that highlights people, places and institutions significant to the city’s rich Black history. It has been driven by community input and will continue to grow in size and scope, according to the site.
Black Archives of Mid-America collects and preserves materials documenting the social, economic, political and cultural histories of African Americans in the central United States, with an added emphasis on the Kansas City region. Black Archives of Mid-America is an educational resource and provides access to its collections for research, exhibition and publication in order to honor community heritage and spread public awareness. You can donate here.
Episode 5, “Be Free,” is from “The Filter,” a podcast on Flatland, Kansas City’s PBS digital platform that amplifies community stories. In this episode, hosts Vicky Díaz-Camacho and Ieshia Downton talk with historians Lyle Gibson of Metropolitan Community College and Daive Dunkley of the University of Missouri about important milestones in history stemming from the Emancipation Proclamation to our current Black Liberation movements. They also speak with Azja Butler, a student at the University of Kansas and a local organizer with the Black Lives Matter movement.
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