The Pinecrest Neighborhood Association (PNA) will hold its second Juneteenth Celebration & Solidarity March on Saturday, June 19, 2021, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the date when enslaved people in Texas became free on June 19, 1865 – a full two months after the end of the Civil War and two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Newly freed African Americans began to celebrate, and the tradition continued among African American communities since then.
This year’s event in East Lansing will begin at 2 p.m. with a one-mile peaceful solidarity march through the Pinecrest neighborhood. The march will wend from the Pinecrest Neighborhood sign at the intersection of Harrison Rd. and Crown Blvd. to Henry Fine Park, where the celebration will continue with performances by several groups and individual performers, as well as an open mic session. The Fine Park events are expected to begin at 3 p.m.
Last year, PNA held its first Juneteenth celebration at a time when the holiday gained significant national attention following the murder of George Floyd and protests for racial equity and justice.
PNA President Abbie Tykocki told ELi that, during that bloom of racial reckoning, she emailed her fellow PNA Board members because she wanted to do something locally.
Tykocki explained her motivation to ELi, saying that she asked herself the questions, “We have this platform to reach out, how can we use it to support Black people, Indigenous people, people of color? How can we affect change at a local level?”
Dr. Nichole Biber, PNA board member and Librarian at Pinecrest Elementary School, responded by suggesting a Juneteenth celebration.
“I was on the mailing list for the Movement for Black Lives, and there was a national call to action. I saw that. A lot was looking for an event or to host one. I thought, ‘That sounds neat,’ and it happened to coincide with Abbie wanting to do something as a neighborhood,” Biber told ELi.
PNA had only a few days to plan last year, but a couple hundred people showed up, according to Tykocki, who told ELi that she saw many neighborhood residents and a few others from elsewhere in East Lansing. After the march, there was an open mic event at Henry Fine Park.
This year, a committee consisting of Biber as chair, Tykocki, Dr. Veronica Wilkerson Johnson, and Cheryl Dudley had a bit more time to plan. The format of the event will be largely similar, beginning with the mile-long march at 2 p.m., followed up with events at Henry Fine Park at 3 p.m.
Dr. Lee Taylor, Worship Without Words, and the African Masquerade Dancers will perform this year. The performance will be “a historical journey to give historical context,” according to Tykocki.
According to information provided by the PNA, Taylor “delivers a compelling, birds-eye view on the meaning, then and now, of Juneteenth and African American studies that captures the audience.” Taylor has been associated with the Black Panthers, NAACP, and other organizations in addition to founding the Brand-New Me Workshops and the Reading Readiness program.
The African Masquerade Dancers use West African Djembe styles of traditional African drum and dance to share African culture and history, and Worship Without Words is a liturgical praise dance group that uses urban dance, gospel expressions, and African dancing.
Pinecrest Elementary School music teacher Cari Cravotta and some of her fifth-grade students will perform a diversity song with an accompanying American Sign Language interpretation. East Lansing High School alum and singer/songwriter Imelda Hay and drummer Saleem Lugman Shabazz will also perform.
Another new addition will include information booths from the League of Women Voters, Capital Area Latina Youth, and others.
Then, as last year, an open mic event will take place.
“We really want to amplify the open mic portion and extend invitations to Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and immigrants to speak to personal and familial knowledge of struggle against prejudice,” said Tykocki.
According to Biber, the only requirement is to be kind and respectful. Those wishing to participate can “just say some words, sing a song, share a poem or passage of literature,” she said.
Biber believes that the purpose of the event is twofold. Over the course of the past year, according to Biber, national and grassroots organizations are continuing their work for racial justice and equity, even if the media attention to their work has subsided. The event may renew attention and interest for attendees.
The event also serves as an opportunity for the community to “show up” for its neighbors. “We all have our responsibility to show up for each other when we are trying to trust one another to create communities of peace and dignity,” Biber told ELi.
Tykocki and Biber emphasize that the event is open to all. Attendees are welcome to bring signs, banners, or other creations. They also recommend bringing water and sun protection for the outdoor event. Reflecting current Covid guidelines, masks are optional.