By David Markham
Honoring the history and celebrating with art, music, food, and more is the goal of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District’s second-annual Juneteenth Commemoration and Celebration on June 10.
“JCPRD is proud to host our second-annual Juneteenth event at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center as one of many events that the community can take in to remember our history, celebrate the rich culture as a community, and learn something new,” said JCPRD Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong. “As a cultural hub, we want to leverage the arts and cultural assets of this center to honor this important holiday and allow visitors of all ages to walk away learning something new about the events of June 19, 1865. We look forward to an event that honors the history and significance of Juneteenth but also celebrates the rich African American culture that is infused into so many aspects of our country through music, food, history, and performing arts. This holiday gives us all a chance to reflect on some difficult parts of American history, but also celebrate the beauty, resiliency, and culture that was born out of these events.”
JCPRD’s Juneteenth at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This years’ family-friendly event will have musical performances from local artists, an interactive drumming workshop for kids, local food offerings, and more. Each year, the program aims to feature recurring features as well as new partners. June 10 is also one of four Free Days scheduled at the Johnson County Museum for 2023.
“The public is invited to explore our signature exhibit, “Becoming Johnson County,” and our special exhibit, “TRAINS: Transportation and the Transformation of Johnson County,” added Johnson County Museum Director Mary McMurray. “Our imaginative historical play area, KidScape, will also be open for play sessions. To ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone in our KidScape area, we'll be limiting entry to 100 people each hour.”
At its heart, Juneteenth is a recognition and celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.
“A combination of the terms ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth,’ this holiday – taking place on June 19 - marks the date in which Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, ensuring the freedom of all enslaved people in the state,” McMurray said. Juneteenth was first celebrated as a state holiday known as “Jubilee Day” in Texas in 1980. In 2021 the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act established it as a national holiday. The Kansas Legislature also recently signed a bill establishing it as a state holiday, and in 2022, it was recognized by Johnson County for the first time, on Monday, June 20, since June 19 fell on a Sunday.
Built with community partners, this family-friendly event drew several hundred people, as well as what McMurray called “incredible feedback” in its first year.
As in 2022, the 2023 JCAHC event was intentionally scheduled about a week before the actual holiday to leave room for other local celebrations, including those listed at jocogov.org/juneteenth.
“Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center convened a group of partners from the county and the community to determine how best to honor the day,” McMurray said. “Aware that there are others who have been celebrating Juneteenth in Kansas City and around Johnson County for years, we wanted to be intentional about focusing on Johnson County and using our platform to highlight what others are doing throughout Johnson County. Together, we came up with a theme to unite all of the Juneteenth events in Johnson County and worked with our partners to build a program at the arts & heritage center centered around learning the history, appreciating the culture, and community. We viewed this event as a kickoff to commemorations and celebrations throughout the county.”