Southfield brings history alive with weeklong Juneteenth Celebration

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published June 6, 2023

SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield is hosting nine days of events and activities to celebrate Juneteenth.

The celebration will begin at 5 p.m. Monday, June 12, in front of City Hall with the reading of the Juneteenth Joint Resolution and the raising of the Juneteenth flag.

The events are in partnership with Pearls of Service Foundation, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Pi Tau Omega Chapter, the Southfield Public Library, Centrepolis, the Southfield Parks and Recreation Department, and the Southfield Historical Society

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in June 2021 after Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas, and has been celebrated annually on June 19 since 1885. Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, the news did not reach enslaved people in Texas for another 2 1/2 years. Juneteenth represents freedom, unity and a celebration of African American culture.

According to Palina Drake, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s Pi Tau Omega Chapter, Southfield became one of the first cities in Michigan to honor Juneteenth when former AKA President Zena M. Kyles pitched the idea to Mayor Kenson Siver, and in 2020, Southfield was set to have its first weeklong Juneteenth celebration. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration was pushed back the following year, and the celebration was held in 2021.

“Southfield is a very diverse community of all races and nationalities, and we all live harmoniously together. And I was very impressed that the mayor felt the need to acknowledge this national holiday,” Drake stated.

Maurice Imhoff is a 21-year-old activist and historian, and he is hosting an event called “Born Free & Equal - Michigan’s Colored Regiment.”

Imhoff will cover the story of the 1st Michigan Colored Regiment, also known as the 102nd United States Colored Troops. Imhoff is passionate about African American history in Michigan and has been reenacting in uniform since 2014.

“I’ve had several guys get involved, and they put that uniform on for the first time, and wow. I had one guy say, ‘I felt a part of something.’ There are so many stories that are significant to Michigan’s history that are untold. So to be able to share those stories and inspire others for positive change, but to talk about the dark times as well.” Imhoff’s upcoming presentation includes the story of one of three African Americans lynched in Michigan, and he emphasizes the importance of passing these stories on.

Since Juneteenth’s beginning celebrations in 2021, Drake explained that things have shifted over the years, and Juneteenth is gaining more attention.

“We’ve been at this for three years now, and we’ve got a strong foundation and good standing in knowing what to do and how to keep things moving. And it’s funny — I look on Facebook and see that other cities are starting to emulate what we started. It’s a good thing for other cities to follow suit.”

For more information on Juneteenth in Southfield, visit

Southfield’s Juneteenth events include:

• The Juneteenth Centrepolis Entrepreneurs Micro Makers Evolution Lab Pitch Event will be held 1-5 p.m. June 14 in the Lawrence Technological University atrium, 21000 W. 10 Mile Road, Buell Building #5.

• The Southfield Public Library’s Juneteenth program, which will be held 6:30-8 p.m. June 14-15, will feature author Dr. Kordilla L. Noble on Wednesday, who will discuss her book, “A Study of Leadership Development, Self-Efficacy & Career Readiness Among African American/Black Women,” and Maurice Imhoff will host “Born Free & Equal - Michigan’s Colored Regiment” on Thursday, both at the library, 26300 Evergreen Road.

• The Juneteenth Senior Luncheon will be held noon-1 p.m.  June 15 in the Parks and Recreation Building, Room 115, at City Hall, where the Southfield Historical Society will present the Juneteenth booklet, “Pioneers of Progress: African American Trailblazers of Humanity,” which features African American stories from Michigan.

• The Mayor’s Juneteenth Walk will be held 10-11:30 a.m. June 17 beginning at the Southfield Municipal Campus front circle, where Mayor Kenson Siver will lead participants on a 2.5-mile walk to the Red Pole Park and back to City Hall, where he will discuss Southfield history and the achievements of African Americans in Southfield.

• The Southfield Parks and Recreation Juneteenth Jubilee will be held 4-9 p.m. Saturday, June 17, on the Southfield Municipal Campus front lawn. The event will feature food trucks, entertainment, yard games, a marketplace with over 30 Black vendors, and a beer and wine tent for attendees ages 21 and older.

• The Alpha Kappa Alpha Juneteenth Brunch and Scholarship Program will be held 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.  Monday, June 19, at D’Bo’s Daiquiris restaurant, 28595 Northwestern Highway, to support small businesses in the community.

• The Friends of the Southfield Public Library Juneteenth Jazz and Blues Concert will close the celebrations with a free outdoor concert featuring African American artist Gwen Pennyman-Hemphill. The concert will be held 6 -8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, at the Southfield Public Library.