Singers and dancers celebrating African American culture, such as the Alkebulan Village Drummers and Dancers, pictured, will be among the performers at the 2021 Harper Woods commemoration of Juneteenth.

Singers and dancers celebrating African American culture, such as the Alkebulan Village Drummers and Dancers, pictured, will be among the performers at the 2021 Harper Woods commemoration of Juneteenth.

Photo provided by the city of Harper Woods


Harper Woods to host Juneteenth celebration

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 25, 2021

 A celebration of Juneteenth will take place in Harper Woods on Saturday, June 19, and will include historical reenactors of figures such as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, pictured.

A celebration of Juneteenth will take place in Harper Woods on Saturday, June 19, and will include historical reenactors of figures such as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, pictured.

Photo provided by the city of Harper Woods

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HARPER WOODS — Harper Woods residents and Wayne County Community College District are inviting the community to join them in celebrating one of the landmark moments in United States history.

Each year, people across the country celebrate Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Word of the Emancipation Proclamation took time to travel during the Civil War, and slaves in Texas learned June 19, 1865, that they were free. Harper Woods will host its own celebration of the holiday at the Wayne County Community College District campus in Harper Woods outside the Mary Ellen Stempfle University Center.

“It will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 19,” said Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle. “Right now we have the (Detroit Symphony Orchestra) committed to perform, and it will be outdoors, and I’m trying to get in touch with some other people to get involved. … (The DSO was) looking for something to do with WCCC and we were on a committee together with members of the DSO and I offered for them to come to our Juneteenth celebration and they jumped at it.”

The Mary Ellen Stempfle University Center is located at 19305 Vernier Road in Harper Woods.

This will mark the fourth time that the Harper Woods community has marked Juneteenth with a public event.

“I started this a few years ago because I was aware that a lot of people, including many African Americans, didn’t understand what Juneteenth was about,” Kindle explained. “I wanted to bring a festive event to Harper Woods to highlight the differences and a celebration many people weren’t aware of.”

Numerous activities will be included in the celebration, including musicians, dancers, historical reenactors, food and refreshments.

“There will be food trucks so people can purchase food safely,” Kindle said. “We will have African drummers and dancers. We will have a few historical reenactors portraying figures such as Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. We are trying to get commitments from a few other entertainers and educators.”

Harvey Dorrah, the provost of Wayne County Community College District, said Juneteenth is a celebration that has far-reaching implications in society and one that people should be sure to mark every year.

“It’s a one-day event designed to educate the community on the history and origin of Juneteenth,” he said. “It has become not only an occasion to commemorate the ending of slavery, but also a chance to highlight the resilience, the solidarity and culture of the Black community.”

He went on to say that he and his fellow administrators at Wayne County Community College District were happy to work with Harper Woods community members on the event.

“Participants can come and engage in storytelling and presentations by the DSO,” Dorrah said. “We have a longstanding relationship with the Harper Woods mayor and the community there. They are always welcome in the Wayne County Community College District.”

Kindle said that this year was especially important since organizers were forced to cancel last year’s Juneteenth celebration due to COVID-19.

“We had to skip Juneteenth last year. It was a disappointment,” she remarked. “I had emails and calls from many people looking forward to it. We had to cancel all outdoor activities by the city, even this year, so that is why we partnered with Wayne County Community College and I am so appreciative for this event to be allowed to happen on their campus.”

Kindle stressed how important the holiday is, especially for younger people.

“It’s important for young people to understand our history, and it’s important for people to know about the lack of communication from that time, especially today when communication is instant and we are constantly bombarded with news,” she said. “To allow young people to wrap their heads around the various aspects of this commemoration is very crucial. … It was such an important time in our history.”

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