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Culture and tradition. Those words encapsulate what Juneteenth is all about in Atlanta. It commemorates the day in 1865 — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed — when slavery finally ended for good in the United States.

This afternoon (June 17), President Biden signed a congressional resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day and a federal holiday. Previously, 48 states and the District of Columbia recognized the day.

In Georgia, Juneteenth commemorations have increased over the past decade. In Atlanta, this year’s events include the continuation of artist–activist Charmaine Minniefield’s Remembrance as Resistance at Oakland Cemetery; Juneteenth Takeovers that include art, food and coloring books; an immersive art day at Lakewood; and an online video and photography exhibit.

Oakland Cemetery Black grave site. 2017 photo.

The grave site of Dr. Beatrice Thompson, who graduated from medical school in 1901, before — like so many others — it was repaired.

Minniefield’s Oakland Cemetery effort, a collaboration with Flux Projects, will feature a sacred space called The Praise House, a small, white structure measuring 22 feet x 26 feet. It will be used to honor the 800 people whose remains were lost — actually displaced — when Oakland Cemetery expanded in 2007. Only four people will be allowed inside at one time, so as not to obstruct the visuals. Original music and sound will be piped in. Malesha Jessie Taylor and Salah Ananse, aka We Are Djeli, created a soundtrack that expands on the Black Church song traditions of metered/lined hymns and the ring shout.

“In the spirit of Juneteenth,” says Minniefield, recently returned from a residency in The Gambia, “we are celebrating by lifting up those lost, setting them free and welcoming them home into our hearts.”

The project/commemoration/remembrance, she says, is “about this moment in history, in this city, but it’s also about what has happened over the last year and a half in our country. We are dealing in the South with a history that’s wrought with oppression, marginalization and appropriation. We’re reclaiming our space inside the social landscape of today. We’re reclaiming our right to our legacy and our acknowledgement of our history and African American contributions to what is our city.”

Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives runs 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily through July 11. Free tickets must be reserved. COVID protocols in place. Free tours of Oakland’s African American burial grounds available.

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More Juneteenth happenings

Juneteenth Takeovers were created last year, designed to empower Black people through authentic imagery from Black creators. The takeovers are meant to remind everyone how far Black people have come and how much further American society must go in terms of representation, systemic oppression, closing the wealth gap and social injustices. Sponsored by ColorATL, Power Haus Creative and MINT gallery, among others.

juneteenth 2021

Coloring books featuring work by 19 Black artists will be sold Saturday. Each comes with a T-shirt and multicultural pencils.

— Coloring Book launch. The coloring books, featuring the work of 19 Atlanta-based Black artists, will sell for $25. This includes a T-shirt and Crayola multicultural pencils. The artists will attend. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturday (June 19) at the community-building studio at Remerge, 340 Auburn Ave. N.E. 

— Juneteenth Takeover with arts installations. Interactive art installations, including colors on vinyls, on the Broad Street boardwalk fence follows the Sweet Auburn parade. Installations by Journey of a Black Girl, Black King Everything / Comfiart, Sean Fahie and Black Men Smile. Photography by Straight to Tell studio and Kendall Bessent. 3–6 p.m. Saturday at Woodruff Park downtown.

— Immersive Art Day. An interactive art show highlighting a space of 4,000 square feet for project mapping around the theme of “freedom.” Showcasing work by Melissa A. Mitchell, Craig Flux Singleton, Andrea Mckenzie and Cendino Temé. Curated by Courtney Brooks. 7:30–10 p.m. Saturday. Ali Events at Lakewood, 1800 Jonesboro Road S.E. $19 in advance; $25 day of event HERE.

Catching Light. An online video and photography exhibit honors Black midwives and birth-workers in the South. It’s sponsored by SisterSong, an Atlanta-based national reproductive justice organization. The exhibit will go live on Saturday HERE.

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This story was updated to reflect the progress of legislation.

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