The tenth annual African Heritage Inc. (AHI) Juneteenth program is going virtual — and global.
Given the pandemic, and in full support to “help keep our people safe,” AHI board member and event co-organizer Dr. Sabrina Robins said the decision was made weeks ago to move to a “virtual” event.
“We understand that African Americans are contracting and dying (of COVID19) at higher rates than other populations,” Robins said, noting that AHI’s Juneteenth event usually draws a crowd of 4,000 – 6,000 in Appleton.
But organizers don’t see the move to an online event as a hindrance — quite the opposite. They are taking it as an opportunity to go global, bringing in guests and speakers from across the country and reaching out to audiences beyond the United States.
“We embarked on a major international Juneteenth 2020 marketing campaign because it’s our 10th year,” said co-organizer Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran. “Quite a number of our speakers are from various parts of the United States, so we’re live streaming Juneteenth 2020 to various countries, most especially to countries that quite a number of our brothers and sisters are, like in the African continent.” Moreover, we recognize that many other countries are engaging in Black Lives Matter protests. African Heritage, Inc. Juneteenth 2020 program is an excellent time to engage a broader audience to learn about critical issues that impact Black lives in the United States, and the world.
One of the sessions, for example, will feature speakers from Georgia on Black wealth.
“For many years, we’ve focused on the importance of building Black wealth for our people, for our communities. So, for Juneteenth 2020, we are going to continue with that,” Delano-Oriaran said. “This year we actually have some brothers that are from parts of Georgia and they basically started an investment club and built it to the point that it’s been very impactful and they’ve been very effective in building financial independence for themselves and their families. They’re having a village conversation with us, guiding us, empowering us, positioning us in terms of how we can start small or start big as it relates to investment and how we need to reeducate ourselves.”
Delano-Oriaran also highlighted youth involvement.
“We begin working with our children right from the beginning. You know you’re Black ever since before you were born,” she said. “ For many of our children, protest and social justice is not a new concept. We are proud to feature Jahkil Jackson, a founder of a not for profit organization who is an advocate for children to be engaged during these times of ours.”
Robins said the program will also recognize the importance of Juneteenth and its origins.
“We’re also holding true to some of the historical elements of the meaning of Juneteenth, to show that Juneteenth is still relevant today,” she said. “So we have a professor that specializes in enslavement history and she’s here to say that we freed ourselves because we’ve been fighting and protesting since the beginning of our American experience.”
Robins noted that Juneteenth is a happy occasion, but a reminder that the work is far from done.
“There’s a difference between the terms celebration and commemoration,” she said. “Juneteenth is always a time to commemorate and honor all of the prior sacrifices of our ancestors’ fight for freedom. Given the current state of affairs, it’s a little difficult to celebrate freedom – when it’s clear that we’re not totally free. Now is the time for us to acknowledge it’s our turn to carry on the fight towards full freedom for education, employment, health, housing, and all of the areas of life in which Blacks need to be secure.”
The organizers said they wish to thank our sponsors, Engage To Impact, Adina, Inc., and Kimberly Clark Corporation.
“Without their support, it would have been challenging for African Heritage, Inc. to provide such a high-quality commemoration. We are also appreciative to have FoxValley365 as our media sponsor for the event,” they said.