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Louisville Juneteenth Festival returns with four days of events

Louisville Juneteenth Festival founder Aaron Jordan hopes to continue with event's original goal of giving Black residents a bit hope and joy.
Louisville Juneteenth Festival founder Aaron Jordan hopes to continue with event's original goal of giving Black residents a bit hope and joy.

Louisville residents can celebrate Juneteenth this year with several celebrations across the city. 

One of which is the Louisville Juneteenth Festival. It’s a four-day event culminating in a celebration at the Belvedere on June 19.

It will feature Black vendors, performances and resource tables. 

The Juneteenth Festival was first held in June 2020, during the racial justice protests in response to Louisville Metro Police Department officers killing Breonna Taylor.

“I understand that during civil unrest when this initiative came about it was just about having a glimmer of hope and a little bit of Black boy joy and Black girl magic in the middle of a traumatic summer,” Louisville Juneteenth Festival Founder Aaron Jordan said.

Since its inaugural event, the Louisville Juneteenth Festival has grown to include a midnight brunch highlighting historically Black colleges and universities, networking events and a poetry slam.

“Our festival represents the future,” Jordan said. “Our events, our panel, our conversations, they all advance the culture forward.”

The Lipstick Wars poetry slam is a part of the Louisville Juneteenth Festival’s goal to achieve diversity within events.

“Black women poets from all over will show up to not just be seen, but heard,” event producer Rheonna Nicole said.

Juneteenth commemorates the day the last enslaved people residing in Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom from slavery. This happened on June 19, 1865, nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. 

“We are a part of this country, we helped build this country, and the world needs to know that’s what this Juneteenth celebration is all about,” Jason Clayborn, who helped build the musical performance for the festival, said.

Clayborn highlighted the importance of Black people across American culture touchpoints, like music.

He said Juneteenth celebrations remind people of Black people’s impact on the greater U.S. culture.

Juneteenth celebrations have been happening nationwide for years, but it wasn’t until recently that many local governments began to recognize the holiday.

In Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer signed a bill making Juneteenth a city government holiday in 2020. That law went into effect for Juneteenth 2021.

President Joe Biden signed a bill into law in June 2021 that established Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday.

The last few years saw a rise in local Juneteenth celebrations with the city’s Juneteenth Jubilee and the Juneteenth Festival.

The Juneteenth Jubilee and the Louisville Juneteenth Festival are two different events. The city is sponsoring the Louisville Juneteenth Festival, and Jordan says officials have been helping in ensuring they have the right permits to hold their festival.

City organizers caused controversy recently with lamp post signs in Downtown Louisville that read “Downtown is Juneteenth.”

Many people, including State Rep. Attica Scott, took issue with the signage that seemed to equate an important cultural and historical holiday with the downtown business corridor. 

Jordan said that as a person who was organizing during the protests, downtown doesn’t feel welcoming.

“There’s a lot of trauma there in that space,” Jordan said.

Additionally, Jordan said that downtown has not been historically welcoming to Black Louisvillians.

For him, it shows the ways the city can continue to improve on listening to the Black community.

“I do understand the attempt, but I think there should have been a little bit more community consensus before those banners went up,” Jordan said.

The Louisville Juneteenth Festival will be held June 16 through June 19. A full list of events can be found on the Louisville Juneteenth Festival website.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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