Thanks to a coalition of groups, Sun Prairie’s second annual Juneteenth Celebration will take place from 12-6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18 in Vandenburg Heights Park, located at 1020 Vandenburg Street.
Lisa Goldsberry from Sun Prairie Community Schools’ Patrick Marsh Middle School site said the event will include food, games, music, information and prizes as well as a three-on-three basketball tournament.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, Sun Prairie Community Schools, Sankofa, Sistahs of African Descent, and the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission are presenting the second annual event.
Wait — second annual?
“I didn’t [know about the first one] either,” Goldsberry admitted. “During Black History Month, there was a group of young ladies who went to school here who came and wanted to do a presentation. It went over beautifully. From that presentation, another teacher and I were talking about doing this calendar where we would put different holidays and different things from all the cultures represented in this building so we could be inclusive and try to celebrate everyone.
“As we were putting together the calendar, we got to Juneteenth, and I said ‘wait a minute, let’s do something for Juneteenth’ because that’s like the next holiday,” Goldsberry said, adding that she couldn’t recall whether there had ever been a Juneteenth celebration in Sun Prairie.
When Goldsberry ran it by Sun Prairie Community Schools Director Sarah Smith, she learned from Smith that Rolling Prairie had hosted one last year headed up by Jaliteefa Joe-Meyers, the founder of the Sankofa group.
“I reached out to her and she was happy to collaborate,” Goldsberry said.
Goldsberry also reached out to different groups who service children in the community — Boys and Girls Clubs, the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission and Sun Prairie Community Schools being among them.
“We’re trying to make it like a really, true cultural experience,” Goldsberry said, referring to the free food. “There’s going to be soul food, we’re going to have some African-American games . . . we’re probably going to have some dominoes out there. We’ll have three-on-three basketball, we’re going to have a double-dutch competition and then we’re also invited some African-American vendors out from Madison to sell their artwork, or jewelry, or what have you.”
Goldsberry said she is not sure how many vendors will be there because each group involved with planning the celebration has invited its own vendors, and it will not be known until perhaps the day of the event how many have committed to be at the event.
“We hope to get some live performances,” Goldsberry said, adding the Patrick Marsh Step Team will perform a step dance. “It started with fraternities and sororities, and it’s like a little chant, and they make a little beat with their feet, hands and body,” she added.
Performances will be spread throughout the afternoon.
What is Juneteenth?
Goldsberry explained that the term Juneteenth came from after the Emancipation Proclamation. “For some reason, the slaves in Texas didn’t know about it,” she said. “There was a whole two years that they didn’t know about when they were still enslaved. On June 18, 1865, some Union soldiers came through Texas and that’s when they were notified slavery had ended. That was the last day of actual chattel slavery in the United States, so it’s kind of viewed as the African-American Independence Day.”
The group is hoping the Juneteenth Celebration will become an annual event.
“We just want to get the word out,” Goldsberry said. “Surprisingly, not a lot of people have heard of Juneteenth.”
Goldsberry explained that, coming from the deeply religious state of Alabama, Juneteenth was widely known there. “Down there, this is like a big deal, and throughout the South it is, too,” Goldsberry said, adding that she knew of the Madison celebration but did not want to schedule it on a Saturday because it might conflict with that event.
“But here in Sun Prairie, I’ve met some African-Americans who have never heard of Juneteenth. I was like, ‘whaaaaat?’ So, I think this year is to just educate people on what Juneteenth is . . . of course, we want to grow it, but for now, we’re just happy to get the word out.”
Goldsberry said even though Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American independence, there is something the group is also aiming for as part of this year’s celebration.
“We really want it to feel inclusive,” Goldsberry said. “We’re not targeting the African-American community per se, we want it to be inclusive and we want it to be a community event.”
Individuals looking to do appropriate spoken word, poetry, dance or musical performance at the Juneteenth Celebration should contact Goldsberry at 608-318-3698 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org