Jun 09, 2021 3:15 PM

Annual Manhattan Juneteenth celebration set for June 19

Posted Jun 09, 2021 3:15 PM

The 31st Annual Manhattan Juneteenth Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 19 at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Complex located on the 900 block of Yuma Street, Manhattan, KS. The theme of this year’s one-day event is “United in History and Hope.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. It is important to note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. In addition to commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, this year’s Manhattan celebration will be in memory of several individuals who were an integral part of past Manhattan’s Juneteenth celebrations – Vanessa Hope, Ola Marie Guye, Richard Pitts, and Hannelore Slater.

Manhattan Juneteenth will kick-off on the evening of Thursday, June 17 at 6:30pm at the Douglass Activity Center, 925 Yuma Street, with a presentation by Phil Dixon titled, “The Kansas City Monarchs in Your Hometown.” Dixon’s presentation explores the early barnstorming days of the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team. The Monarchs were charter members of the Negro National League. Dixon’s presentation is made possible by a grant from Humanities Kansas.

The celebration continues Friday, June 18 at Arts in Park in the Norvell Band Shell at City Park with a performance by bassist Julian Vaughn. A dynamic lead bass player from Kansas City, Vaughn has made an international name for himself since 2010 as a bassist in the smooth jazz tradition which is dominated by artists who play sax. Although the bass is often associated with funk, Vaughn likes to play with more of a finesse style as well as some funk.

Opening for Vaughn is local talent and crowd-pleaser JahVelle Rhone. Rhone, also from Kansas City but currently a Manhattan resident, spreads positivity, love, and faith through music from hip-hop, to rhythm and blues, to country. Rhone’s passion is music but his heart is for people.

On Saturday, June 19 – the official date of Juneteenth – the day will begin at 8am with the United in History & Hope 5K Fun Run beginning and ending at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Complex at 9th & Yuma Streets. Zumba, led by Mitzie Rojas, will be held on the lawn of the Douglass Activity Center will held at 8:45am. The annual Community Unity Walk will start at 9:45am at Long’s Park at the corner where Yuma Street intersects with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The walk will be led by the Fort Riley Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard and the first 200 participants will receive a free 2021 Manhattan Juneteenth commemorative t-shirt. Participants will walk on Yuma Street to the Frederick Douglass Recreation Complex.

Just prior to the beginning of the walk, Mayor Wynn Butler will welcome attendees and read the City’s proclamation regarding Juneteenth. Then Daphne Maxwell, Past Representative of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission will offer her thoughts on this year’s event.

At 10:30am at the Douglass Activity Center, attendees will witness the unveiling of the mural commissioned by the City of Manhattan and painted by EuGene V Byrd III, Atlanta, GA.  Byrd was born and raised in Wichita before moving to Atlanta and had been looking for an opportunity to contribute art to Kansas. The mural reflects the history of Yuma Street and the Douglass Center.

New this year to the Juneteenth celebration is an art auction. Area artists were invited to paint canvasses that reflect this year’s theme “United in History and Hope.” More than 30 canvasses submitted by area artists will be available for viewing at the Douglass Activity Center for the first time the evening of Dixon’s presentation. The public will be able to bid on the canvasses at an online auction starting immediately following Dixon’s presentation and will culminate with a live auction starting at noon on Sat., June 19.

Other activities planned for Saturday include a barbeque starting at 11am prepared by Riley County Police Department and sponsored by Hy-Vee; a Kid’s Money Drop at 1pm; and a Car Wash Contest at 2pm.

“While this year’s Juneteenth celebration is scaled down in comparison to past events, there are still many opportunities for the community to be involved and to celebrate,” said Sonya Baker, Juneteenth Planning Committee Chair. “The planning committee has worked hard to ensure that this year’s event will appeal to families and people of all ages while focusing on the importance and meaning associated with the day.”

Platinum level sponsors for this year’s event are Community First National Bank, Dwan Miller Photography, Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, GT Jewelers LC, Hy-Vee, and K-State Athletics. In-kind support at the Platinum level from the City of Manhattan Parks & Rec Department and Frederick Douglass Recreation Complex makes the event possible.

A complete list of this year’s sponsors and more detailed information about this year’s celebration can be found on the Manhattan Juneteenth website at www.manhattanjuneteenth.org  or Facebook at “Manhattan KS Juneteenth Celebration” or by sending send an email to [email protected]