Artists, Penn State faculty to participate in virtual Juneteenth celebration

June 15, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Starting on Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in America, but the news didn’t reach Texas until more than two years later. Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Liberation Day — is the holiday celebrating the Union troops’ arrival in Galveston to enforce the announcement that the enslaved people in the furthest reaches of the rebel South were now free.

The Center for the Performing Arts will commemorate the holiday with “Juneteenth: A Fierce Urgency Celebration!” The free one-hour film, produced in partnership with Electric Root, will feature performances and reflections from artists and academics. It will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19, and will be available on demand until 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 21.

Contributions from the members of the Center for the Performing Arts and a grant from the University Park Student Fee Board help make the program free of charge.

The program is part of the Center for the Performing Arts 2020-21 “Up Close and Virtual” season. It also is part of the Fierce Urgency Festival, the center’s commitment to celebrating Black artists and sharing their stories.

“This day is a vital piece of American history, and we plan to celebrate it the way we know best, through the artists with whom we have relationships,” said Amy Dupain Vashaw, the center’s audience and program development director.

Multigenre artist, activist and historian Michael Mwenso, host of the monthly “Meeting the Moment” virtual program, will host the film, which will feature a variety of Black artists, organizations and Penn State faculty sharing performances and historical context.

“We are very happy to have this space as Black artists to reflect on our ancestral history and the sacrifices they made for us,” Mwenso said. “We use this significant day as a reflection of celebration as we continue the work toward social change and an equitable and just world.”

Artists featured in the event include funk-jazz band Mwenso and The Shakes, dance troupe Urban Bush Women, creative innovator Shariffa Ali and vocalist Dashon Burton. Participating Penn State faculty members include J. Marlena Edwards, assistant professor of African-American studies and history; Charles Dumas, professor emeritus of the School of Theatre; and Aquila Kikora Franklin, associate professor of theater/dance.

Geisinger and Northwest provide support for virtual presentations by the Center for the Performing Arts.

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(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 16, 2021