While Juneteenth is a celebration of a pivotal moment in African-American history, the organizers of Tulsa Juneteenth want to make sure people know the four-day festival, to be held June 13-16, is for everyone.
“Every year, we’ve seen the crowds becoming more and more diverse,” said Lindsey Corbitt, community development coordinator at the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce.
“And that’s been our goal from the start,” added Sherry Gamble-Smith, president and chairman of Tulsa Juneteenth. “We want this to be a festival for all of Tulsa.”
That is one reason why this year’s festival will include a tribute to Prince, with two of the late multitalented artist’s best-known collaborators — percussionist-vocalist Sheila E. and the band Morris Day and the Time — serving as the headline acts.
“Prince is such an icon — not just for African-Americans, but for people all over the world,” Gamble-Smith said. “He was a pathfinder who opened the way for so many other artists, and we wanted to honor and pay respect to his accomplishments.
“Besides,” she said, “everyone loved Prince and his music. It reached across all racial and social barriers, and that’s what we hope to do with our Juneteenth.”
The festival will also include performances by local musicians, such as Faye Moffitt, Charlie Redd, Starr Fisher, and Thaddeus Johnson and the Wise Men; and dance ensembles Gather Round Crew, Prancing Pearls of Excellence, Wise Moves and Heiress Dance Co.
Other events include the “Royal Hotel Block Party” at the intersection of Archer Street and Greenwood Avenue, where the Royal Hotel stood when the area was known as “Black Wall Street”; a showing of the film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” at the Guthrie Green; and a special religious service led by Jamaal Dyer, pastor of Friendship Church.
But the entertainment aspect of the festival is just one element of Juneteenth.
Juneteenth gets its name from June 19, 1865, the date when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued some two years earlier, which marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States.
Tulsa has celebrated Juneteenth for more than two decades, and organizers say last year’s festival attendance exceeded expectations.
“We will have a visual art element at the block party that will give a history of Juneteenth, along with other historical themes, some of them unique to Tulsa,” Corbitt said. “And our kid’s zone will have an educational component about African-American history.
“That’s the whole purpose of this festival,” she said. “We’re wanting to shine a positive light on African-American history, heritage and culture.”