KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The city’s largest and oldest Juneteenth celebration will look a lot different than in years past.
For years, Juneteenth KC has welcomed thousands of people to the 18th and Vine District on the Saturday following Juneteenth. When COVID-19 hit, organizers decided to go virtual rather than scrap festivities all together.
“We feel this is a way for us to rally the positivity behind African American pride,” said Makeda Peterson, the program director for Juneteenth KC.
Peterson’s father, Horace M Peterson III, first brought Juneteenth to Kansas City in 1980, but the tradition, which commemorates the end of slavery, dates back more than 150 years.
“The story is when we first started the celebration as tradition, it was supposed to be a regathering of families that had been ripped apart from plantations or what have you,” Peterson said.
Juneteenth KC has been holding events online all month, but Peterson said Saturday will be their busiest day of engagement. There are up to 20 virtual discussions scheduled, covering a range of topics that include college, health, art and business
“The website has become a real resource of historical information but also ways you can connect with social agencies,” Peterson said.
FOX4 film critic Shawn Edwards will lead a discussion with the directors of the Netflix documentary “Who Killed Malcom X” at noon.
“These films they’ve produced would’ve been timely regardless, but I think they have an added sense of urgency now because of the issues we’re dealing with in terms of social injustice, economic disparity, police brutality,” Edwards said.
Peterson said her organization has seen a surge in people wanting to learn more about Black history.
“We’ve definitely grown significantly virtually,” she said.
Peterson said that Juneteenth offers a platform for conversation and education.
“Everyone is welcome to the table if they want to learn and have an open mind,” she added.
Juneteenth KC is also handing out free food and household supplies from 4-6 p.m. Saturday at the Gregg Klice Community Center. They have enough for 300 families.
For a full schedule of Juneteenth KC events, visit this site.