|Juneteenth Day organizers Amanda Analla (l-r), Ed Murray, Corinda
Rainey-Moore, Wayne Strong, Annie Weatherby-Flowers and Tequila
Nash at the Labor Temple grounds
Kujichagulia - MCSD’s 27th Annual
Madison Juneteenth Day Celebration
Passing on the Spirit of Freedom
By Jonathan Gramling
Much like the fight for civil rights, Madison’s Juneteenth Day
celebration has ebbed and flowed over the past 27 years since it was
founded by Mona Adams Winston and Annie Weatherby-Flowers. The
first celebration in Penn Park was a rather modest affair.
“Our first corporate sponsors were Park Bank and W.T. Rogers,”
Weatherby-Flowers said. “We got $500 a piece from them. We didn’t
have all of the tents. We had the shelter. We decorated it. We had the
Showmobile from Dane County. It was right where the new
playground is. It was a concrete slab. The shelter had all of the
information vendors. The Juneteenth committee did barbeque,
coleslaw, shoulder sandwiches and rib dinners. We not only had to
coordinate the entire event, but we also had to serve food. Billy
Hayes and John Winston would cook the food. We did Juneteenth like
that the first year.”
Over the years, Juneteenth grew into a large event with several tents
devoted to aspects of African American culture and history. And then
with the Great Recession and the proliferation of non-profits,
Juneteenth has had to trim back a little while it continues to honor and adhere to the legacy of Juneteenth Day.
While Winston retired and moved to Mississippi, Weatherby-Flowers continues to lead the Juneteenth Day Committee as it contemplates its
“We are looking at how to take it to the next level, not the festival part, but the historical pieces for the young folks in our community in terms of
working with the national board, the National Juneteenth Day organization and their efforts to make it a federal holiday,” Weatherby-Flowers
said. “We are at 45 states, which gives us leverage and all that President Trump has to do is sign an executive order. Looking at how we
manage that with Juneteenth, all we need is 100,000 signatures. There are enough Juneteenth Day celebrations to do that. We’re looking at do
we create an ongoing cultural center through Kujichagulia, Juneteenth’s parent organization, to make things happen year round and just have
the summer celebration as one component, one program. There is a lot of stuff going on around the scenes.”
With Penn Park scheduled to undergo a facelift this year, Juneteenth’s venue has moved down Park Street to the Madison Labor Temple
grounds. Surrounded by a lot of free parking and having outdoor and indoor areas to hold the festival, it will be a different venue holding onto
those old-time Juneteenth values. It all begins with the Juneteenth Parade.
“The parade route goes down Park Street, but since it is a U.S. Highway, we have to turn down Beld Street,” Weatherby-Flowers said. “I would
have liked to have just continued down Park Street. The staging of the parade begins at 10:15 a.m. at Fountain of Life Church and the parade
kicks off at 10:45 a.m. It should arrive at the Labor Temple around 11:45 a.m.”
The Main Tent, Teen Tent and Old School Tent will be outside on the grassy area of the Labor Temple where Labor Fest is held each year. It will
kick off with a welcoming ceremony that will include a blessing from an elder and welcome remarks from area elected officials, especially the
African American elected officials.
“Our Collective Work this year is done by Tiffany Ike,” Weatherby-Flowers said. “She is a really talented person who is a UW graduate student.
She wrote a play that was featured at the First Wave Line Breaks festival. She is very gifted. She sings. It’s a one-woman play. We’re going to
have a two-component tribute to Clyde Stubblefield. Derrell Conner will have play hip hop music that has sampled Clyde Stubblefield’s beats.
The Juneteenth House Band will also play some of his music.”
The rest of the afternoon will feature the Juneteenth Day House Band and performances of youth groups like Trilogy and Perry Williams’
Out in front of the Labor Temple, a bouncy house and climbing wall will be set up for the kids when they aren’t inside for the youth activity area.
“I’m excited that we are partnering with the Madison Public Library this year for some of the kid and teen activities,” Weatherby-Flowers said.
“We’ll have face painting. I’m trying to get a musician. Haywood Simmons will do some exercises with the children. And Women in Focus will
be reading to the kids and giving them books to take home.”
The Heritage area will be on the upper floor of the Labor Temple.
“We’ll have sample food in the Heritage area,” Weatrherby-Flowers said. “We’re going to focus on foodstuffs that came from Africa such as
sweet potatoes, okra, and black-eyed peas.”
And the good eating won’t be limited to the inside.
“The Stanfords will be serving up food,” Weatherby-Flowers emphasized. “We have JD’s who sells buffalo burgers and Chicago-Style hot dogs.
I think someone wants to serve tamales.”
Weatherby-Flowers wants to pass on the spirit of Juneteenth to the younger generations.
“When we speak of the spirit, the spirit never dies,”Weatherby Flowers said. “So if we can pass on the spirit, we can energize the part that
creates movement. There are kids who are attached to a church who have been to Juneteenth. But if they aren’t attached to a church, they
know little about Juneteenth. To me, that is quite alarming. We need to make sure that our kids understand the importance of freedom, the
importance of civil disobedience and the importance of Black History in terms of self-determination and self-identification and heritage. We’re
talking about our freedom. To me, the youth are more powerful because of technology. Back in the day, we were limited to one movement, a
march or initiative. But now by pushing a button, you can send information to thousands of people.”
Keep the spirit alive!