Kent State hosts second annual Juneteenth Jubilee


Tamra McMillion

Performers at the second annual Juneteenth Jubilee.

Tamra McMillion, Reporter

A white tent, a stage and food trucks on Manchester Field welcomed members of the Kent community for the university’s second annual Juneteenth Jubilee Saturday.

Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion planned and coordinated the event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and was free and open to the public.

June 19, 1865, was the day enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, got the news that the Civil War was over and they were then free. Juneteenth is a day that Black Americans had been celebrating for years, commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. In 2021, Congress passed measures to recognize Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday, and President Joe Biden signed it into legislation on June 17, 2021.

The event marked the university’s second celebration of Juneteenth. The 2021 celebration, hosted by the Kent State Multicultural Center, was moved indoors to the Student Center Ballroom due to weather.

The Jubilee consisted of live performances from poets, musicians and dancers, a head wrapping demonstration and 19 vendors. Vendors included food trucks and sellers of baked goods, apparel and more.

Vendors at the Juneteenth Jubilee. (Tamra McMillion)

“The interesting thing about the vendor table is that it’s primarily Portage community members. So many of them actually live in the city of Kent,” said Amoaba Gooden, the vice president for the Division Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “I think is going to be a spectacular day.”

Vendors that attended included professors, students and alumni from the university.

Senior entrepreneurship major Lauren Goggin had a table at the event at which she sold handmade bracelets as part of her business, TYS, which stands for “Trust Your Strength.”

“I kind of started this with my dad. That’s something that he always told me, and I’m an entrepreneurship major,” Goggin said. “Out of our family, we got all these other entrepreneurs and hustlers, and I kind of have a hard time kind of putting myself out there, so I started that [TYS].”

Alumni Thad N., who graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in management and technology, was selling crafts from Kenya. The trinkets were handmade and brought from trips he and his wife made to Kenya.

“We’re representing our country,” he said.” I like the boat with the little people rowing and the huts … they’re handmade.”

Some attendees sat underneath the tent watching the performances while others stood in line at the vendors or braved the windy weather.

“It’s a little chilly, but the sun is shining,” said Sonya Williams, a faculty member who was attending the event. “It just shows that we value what’s happening. The event is wonderful. It’s really special to have our first Juneteenth celebration in honor of the first federal holiday. Long time coming, but we got here.”

The university plans to make the celebration of Juneteenth an annual event.

“Definitely want to have future Juneteenth events,” Gooden said. “We’re going to assess and see what steps we need to take next year to improve on it.”

Tamra McMillion is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].