Last update February 11, 1997
Juneteenth Festival in Buffalo
Was started in 1976 by the B.U.I.L.D. organization. The group wanted a relevant
alternative to the country's bicentennial celebration so they decided to block off about 15
blocks of Jefferson Avenue, the "main street" of Buffalo's black community for one
weekend. Murals were painted, vendors set up selling ethnic foods and wares, activities
were planned and entertainment was available. After several years the festival outgrew
Jefferson Avenue and is now held in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Juneteenth Festival, Inc. is an all volunteer organization with NO paid staff. We use a P.O. Box, voice mail and operate out of our homes. We meet in local community agencies and get an enormous amount of support from community agencies and organizations.
Our Board of Directors has 19 members. There are also about 20 committees that plan activities for the festival. Counting the people who work year round and those who come out to volunteer for the festival, we have about 125-150 volunteers each year.
Our festival is always held on the TEEN weekend in June. There is no admission charge for our festival. Our festival is family oriented. We encourage adults to come out and bring their children to the festival rather than just send them. Currently our festival theme is "Striving to Keep our Tradition and Culture Alive". Themes for past festivals have been "The Time of Times", "In Celebration of Freedom", "Unity In the Community", and in 1995, for our 20th consecutive festival we adapted our theme from an African proverb "If We Stand Tall, It is Because We Stand on the Shoulders of Those Who Came Before Us".
Activities at the festival consist of a parade through about 25 blocks of Buffalo's inner city, a drill team competition, entertainment by local artists, sometimes a radio station will bring in a national artist, exhibits and other cultural events like lectures, plays, seminars, art exhibits, etc. We also have a Health Fair, a 5K race, bus tours of local Underground Railroad sites, aerobics and weight lifting demonstrations. In 1996 we were hosts to Tony Cohen, a young man who walked one of the Underground Railroad routes.
At the festival, we have over 100 vendors, only dozen are food vendors. We have vendors selling ethnic wares. But our biggest group of vendors is those who provide information to the community. We have voter registration, many colleges are there to provide information on their programs, numerous community agencies pass out literature describing their services and some local businesses also set up booths.
Our activities do not just happen on the two days in June. We sponsor a letter writing contest through the Board of Education and the Common Council - our local legislative body. School children in Grades 5-8 write letters to a council member on the topic "If I were Council Member for a Day, What would I do to Make My City Better"? The council members pick a winner, the names are announced at the festival and the 13 winners are honored at a reception where they meet the person they wrote to, spend time in their office and open up an actual Common Council session. This contest is in its 8th year. A popular event we also held in the past was the MALIK/MALIKA (King & Queen) contest. We will reactivate this activity as soon as a volunteer comes forward to run it. If you are interested, please get in touch.
In the past we had a series of Bid Whist Tournaments in our search for "Buffalo's Best Whistologist". We have sponsored exhibits of African artifacts in a local museum. In February of 1996 we were able to bring in an exhibit from the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture (NY City) entitled "Blacks & the U.S. Constitution. This exhibit was co-sponsored by a local bank and was on display at the main branch of the county library for the entire month.
We are also involved in a program with the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society placing markers on historical sites relevant to our heritage in Buffalo. We have and continue to sell African American History calendars. In the early 1990's we were able to award 10 $1000 scholarships over a two year period thanks to a donation earmarked for such by Proctor & Gamble.
We, of course, could not do all of these things without the cooperation of the entire community - people who come out to the festival, those who give us donations, and community agencies who help out.
December 1996 Update.
Exhibit: Great Kings & Queens of Africa
(20th Anniversary Budweiser series)
Sponsored by Juneteenth Festival, Inc.
Hosted by Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY)
Funded by Chase Manhattan Foundation Neighborhood Grant Program
Date: February 1 - March 2, 1997
Private Viewing & Reception: Friday, January 31, 1997
7 PM - 8:30 PM
No admission charge - Open to the general public
Stories of African Kings, Queens and Ordinary Folks - featuring We All Storytellers
Karima Amin and Sharon Holley - with Percussionist, Deborah Smith
Saturday, February 15, 1997 - 2 PM - Mason O. Damon Auditorium
Central Library (Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY)
Council Member For A Day Contest
During the month of February
Open to Buffalo Public School Children Grades 5-8
Students should see their teacher to enter.
Reception for winners - March 18, 1997 - City Hall - Room 801 - Buffalo, NY
Buffalo's 22nd Annual Juneteenth Festival
June 14 & 15, 1997
Martin Luther King Park
Free admission - Open to the General Public
Vendor applications will be mailed out March 1, 1997 to those on the mailing list. If you are not on the mailing list, contact us by voice mail (716-888-8777) or E-mail (email@example.com).
Leave name, address, zip and phone number.
Juneteenth Festival, Inc.
P.O. Box 412
Buffalo, NY 14212
E-mail Juneteenth Festival, Inc at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 888-8777 (Voice mail)- (716) 856-1710 *51 (Fax)
Created January 20, 1997 by ACTOM