As America marks second Juneteenth holiday, Baltimore puts its own spin on the celebration

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

People dance as a DJ plays music during Juneteenth at Homewood: Expressions of Freedom on the Homewood Museum Lawn in 2022.

Juneteenth may be one day on the calendar, but the Baltimore area marked the occasion all weekend, with some even starting one week early.

For the second year, events in Maryland celebrated the day full emancipation reached some of the last enslaved Black people in Texas in 1865.


The occasion rose in prominence after President Joe Biden declared June 19 a federal holiday in 2021. Since then, recognition for Juneteenth has skyrocketed nationwide, launching dozens of events over the holiday weekend.

AFRAM, Baltimore’s official Juneteenth celebration, set the tone for a cultural and community collaboration with events at Druid Hill Park on Saturday and Sunday that included food vendors, artists, musical performances, face painting and moon bounces.


“As the AFRAM festival, we’re here to create a platform for Baltimore’s Black community, in the city at large, to take appreciation and kind of share in the cultural experience,” Tierra Brown, chief of marketing communications at Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, said.

While the holiday will be marked throughout the U.S., Baltimore put its own spin on Juneteenth with AFRAM’s commemoration of Baltimore club music on Saturday, honoring area DJs and others who influenced the creation of Baltimore’s unique beats in the 1990s.

Several local organizations also hosted Juneteenth celebrations. Using a grant from AFRAM, the SEED School of Maryland held its second annual 5K run and 1-mile walk June 11. The school tripled its turnout compared with last year, with over 300 people participating.

Kirk Sykes, head of school at SEED, said the fundraising event offered an opportunity for connection with the community.

“We were thrilled to host this run because we felt like this allowed us to really connect with the community and AFRAM in particular,” Sykes said. “No one else was doing it and so we felt like we had a real opportunity here to rally around this cause.”

Brown Girl Wellness Inc.’s weekend of events had a heavy focus on African American history. The organization held an ancestral walk where participants dressed in all white to memorialize enslaved ancestors Thursday, along with a wellness and job fair Friday and a parade Saturday.

“We must learn to celebrate our ancestral freedom, and without that we will continue to be bound, not just today, but generationally. So it’s important to acknowledge it, walk in it and celebrate it not just individually but together,” D. Rica Wilson, founder and executive director of Brown Girl Wellness Inc., said.

Food, art and music are at the forefront of many Juneteenth celebrations. Baltimore restaurant Magdalena will combine all three Monday. Scott Bacon, executive chef of Magdalena, said the event will feature Black culinary leaders showcasing meals that honor Black history, with a display of art from local BIPOC artists.


Breaking News Alerts

As it happens

Be informed of breaking news as it happens and notified about other don't-miss content with our free news alerts.

Bacon said the aim is to increase awareness about the true meaning behind the holiday.

“It’s the same day in the eyes of our country now as any other important holiday. We need to be loud and proud and prove that to everyone,” Bacon said. “I think that events like this and just people doing more and being visible about it and reminding everyone what June 19 is because other people are not very educated about it.”

Other events that took place across Maryland included the Columbia Festival of Arts and The 3rd, a Howard-based nonprofit, celebrating Juneteenth at LakeFest on Sunday with a cookout, step and line dancing, and performances from artists such as Grammy Award winner Delfeayo Marsalis.

Laura Bacon, founder and CEO of the 3rd, thought it was important to bring a Juneteenth celebration to Columbia.

“There has not historically been a large celebration around Juneteenth. I think it’s important for the diversity of Columbia to wrap itself around this really important beautiful sort of celebration,” Bacon said.

While the Juneteenth celebrations end after Monday, Edwin Johnson, special assistant to the provost at Morgan State University, wants to remind people of the history of African Americans’ emancipation and that the fight for freedom took time.


“It is so important to understand this was a very, very gradual process,” Johnson said. “It started long before the Juneteenth holiday.”