19 ways to celebrate Juneteenth in the Austin area
Though slavery was officially brought to an end with President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn't until Gen. Gordon Granger sailed into Galveston on June 19, 1865, to deliver the news that people enslaved in Texas learned they were free.
One hundred and 15 years later, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. It took another 50 years for Congress to make it a federal one.
What took so long for the state and the country to officially recognize Juneteenth?
“I believe that America as a whole has really not wanted to be honest about its sin,” Para Agboga of the Austin Area Heritage Council said. “I do feel like it’s a matter of not wanting to admit it. ‘If we don’t admit it, we don’t have to commemorate it.’”
The holiday was born out of people denied their freedom, she said.
“Juneteenth, yes, is born out of pain," she said. “And so I think what’s most important is that we understand how ugly that was and then how beautiful freedom is.”
Although the Central Texas Juneteenth Parade and Festival has anchored celebrations in Austin for decades, new traditions commemorating the day have spread to surrounding areas in recent years.
Here are 19 ways you can celebrate Juneteenth around Austin:
Stay Black and Live Citywide Juneteenth Festival, June 12-19
The George Washington Carver Museum’s Stay Black and Live festival offers a lineup of speakers, including Grammy Award-winner Pamela Dawson and James Beard Book Award recipient Michael Twitty. The weeklong event also includes a community cookout and music event at Rosewood Park on Saturday, plus a closing celebration Monday honoring community members killed by police.
“It’s not just about the celebration,” Deelah Muhyee, George Washington Carver Museum administrative specialist, said. “There are so many people who need to be educated around what is Juneteenth? Why is it celebrated? And actually, what is the significance here in Texas?”
Freedom & Juneteenth, June 15
The Pease Park Conservancy is hosting a free panel from 7 to 9 p.m. presenting research about the 1928 City of Austin plan and how it impacted Black communities who once lived in the Shoal Creek area.
Dialogue for Peace and Progress, June 16
The Dialogue for Peace and Progress series is intended to help bring about “open and honest conversations to raise awareness and, if necessary, facilitate change in the City of Kyle.”
Community members will gather at Kyle City Hall (100 W. Center St.) for the event, which gets underway at 7 p.m.
Travis County’s annual Juneteenth Celebration, June 16
The 34th annual Juneteenth celebration will be taking place Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. under the parking garage at 800 Lavaca St. in Austin.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Showtime at Juneteenth — Discovering our Roots.”
Travis County employees will perform in a talent show, and there will be food and information booths from local nonprofits.
Bastrop Juneteenth Freedom Festival, June 17
Bastrop will host the Juneteenth Freedom Parade and Festival starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The event will feature a parade, plus booths for food and vendors. The event will also include health and wellness screenings, games and other entertainment.
Black Makers Market Juneteenth Celebration, June 17
Black Makers Market is bringing its 2023 Juneteenth celebration to the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility on E. 11th Street in Austin. From noon until 6 p.m., come support the more than 40 Black-owned businesses that will be selling everything from art to fashion to food.
The outdoor event will have DJs performing throughout the afternoon and early evening, plus a “kids’ corner” with activities and entertainment.
Buda Juneteenth Celebration, June 17
Buda will hold its annual celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Buda Amphitheater & City Park, 204 San Antonio Road. There will be music, BBQ and activities to celebrate Juneteenth.
Calaboose African American History Museum, June 17
The museum, open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by appointment, provides history and insights into local 19th, 20th and 21st century African American communities. In surveying the museum’s more than 500 artifacts, visitors have the opportunity to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers, the civil rights movement, and San Marcos history, among other topics.
Donations to the museum are encouraged, but admission is always free.
Central Texas Juneteenth Parade & Festival, June 17
The Greater East Austin Youth Association presents its annual Juneteenth celebration and fundraiser, which kicks off at 10 a.m. with a parade starting at the corner of E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Salina Street.
The Austin All-Star Band, showcasing the talents of local high school and middle school musicians, will perform at the parade. The group’s director, Rory Guice, says the students are in charge of selecting the songs they will play at the celebration each year. This year’s song list includes music from The Weeknd and Britney Spears.
“For our students, it becomes an educational moment,” Guice said. “It becomes: ‘Hey, this is what we’re celebrating here.’ There’s a certain amount of pride that can happen now that you know the nation is celebrating a holiday that’s so close to home for us. Even our students sometimes don’t know what it’s for, and we teach them every year and remind them of why and what we’re celebrating.”
The annual festival from noon until 9 p.m. at Rosewood Park will feature food, entertainment and local vendors. There will also be a children’s area with carnival activities and a video game truck.
“This year’s theme is ‘Each One, Teach One,’” Shanisha Johnson, Central Texas Juneteenth public relations coordinator, told KUT. “We want to celebrate the sharing of knowledge, the power of education, our collective courage and resilience, and knowing our history.”
More information about the event can be found at juneteenthcentraltexas.com.
Freedom Fest 2023, June 17
Austin Area Urban League will host Freedom Fest 2023 at Colony Park from 1 to 4 p.m. This year’s event includes a “slingshot showcase,” kids activities hosted by the San Antonio Spurs Sports Academy, a standup comedy performance, plus live music.
Georgetown Juneteenth Basketball Tournament, June 17
Georgetown is hosting its Juneteenth program and festival at the San Gabriel Park Community Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a musical performance by DJ Eric Sampson, plus plenty of food, bingo and a silent auction.
Hutto Juneteenth Festival, June 17
Black Families of Hutto (BFoH) is hosting an all-afternoon festival at Adam Orgain Park (formerly Brushy Creek Park) on Saturday.
The day will begin with a march starting at 1 p.m. Then, it’s on to a 1:30 p.m. opening ceremony, followed by a festival and vendor fair from 2 to 6 p.m. There will be DJs and other live entertainment throughout the afternoon.
Juneteenth Festival Round Rock, June 17
Round Rock’s Juneteenth celebration rolls into year No. 17 with an evening celebration at Old Settlers Park. The Parks and Recreation Department-organized event will feature performances from Sean David, JenniP and Jade Novah. The free event runs from 3:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Annual Juneteenth Social Ride, June 18
Join Black History Bike Ride for its Juneteenth Social Ride, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Texas African American History Memorial at 11th Street and Congress (by the state Capitol).
Folks attending will learn about Austin’s Black history as they ride from the memorial to Rosewood Park, where there will be snacks and refreshments.
The event is free, but organizers are asking attendees to register in advance and bring a helmet and lights.
Art Noir: A Juneteenth Celebration, June 18
_OFCOLOR is hosting an art show from 6 to 10 p.m. at 2324 Studios in celebration of local Black artists. The event resides at the “intersection of music, visual art, and dope vibes." Admission is free.
Pflugerville Juneteenth Pfamily Reunion, June 18
Festivities for the third annual celebration get underway at 2 p.m. in Pfluger Park with food trucks and vendors, plus kids activities. Music and entertainment start at 5 p.m. Pack a blanket and take in a live performance.
Austin Film Society — Miss Juneteenth, June 19
Check out the Austin Film Society's screening of Miss Juneteenth at 6 p.m. at AFS Cinema (6406 N. Interstate Hwy 35 suite 3100).
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection was directed and written by Fort Worth native Channing Godfrey Peoples and stars Nicole Beharie.
Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle, June 19
Black music pioneers Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle will share the Bass Concert Hall stage the night of Juneteenth. The show starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets cost $69-$249.
Juneteenth Freedom Run, June 19
Head out to San Marcos’ Dunbar Park for a Juneteenth run, getting underway at 7 a.m. The entry fee is $40, which includes a participant medal, a running bib and a water bottle. An award ceremony will be held at 8:45 a.m. recognizing the first-, second- and third-place runners.