Juneteenth Builds Community

By Jennie Lusk

In the deepest, most troubling times of the pandemic after the shocking murder of George Floyd, African American people in Albuquerque stuck together and staged a mask-compliant outdoor celebration of Juneteenth that drew 1000 people to Roosevelt Park.

The next year, the federal government declared Juneteenth a holiday.  

Now in 2022, the New Mexico Juneteenth team has grown the celebration to cover two days, June 18 and 19, and the celebration is expected to draw 4000 to 6000 people, despite the fact that other organizations have also scheduled Juneteenth events in Albuquerque. All City of Albuquerque employees have the holiday on Monday, June 20, as do several other government and private entities.

“We did a lot of marching after George Floyd and Brianna Taylor,” said Nichole Rogers, a Juneteenth organizer and now the African American Community and Business Liaison with the  City of Albuquerque, which is contributing to this year’s festival. 

“We knew we needed something celebratory and we knew we needed to connect with each other,” she continued, reflecting on that heartbreaking year. “We all felt strongly that we needed to ‘be the change we wanted to see.’ We needed healing.  So we committed a labor of love,” she continued, emphasizing the word, “labor.”

“That year showed us how resilient our community is,” Rogers said.  “We did the fundraising, gathered the artists and performers, got a livestream for people not comfortable with coming in person, and it was like a family reunion.” 

The connection, the sense of community, and the opportunities to introduce the wider community to Albuquerque’s African American businesses, artists, and other leaders have grown over the years.  

This year’s event is set on Civic Plaza from noon to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 and 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 19. In addition to Rogers, the 2022 Juneteenth organizing team includes Jeremy Jackson, Ziara Kirksey, Torrance Green, Dee Brown, Bishop David Cooper, Theresa Carson, and M. Joel Barkley.

The Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC) will have a table at the event, sponsored by Senator Harold Pope. Democratic candidates are welcome to join DPBC for outreach during the event. Activities at the free event include a mobile skating rink as well as Civic Plaza’s water recreation area for children. African-American business vendors will be on hand, along with food trucks and performers. Parking will be free in the underground city lot both days. In response to feedback gathered last year, this year’s NM Juneteenth will include free educational seminars at the Convention Center—an opportunity to learn about Black culture as part of American history. 

Potential vendors can contact organizers through the Juneteenth website at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/new-mexico-juneteenth-2022-vendors-tickets-325467922317  

 For more and updated particulars, visit the Juneteenth site at www.nmjuneteenth.com