Young Audiences’ mission is to transform the lives and education of young people through the arts. To do this, we must understand, appreciate, and celebrate our students – and each other.
Last month, our staff and board came together to recognize the cultural heritage of our Black and brown staff and community. Our inaugural Juneteenth celebration began with a dive into the history of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the Black people who were enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.
The YA Juneteenth celebration continued with meaningful performances from teaching artists, presentations on African American cultural heritage, a festival dance party, and some cool ice cream on a hot summer day. Also onsite was a gorgeous ancestral garden designed by Early Learning School & Relationship Coordinator Shana Teel, and flashcards honoring the names of Kings and Queens who made Black History in the marvelous state of Maryland. Participants were invited to call out the names of those people and other Africans throughout the diaspora who have passed on. The scene was decked out in colors of the Pan-African flag to honor Juneteenth: red, black, and green to represent the blood, soil, and prosperity of Africa and its people.
Young Audiences of Maryland honors the diverse cultures, contributions, and achievements of Black and brown staff, children, artists, board members, and partners. This joyful event, coordinated by the Young Audiences Black Caucus and Party Planning Committee, reminded us of the power of infusing our lives with cultural appreciation, understanding, our individual histories, and shared experiences.
As Jessica Hebron, our Chief Program Officer, put it: “We are immensely excited about the celebration and look forward to our continued work honoring Race Equity through social justice initiatives for our current staff and those to come.”
As we all move forward – both as individuals and as an organization – race equity will help guide our work in having an honest and lasting impact on students, artists, and our community. And coming together will help us focus on this priority in the months and years ahead.