4-year-old Dakota gets a henna tattoo from Halima at the Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival in Minneapolis on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

In celebration of Juneteenth, thousands gathered on Minnehaha Avenue and Lake Street for the Soul of the Southside Festival. The goal of the festival was to create space centered around Blackness, kinship, and community, according to the Black-owned creative hub, The Legacy Building. The event brought south Minneapolis into the limelight by exhibiting its Black creativity, entrepreneurship, togetherness, and persistence.

The festival was a collaboration between various businesses based in south Minneapolis. Hook and Ladder Theater, Moon Palace Books, Arbeiter Brewing and the historic Coliseum building hosted events throughout the day, boasting a bit of everything from live music and a film screening to an art exhibition and children’s face painting. The event also spotlighted radio stations KRSM and KFAI, who both highlighted classics through local deejays.

Juneteenth is an annual holiday recognizing the end of slavery in the United States. Although President Abraham Lincoln made the Jan. 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which ended centuries of enslavement of Black people in the Confederate southern states, it wasn’t until two years later, on June 19, 1965, that the last enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth marks the day Major Gen. Gordan Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, with 2,000 soldiers and announced that all slaves were free through General Order No. 3.

The following year, a group of formerly enslaved people celebrated the decree on the first anniversary. Since then, Juneteenth has gained more significance. In 2021, it became a federally-recognized holiday.

A section of the thousands that convened at Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue for the annual Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

The celebrations included the official reopening of the Coliseum, the iconic building on Lake Street, which was damaged by fire during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery had an expansive display on the 1st floor of the building, recalling the struggle for Black liberation in Minnesota from the 19th century up until the 1960s. On the 2nd Floor, attendees were encouraged to view their bodies and cultural knowledge as a tool to dismantle systemic racism through various events like a drum circle and a body reclamation session.

“The first thing that people who want to colonize you gotta do is control your food source,” said Chef Lachelle Cunningham, who led a class about ancestral food waves. “If we want to be free, then we have to have control over our food, so that has to do with where our food comes from, knowing that, having some control over that, growing our food [and] sourcing it. A lot of our culture is in our food and how we do things, and so if we lose connection to that culture, a lot of times we lose connection to our food and the importance of that and what is good for our bodies.”

Chef Lachelle Cunningham leads a class on healthy cooking and ancestral food waves inside the historic Coliseum Building during the Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival in Minneapolis on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

A section of the 1st floor paid homage to victims of police brutality, featuring spray painted portraits of Floyd and Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old shot and killed by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio.

“Nobody can ever shut us down,” said LaToya White, a vendor and the owner of Angels Delightful Creations. “We [are] ten toes down. We’re not going to let one thing impact us and let anyone take from us because we’ve been taking from our entire lives, our ancestors and everything. So this is time for us to rise up. Having it at this location [lets] them know that we are here and we’re here to stay.”

A block away from the Coliseum, food trucks lined the barricaded stretch of Minnehaha Avenue. Several lines of over 50 people waited for samosas, tacos and smoked meats. As old friends hugged and convened along the bustling road, jazzy melodies played through a street performer’s saxophone.

Kevin Washington and Ra Spirit perform at the Hook and Ladder outdoor stage during the Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival in Minneapolis on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

The Hook and Ladder, in partnership with Black Music America, had live performances throughout the day. A younger crowd filled the outdoor Black Music America stage space to hear performances from Twin Cities-based artists like sibling band NUNNABOVE. Audience members could head inside the lushly decorated building to get drinks from the bar or check out the Legacy Stage to see other acts.

For a quieter and more serene environment, attendees could head to Moon Palace Books, an independent bookstore that held storytelling for children earlier in the day and later featured a film screening of “One Million Experiments”, which explores the possibility of a safe society without police or a prison system. In the bookstore parking lot, Black-owned business vendors sold pastries, dashikis, tarot decks, plants and more.

LaToya White of Angels Delightful Creations at the Soul of the Southside Juneteenth Festival in Minneapolis on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

Next door, Arbeiter Brewing hosted an all-day beer garden, with an art fair featuring local visual artists — some actively working on pieces through the fair.

“We have to keep the story alive,” said Cunningham. “I think there’s an opportunity to continue to keep the historical story alive, but also for people to continue to tell their stories through these types of events and opportunities and show resilience. I think it’s really about the resilience of our people, from our enslaved ancestors to those who came after the civil rights movement to those who are still fighting in the civil rights movement; it’s connecting those future generations.”


About Kwot Anwey

Kwot Anwey is a reporting intern with Mshale and majors in journalism at Boston University.

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