Jun 16, 2023 - Things to Do

How to celebrate Juneteenth in Boston

Illustration of the Juneteenth flag next to a desk calendar dated June 19.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Boston has embraced Juneteenth since its commemoration as a state holiday in 2020 and this third year of acknowledging Black emancipation is no exception.

What’s happening: The biggest Juneteenth event in Boston — the three-day Embrace Ideas Festival — wraps up Friday with a block party and discussion on Black cuisine and food culture titled "Who Made the Potato Salad?”

  • Local chefs will compete at noon to cook the best soul food and creole staples.
  • The festival's Embrace Honor Awards will be handed out Friday at 1pm before a block party at Roxbury Community College at 2pm.

Plus: Parades will take place on Monday, marching through Cambridge at 10am and Roxbury at 1pm.

Boston's museum community is offering free admission on Monday along with programming to commemorate the holiday, including the ICA, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MIT List museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.

  • The ICA has an exhibit on Black sculptor Simone Leigh. See the full list of events here, tickets are available Sunday at 10am.
  • The MFA has an exhibit on Black pottery of the South. Check out all the other activities and events here. Tickets are available in person on a first-come, first-serve basis. Admission is free with a Massachusetts zip code.
  • The ISGM will screen award winning filmmaker James Rutenbeck’s “A Reckoning in Boston” and will host a poetry performance by local spoken word artist Amanda Shea. See all the events and get tickets here.

Why it matters: The holiday to mark the end slavery is still defining itself in mainstream American culture. As Axios' Russell Contreras writes, some corporations, retailers and local governments are struggling with how to honor the holiday.

What they're saying: “Recognizing our history of racism and engaging in both celebration and reparation is central to the civic health of our city," ICA director Jill Medvedow said in a news release.

Other events include:

  • A free Landmarks Orchestra concert at the Kroc Center in Dorchester Saturday at 4pm with soprano Sirgourney Cook. Registration is required.
  • The JFK Presidential Library will host a free performance by the Okra Dance Company at 10:30am Monday. Reserve a ticket here.
  • The New England Black Circus will be at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown Monday at 8pm. Tickets are sold on a pay-what-you-can basis of $32, $42 or $52.
  • Destiny African Market is hosting its African Market noon to 4pm Saturday at its store in Randolph.

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