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Juneteenth celebrations in West Michigan Monday beginning at GVSU

University of Illinois via GVSU

Jazz society holding concert in park, Muskegon County employees get day off

In recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, Grand Valley State University hosted its inaugural celebration Monday to “celebrate the history and resilience of the Black community.”

“Juneteenth, this point in history when all enslaved Africans in American were made free.”

That is Professor Bobby J. Smith II, an interdisciplinary sociologist and professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Speaking as the keynote speaker Monday at Grand Valley State University’s Juneteenth celebration Monday, Smith delved into the “rich history of Juneteenth, shedding light on its significance and importance, and what his father had taught him.

“Born in the 1950’s in Waco, Texas my father has vivid memories of celebrating Juneteenth. It was a day off for us. It was a feast. And that one day out of the year, we felt like we were someone.”

The Juneteenth celebration Monday at GVSU was just one of several events in West Michigan commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, in Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Jazz Society is hosting a concert Monday evening at Millennium Park.

President Michelle Needham is the society’s president. She says, jazz music played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, while the music genre was born from the work songs of enslaved Black people.

“What better way to celebrate than jazz,” she said.

On the lakeshore, Muskegon County employees celebrated with the day off for the first time, as the board of commissioners last week voted to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

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