The New Hampshire Black Heritage Trail will host expanded June 19 celebrations this year, with festivities running from June 10-20. This year’s theme is “The Gift: Celebrating African American Public Arts,” featuring black artists bringing their visual arts, dance, and music to New Hampshire.
“We’ve been slowly increasing it year by year,” said Gina Bowker, Black Heritage Trail program manager.
Juneteenth in Portsmouth was a one day event at African Cemetery Memorial Park for years. In 2021, the events took place over three days. This year, many events are organized over a period of 10 days. The federal holiday is June 19.
“We celebrate African American public arts, which I think are very underrepresented in general,” Bowker said.
One of the events of the festival is a workshop and the creation of a public art mural titled “The Art of Erasing”.
“New Hampshire’s black and African American population has been wiped out and few people know it,” Bowker said. in the North, I didn’t know it had happened here in Portsmouth.'”
“The North is not innocent of the things that have happened to black people and African Americans,” Bowker said.
Najee Brown, actor, director, playwright and founder of the theater company Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) Theater for the People, echoed the importance of Juneteenth in educating people about the arts and black culture.
“Yes, our history is awkward, but America is still a great country and it’s that history and learning that history, and realizing that history, that’s what will keep us from repeating it,” Brown said. “We must honor every contribution from every race and every person who has helped make this country.”
Beyond the arts, celebrations of the holiday like the Black Heritage Trail raise awareness of what remains to be done.
“Juneteenth is the real American Independence Day,” Brown said. “Only when everyone with a beating heart is free in this country can we sing a song of freedom.”
Start with a movie in the park
For starters, BHTNH has teamed up with the Prescott Park Arts Festival to present Pixar’s “Soul” as part of its summer film series. The Friday June 10 film begins at dusk, around 8.30pm, at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, and is free and open to the public.
In memory of the first African-American regiment formed in the North
On Saturday, June 11, a guided bus tour will travel to St. Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish, New Hampshire to see the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Memorial House and learn about the sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens.
The tour will be led by Newton Rose, Chief Interpretive Ranger at St. Gaudens, as well as PhD candidate Dana Green, who is currently a public history and art fellow at the park.
Green explained that the memorial honors the first African-American regiment formed in the North, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1863, the regiment, led by abolitionist Robert Gould Shaw, fought a battle at Fort Wagner, which it lost. However, the regiment led to the enlistment of nearly 200,000 African Americans in the Union Army who fought in the Civil War between 1863 and 1865, according to the US National Park Service.
The visit will also be the opportunity to see the house of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his sculptures as well as a discussion with Kathryn Grover who wrote a special report on the history of the regiment.
“I think it’s important to study African American history because it’s American history,” Green said. “And I think so often that’s been overlooked, and we need to look at that and see how that’s part of the overall story of America.”
A bus will pick up participants in Portsmouth and Concord to take them to the park. The registration deadline has passed, but find more information on blackheritagetrailnh.org/juneteenth-celebration-2022.
A panel discussion on ‘Bearing Witness: Black Art in Public Spaces’
A panel discussion will take place on Friday, June 17 in Manchester at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. The panel, titled “Bearing Witness: Black Art in Public Spaces,” will feature a host of artists, including Sam Collins III, Juneteenth historian and creator of public art, Galveston, Texas; Joel Christian-Gill, graphic novelist and cartoonist, from Derry.; Richard Haynes, artist, educator and visual storyteller, from Portsmouth; Cecilia Ulibarri, President and Co-Founder of Positive Street Art, Nashua; and Manuel “Phelany” Ramirez, Artist-in-Residence and Co-Founder, Positive Street Art, Nashua.
A concert with the Howard University Gospel Choir
As part of the June 18th celebration, on Saturday June 18th The Howard Gospel Choir will perform a concert entitled ‘Let it Shine: The Howard Gospel Choir Sings The Gospel’ at Portsmouth Music Hall.
The Howard Gospel Choir is unique in that it is the first collegiate choir of its type in the world, comprising more than 70 students, alumni and community members of Howard University in Washington, D.C. The concert is at 4 p.m. and tickets are available at themusichall.org.
A performance of ‘Theatre for the People’
On June 19, a public holiday, Najee Brown, actor, director, local playwright, will present a dance performance from his company, Theater for the People, which he founded in December. The group is one of the first BIPOC theater companies in the region.
“Our goal is to bring theater back to the people,” Brown said. “I want to be able to give these theater tools to young people and all people so that they can create social change.”
The free Juneteenth performance will take place at the African Burying Ground Memorial at 2pm in Portsmouth and will include contemporary dance, tap, hip hop and step. The event will be broadcast live and live.
Brown explained that this stage began during slavery. There are a few urban legends about the exact use of the step among slaves, but one of the most popular is that when the slave owners removed their drums, the slaves used the step to send signals as a means of communication. with each other, Brown said. .
“I think any occasion to celebrate black people and their contributions to this country is necessary, necessary and honorable,” Brown said. “We built this country and without our contributions to this country, America wouldn’t be where it is today.”
In addition to theater for the people, Brown created the first community step team in the Seacoast region, which features a diversity of people from many ages and races.
A public art mural in Portsmouth
The celebrations will culminate on June 20, the federal holiday, with a community art project, “The Art of Erasure: Gone But Never Forgotten,” led by award-winning public artist, Napoleon James Henderson. Participants will help paint a large mural on a street in Portsmouth. As the paint fades, its erasure will be documented by video. This workshop symbolizes the erasure of black people from American history, but the importance that their impact has had and that we must recognize. Painting the mural is free and open to the public at 8 a.m. in the People’s United Bank parking lot, 325 State Street, Portsmouth. There are two workshops leading into the painting on June 16 and 17.
“Let’s turn this moment into a movement,” Brown said. “The only way to keep the movement going is to show up.”
Learn more about the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire’s Juneteenth Celebration at blackheritagetrailnh.org/juneteenth-celebration-2022.
These articles are shared by The Granite State News Collaborative partners as part of our Race and Equity Project. Collaboration partner Seacoast Media was the editorial director for this story. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.