Freedom rings for Juneteenth in Fort Smith, Springdale, Siloam Springs

Freedom rings for Juneteenth in Fort Smith, Springdale, Siloam Springs

Juneteenth celebrations are on the horizon in Fort Smith, Siloam Springs and Springdale this year.

The name Juneteenth is based on the date June 19, 1865, when the Union Army made it to Galveston, Texas, to announce that all enslaved Black people in rebelling states were free. Juneteenth became a federally recognized holiday in 2021.

Music Moves, a local nonprofit dedicated to Black music education through performance, has partnered again this year with the NWA Juneteenth Committee, Community Cohesion Project and INTERFORM to bring the fourth annual Freedom Festival back to Shiloh Square June 15 in downtown Springdale. The community-wide, family-friendly event is free to attend and starts at 2 p.m.

Just as in years past, major names in Black music and local talent will share the stage. Anthony Ball, vice president of Music Moves, mentions that one group will also be celebrating a special band anniversary too.

For the Springdale event, iconic funk band Cameo performs during their 50-year anniversary tour. Hip-hop artist Twista and R&B singer Donell Jones will also perform.

Last year’s fashion show during the Freedom Festival was a huge success, so INTERFORM will be bringing it back again with designer Chavon Shree and INTERFORM LEARN students. The show starts at 5 p.m.

Last year INTERFORM hosted a runway show with “Project Runway” finalist Korto Momolu, from Arkansas, outside their door on Emma Avenue.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will return to the Freedom Festival with art-making activities based on Juneteenth education, and of course, there will be bounce houses, information booths, food trucks and a vendor market highlighting Black entrepreneurs.

“One of the things I’m most excited for is we have a Black cowboy crew coming up from Fort Smith, Ruff Ryders. They’re part of the one of the largest Black rodeos to come out of Oklahoma,” Ball adds. The cowboys will be leading free horse rides during the festival.

In the River Valley, Fort Smith amps up their Juneteeth Celebration once again with a two-day festival featuring live music, food and information booths June 14-15 at the Riverfront Amphitheater downtown. Ball’s group, Funk Factory, will perform along with Little Rock-based, multi-genre group SYNRG for the first night of festivities beginning at 6 o’clock. Then Natasha Brown and Nellie Tiger Travis will perform starting at 6 p.m. June 15.

Admission to the festival is $1 and a donation of a nonperishable food item, which will benefit Antioch for Youth & Family, an all-volunteer, food pantry operated out of Fort Smith.

Organizer Rhonda Royal, who also serves on the Sebastian County Quorum Court for District 9, says that the $1 collected from each guest will go toward a fund for senior citizens who need assistance with utility bills and other expenses.

Fort Smith Roundtable, which is presenting this year’s community building event, will offer information on Juneteeth and their programs aimed at developing the next generation of leaders in Fort Smith.

“The Fort Smith Police Department will be there passing out information. They’re also working on their Police Cadets [program], where they’re getting young people to come and be a cadet, and teaching them more about the police,” Royal adds.

In Siloam Springs the Juneteenth CommUnity CookOut begins at 10 a.m. June 19 at The Bridge Church on Tulsa Street.

The inaugural event will include free barbecue sandwich lunches with chips, a drink and a dessert. There will also be vendors and other nonprofits set up to share their services. Kids may enjoy bounce houses and other child-friendly activities. There will also be various educational videos playing in different areas at the CookOut to inspire learning and dialogue.



Juneteenth Celebrations

• Freedom Festival, 2-9:30 p.m. June 15, Shiloh Square in Springdale.

• Fort Smith Juneteeth Festival, gates open at 5 p.m., music at 6 p.m. June 14-15 in Riverfront Park, Fort Smith.

 Juneteenth CommUnity CookOut, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19, The Bridge Church at 511 W. Tulsa St., Siloam Springs.

Categories: Family Friendly