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MFA’s Juneteenth Community Day Commemorates End of Slavery

Free admission, music, dance, tours, and more starting at 4 pm today

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Many may not realize it, but this week marks an important moment in US history: the official end of slavery in America. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, a Union Army general landed in Galveston, Tex., and announced that “all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.” It took that long for word of the end of the Civil War to reach Texas.

Each year on or near that date, Juneteenth celebrations are held around the country. They include cookouts, parades, cultural programs, and community gatherings.

Tonight, the Museum of Fine Arts hosts its sixth annual Juneteenth Community Day in collaboration with the Transformative Culture Project, a local nonprofit supporting artists of color around the city. It starts at 4 pm and is free and open to the public.

Featuring live music and dance, special gallery tours and talks, and a screening of the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther, the event seeks to create a space for thoughtful discussion and art. This year’s lineup includes performances by three local groups: the Front Porch Arts CollectiveValerie Stephens, and the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center.

A professional artist collective, Front Porch will explore the interactions of race, culture, economics, and sexuality through performance art. Based at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, the collective works to nurture young people of color by developing artistic outlets to help them address racism in their community.

Local Bostonian Stephens, a jazz, spoken word, and storytelling artist, has performed both nationally and internationally. She received a $10,000 New England Foundation for the Arts Creative City Grant last year.

OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center, a nonprofit based in Jamaica Plain, Mass., strives to empower local youth living in underserved communities such as Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan through dance.

In addition, in its African galleries the MFA will offer 15-minute gallery talks led by Kathryn Wysocki Gunch, the MFA’s Teel Curator of African and Oceanic Art, and L’Merchie Frazier, director of education and interpretation at the Museum of African American History. The event will include 30-minute guided tours of galleries highlighting African American artists whose work is on view in the museum. And local artist Chanel Thervil will be on hand to show and speak about her work and its representations of blackness.

Also on tap is an open mic session, where local poets and storytellers will read from their work.

Wrap up the night with a free screening of Black Panther on the MFA’s Huntington Avenue lawn starting at 8:30 pm. It kicks off the Roxbury International Film Festival, New England’s largest film festival featuring films by, for, and about people of color, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The Museum of Fine Arts Juneteenth Community Day is today, Wednesday, June 20, at the MFA, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, from 4 to 10 pm. The event is free and open to the public. Find a complete schedule of events here and directions here.

Sarah Wells can be reached at swells21@bu.edu.

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