Lawrence to celebrate Juneteenth with parade, live music, vendors

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Lawrence community members will soon celebrate Juneteenth with bus tours of Underground Railroad sites, a parade, and a street party with local vendors, live music and family fun.

When the last enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation could ring true. A national holiday, Juneteenth commemorates Black heritage and independence.

Community organizer Janine Colter and the Lawrence, Kansas Juneteenth team have planned a grand celebration for the city, including a local Underground Railroad site tour, a parade and a street party, according to the event flyer.

Janine Colter

The daylong Juneteenth celebration is scheduled for Saturday, June 15 in downtown Lawrence. All ages are welcome.

First, the Underground Railroad Bus Tour is set for 8 to 10 a.m. Developed by Watkins Museum of History, the tour will take participants to explore three historic sites in Lawrence. Two buses will load up at South Park before heading out.

Those interested in joining must register ahead of time on Eventbrite, reserving spots for either the first bus or the second bus. Tickets are free. Some tickets were still available as of Sunday afternoon for the second bus, and there was a wait list set up for the first bus.

The parade is set for 11 a.m., beginning at Eighth Street and traveling south on Massachusetts Street. Afterward, the festivities will continue through 8 p.m. at South Park and into the street, which will be blocked off for the day.

Several vendors will be set up in South Park, selling food and art. Local organizations will be stationed to share resources and volunteering opportunities. In addition, the celebration will include community honorees, exchanges of oral histories, games, a kids corner, live music and entertainment, and more. 

Soul singer Durand Jones is set to perform live as the headliner. Deepa Reality, a Kansas City-based band, will also perform live. More entertainment will include KU student-run radio station KJHK with special guest NMH, singer/songwriter duo VCMN, and artist Wesounderrated, according to the flyer. Sounds will be by Boss Hooligan Soundsystem, BizzyBiz and Dre Logic.

Alex Kimball Williams (“Bad Alaskan”) and Barry Barnes, who are both Lawrence musicians and B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence members, will share spoken word pieces.

High school students will be awarded and share speeches as part of the annual Juneteenth Racial Essay Contest. This year’s essay theme, “Lift Every Voice,” asked applicants to respond to the question, “What is the importance of having a voice?”

An American Red Cross blood drive for patients who have sickle cell disease is happening from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Community Building, 115 W. 11th St. Learn more about the drive and sign up to donate via the Red Cross’ website,

Opportunities to volunteer during the celebration were still available as of Sunday afternoon through an online signup form via

Learn more about the Lawrence Juneteenth celebration on its website, Follow its Facebook page and Instagram page, @lkjuneteenth, to stay updated.

In addition, a Juneteenth production, “Riches and Rags: The Raiment of Our Journey,” will hit the stage Saturday evening at the Lied Center. It’s free to attend. Read more about that at this link.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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