enevieve Bellamy is of firm belief that Black people knowing their own history is paramount-which is why an annual Juneteenth is special to her.
“The slaves had to make their own meals out of nothing. Dry beans and peas have always been the commodity of everyday people,” says Bellamy, a longtime member of the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers.
It’s why beans, peas and rice will be one of the few things on the menu during the DABS’ Juneteenth celebration at the Wright Museum this month. The daylong observance is in line with nationwide celebrations of the holiday marking the formal end of slavery in Texas, which had abolished slavery two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
But while Juneteenth celebrations vary depending on who’s in charge, the efforts of DABS to maintain its festivities have sometimes been a challenge.
The celebration moved from the Detroit Historical Museum to the Wright in recent years, but no matter where it’s been, funding and drawing attention in the middle of other summer events isn’t easy.
“I was out there in the street asking for money,” Bellamy laughs, noting she was able to land grants and donations from Meijer, the Detroit Public Library and the Gleaners Community Food Bank to help with this year’s event.
But those efforts pay off. The food is not only authentic, but so are the activities. Participants can make baskets with sweet grass, an old slave tradition, and compete in the cakewalk, derived from a contest where slaves would do the best dance for a homemade dessert made from the best ingredients available at the time.
“This isn’t in our history books,” Bellamy says. “We have to thank our forefathers for preparing us, and we should all be grateful, because they built America.”
Join the Celebration!
The Detroit Association of Black Storytellers’ annual Juneteenth celebration is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 18 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. More at TheWright.org or DetroitAssociationofBlackStorytellers.com.