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Nubian Square celebrates Juneteenth with block party

Greta Tilan danced at the Juneteenth weekend celebration kickoff party at Nubian Square.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Hundreds of residents gathered in Nubian Square’s Blair Lot on Friday afternoon for a Juneteenth block party, kicking off a weekend of festivities celebrating Black joy, solidarity, and liberation.

“Lemme hear you say Roxbury!” a MC shouted to a crowd of over 100 partygoers, who eagerly obeyed his command.

Juneteenth, which became an official state holiday in 2020 and a federal holiday last year, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War. It was originally celebrated in Texas, where June 19 is the date enslaved Black people in Texas were told they were free by Union General Gordon Granger — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

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This year, Juneteenth Boston and the Nubian Square Foundation and other partners have organized a three-day series of events, including a beach day at Carson Beach in South Boston on Saturday, and a Royalty Gala celebrating the theme of “radically reclaiming Black royalty” at the Bruce C. Bolling building in Nubian Square on Sunday.

Yvette Wilks danced at the Juneteenth weekend celebration kickoff party at Nubian Square. Erin Clark/Globe Staff
Aja Jackson dances at the Juneteenth weekend celebration kickoff party at Nubian Square. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Other Juneteenth festivities on tap in the Boston area this weekend include a Juneteenth Joy celebration on Saturday in Hyde Park, at the Martini Hatch Shell on Truman Parkway, featuring dance and singing performances, storytelling, art, vendors, and speakers, including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and a recognition of former acting mayor Kim Janey.

On Sunday evening, Longfellow House, the historic former home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and George Washington’s headquarters during the Siege of Boston, in partnership with the Museum of African American History in Boston, will host an outdoor poetry performance and screening of the documentary “Jubilee, Juneteenth & the Thirteenth.” And on Monday, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston hosts its annual Juneteenth open house, offering free admission and access to special exhibits to Massachusetts residents.

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Jeremy Thompson led a chant while celebrating Juneteenth with a march through Boston. The 1.6-mile march, hosted by The Nubian Square Foundation, walked through Roxbury and ended in Nubian Square. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

At Friday’s block party, part of the Embrace Ideas Festival organized by King Boston, BIPOC-owned food trucks offered items ranging from tacos al pastor, Haitian griot, and hot fudge brownie sundaes to partygoers. The food choices reflected the diversity of Boston’s Black community coming together for a common holiday.

At a stage near the front of the lot, DJs, dancers, rappers, and singers provided a musical backdrop to the celebration.

“Come closer, we don’t bite!” a performer beckoned to the crowd spread across the parking lot, but not close enough to the stage for her liking. “Unless you want us to.”

Aziza Wilkerson waved a Black Liberation flag while celebrating Juneteenth with a march through Boston on Friday. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Music ranging from Chaka Khan’s empowerment anthem “I’m Every Woman” to Beyoncé's Afropop-inspired “ALREADY” boomed, and a dance circle formed.

Keisha of South Boston, who declined to provide her surname and age for privacy concerns, said she came to the block party because it was a family-friendly event that could offer a unique Juneteenth celebration for her and her daughter to attend.

“It’s Juneteenth, so why not come?” Keisha said. “To hear some good music, [other] Black folks — what’s better than that?”

Reni, 4, blew bubbles at the Juneteenth weekend celebration kickoff party at Nubian Square. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Jeffrey “Poppin’ Jeff” Thomas of Methuen, 55, agreed. He said Friday’s event brought back childhood memories of Black celebrations he attended growing up in Dorchester, like an annual kite festival.

“It’s been beautiful to see everyone having a good time and celebrating,” Thomas said.


Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at tiana.woodard@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.