Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, newly accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is celebrating Juneteenth with performances from gospel group the Clark Sisters (check out the video below, from Aretha Franklin’s memorial service), trumpeter Rodney Block, vocalist Bijoux, magician Tommy Terrific, comedian Jay Jackson, the Big John Miller Band, Tania Kelley, Katrice “Butterfly” Newbill, Amanda Katrice and a family TikTok challenge. “For the African American community, the struggle for justice and equity remains persistent, but so does pride in our history and heritage,” said Christina Shutt, the museum’s director. “As communities and businesses around the world begin to stand together in solidarity against racism, we invite everyone to join us in a celebration of culture and freedom.“ It’s the 10th Juneteenth celebration for MTCC and the first to be celebrated virtually, on the museum’s Facebook page.

The holiday, set by the Arkansas Senate in 2005 to be held the third Saturday in June, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major Gen. Gordon Granger announced in Texas that “all slaves are free” and that “this involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.” (Though it was a huge symbolic move in terms of aligning the goals of the Union with the eradication of slavery, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 didn’t do a whole lot of emancipating, unfortunately — at least not immediately.) As Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes in an essay for The Root, Juneteenth is a day to commemorate “a past that was ‘usable’ as an occasion for gathering lost family members, measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-improvement and racial uplift.”

It comes June 20, in the same month as demonstrations over the murder by police of George Floyd are prompting cities everywhere, Little Rock included, to think critically about the way they train, monitor and fund their police departments. It also comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Arkansas, with a record number of hospitalizations. 

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We talked with Museum Director Christina Shutt about the COVID-19 documentation project the museum embarked on this spring, “COVID in the Black.” For Museum Director Christina Shutt and her staff, it’s about “making sure those stories don’t get silenced in the narrative. … We want to be able to get a snapshot for future researchers, future historians, so that when they look back, they’ll be able to see the perspectives of African Americans here in the state who have been affected by it.”

Christina Shutt

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So far, the museum has received stories of homeschooling (or “crisis schooling,” as Shutt called it), “graduation” photos from seniors whose commencement ceremonies were canceled and photos of people in their homemade masks, and it hopes to collect much more.

To submit your objects, images or stories, email info@mosaictemplarscenter.com, or send your files to Mosaic Templars via Facebook Messenger. 

Oh, and Mosaic Templars is collecting your “Savage” dance videos in a TikTok challenge for the June 20 festivities; to submit, send your family’s best “Savage” TikTok dance to info@mosaictemplars.com for a chance to see the video aired during the Juneteenth Facebook livestream.

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