116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The African American Museum of Iowa is committed to educating Iowa communities authentically and unapologetically. With over 16,000 views of our 2020 virtual, weeklong Juneteenth celebration, we know we are answering a need across the state to learn all of America’s history.
As eyes have been opened and consciousness raised, the museum’s role in the community has been made clear to more Iowans. While learning about and celebrating Juneteenth has been customary in some places, it isn’t generally part of the mainstream classroom curriculum.
When did you first learn about Juneteenth? Was it in grade school, college, as an adult or maybe even today when you picked up the newspaper?
Since June 19, 1865, when the last of the United States’ enslaved people were finally notified of their freedom, Juneteenth has been commemorated annually. In the age-old and ongoing battle about what should be included and excluded in our classrooms, we must ask ourselves why we are told to remember and “never forget” some of our nation’s biggest historical tragedies and triumphs but can never talk about, remember or even teach all of the truths that have permeated our history. Who gets to decide what parts of our American story are more or less palatable or worth authentic inclusion in our textbooks?
The African American Museum of Iowa strives to preserve, exhibit and teach Iowa’s African American heritage. We encourage engagement, conversation and reflection. Convening the types of educational and interactive programs the museum is known for is why audiences come back for more and why our communities continue to see an increase in racial solidarity and the hopeful end to complete silence in the face of inequality, brutality and injustice. The late poet Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
As we all aspire to do better, the African American Museum of Iowa is here as a resource for all Iowans who want to be proactive about learning history that has long been excluded from our textbooks and oral histories as well as the impact it has on our society today.
It’s not too late to engage! You are invited to the African American Museum of Iowa’s celebration of freedom through education and experience as we kick off our Juneteenth events this Saturday. The museum is collaborating with the African American Youth Think Tank for its first Black History Challenge. The event will be livestreamed from the Museum at noon. Three youth teams will compete for cash prizes. Throughout the rest of the coming week, the museum will release virtual activities and programs for the entire family.
On Saturday, our annual festival will be held at NewBo City Market from 11a.m. to 6 p.m., with a mayoral proclamation, all-day stage performances, balloon twisting, community vendor booths and more.
The celebration culminates on Sunday with a thought-provoking panel discussion. The event is a collaboration with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and will delve into the topic “Does the Color of My Skin Really Matter?” exploring the challenges and opportunities in arts performance for persons of color. Moderated by Dr. Myron McReynolds, the panel includes Iowa native and renowned opera singer Dr. Simon Estes. The panel is rounded out with Whitney Morrison, Sidney Outlaw and Pedro Yanez.
Visit blackiowa.org/Juneteenth/ for links and more information about all the planned activities.
But don’t stop with Juneteenth. The African American Museum of Iowa provides educational tools year-round through relevant exhibits, programs, collections, traveling resources and events. Black History is Iowa’s History and #NotJustFebruary
LaNisha Cassell is executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa.