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JuneteenthVA is delighted to be celebrating the second Juneteenth as a state holiday on Saturday, June 19th from 12 noon to 6 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church located at 500 Court Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704. All are welcome.
This year’s official Juneteenth Festival of Virginia will include JuneteenthVA programming as well as food, vendors, live music, lively conversation, and the chance to sign up for JuneteenthVA theater programming and productions.
The highlight of the day will be a special 20th Anniversary production of Abolitionists’ Museum, written by JuneteenthVA founder, playwright and Portsmouth Native Sheri Bailey specifically for the area’s second annual Juneteenth Festival 20 years ago. Every production of the play includes a deeply meaningful post-show conversation, this one to be facilitated by the playwright herself. There will be one performance only on Saturday June 19 at 3 p.m.
Using the theatre arts in the work of healing America from the wounds of slavery without shame or blame, playwright and Portsmouth native Sheri Bailey founded the non-profit Juneteenth Festival Company almost 25 years ago when she returned home and realized the importance of local history in the understanding of how slavery corrupted the American Dream.
Over the years, with their time and talent, artists, academics, actors, and have promoted JuneteenthVA’s various projects – which are outlined below.
In 2001, long before our nation’s collective reckoning with race was launched by cell phone recordings of racist brutality, JuneteenthVA founder Sheri Bailey knew that communities needed to have conversations about race and history to heal the wounds of slavery without shame or blame. Already playwright, Ms. Bailey knew how to bring people together and create thought-inspiring experiences: through plays and conversation. Ms. Bailey created and produced Abolitionists’ Museum for that purpose.
Abolitionists’ Museum features the following historical figures: Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, John Brown, Frederick Douglass, David Walker and Abraham Lincoln. These eight, each of whom had a major impact on the American slavery narrative, are wax figures living in a museum where the curator has recently hung a Confederate flag. Using their actual words from speeches and writings mixed in with contemporary references, playwright Sheri Bailey has them debate and then take a vote on whether to burn the rebel flag. Abolitionists’ Museum sparks a robust discussion among the characters on slavery as it poses a compelling contemporary question: How do we — in today’s times filled with Covid-19 and post-traumatic stress resulting from an entire nation witnessing George Floyd’s murder – how do we overcome the past? At the play’s conclusion the audience is invited to share their thoughts about the play and the first question asked is this – if you lived in the Abolitionists’ Museum how would you vote – to burn or not to burn the flag?
Since that time, Ms. Bailey has created a series of history plays featuring figures who have had historical significance in our country, even though many may not be as well-known as the characters in Abolitionists’ Museum.
About Juneteenth Virginia and all the events planned in Portsmouth and other locations, contact Sheri Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-606-0569
Juneteenth Virginia Website