Flint, MI—The champ is here!

Flint’s champ Claressa Shields is coming home to lead this year’s Juneteenth parade along with the Detroit Pistons Drumline as community members celebrate the holiday with citywide events.

“I can’t remember a Juneteenth this big,” said April Cook-Hawkins of The Flint Citywide Juneteenth Coalition. “We are doing something major here. Claressa has made history. This is just a history-making day across the board for Flint. Why not do it big?”

The Coalition’s events, The Flint Citywide Juneteenth Celebration, will include the parade honoring Shields, who will be ushered in by the Detroit Pistons Drumline. There will also be a fireworks show in downtown Flint and a Gospel festival on Sunday.

Cook-Hawkins said she sees Juneteenth as a day where freedom should be celebrated, just like any other independence day across the world.

“When I think of Juneteenth, I think of how we celebrate Fourth of July and we should really celebrate Juneteenth on that level as well,” she said. “We have never had fireworks for Juneteenth. This year is a big deal.”

Other organizations and businesses are also hosting Juneteenth events in the city. Flint business owner Dorian Jackson said he felt obligated to celebrate the holiday which commemorates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

“For us, we are here and we are invested in the city and the community,” said Jackson, who c0-owns Comma Bookstore in downtown Flint. “It’s our responsibility being a Black-Brown-owned bookstore. This what we do. We felt compelled to do something.”

Comma is hosting events in Buckham Alley including local vendors, food, and music starting at 1 p.m. on June 19. The lineup includes the Eclipse Band, DJ Afrobotk and DJ Thunder.

Paul Herring, a Flint local who has helped organize the Juneteenth events in Flint for years, said he believes this year will be different. 

After years of increased division in the nation, particularly with issues regarding race, awareness of historical events like Juneteenth has skyrocketed, he said. 

“I think it’s going to be celebrated more this year than ever before,” Herring said. 

More importantly, after a year where Black issues have been one of the most popular topics of conversation across the country, a day of celebration is needed, Cook-Hawkins said.

Cook-Hawkins shared a conversation she had with a mother and her young child. She said the two women were talking about Juneteenth when the child joined the conversation.

“This little baby, I think he had to be four or five, he literally said, ‘what are we marching for now?’ which really rung a bell in my head that these babies are so used to marching that they have not seen a celebration, and I had to explain to him what a parade was,” Cook-Hawkins said.

Ultimately, Cook-Hawkins said she hopes all of Flint can get out and celebrate Juneteenth.

“Let’s all go out, have fun and have a good time,” Cook-Hawkins said.

Festivities for all will kick off on June 18-20, including:

  • The Traditional Juneteenth Celebration at Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium. The event will be held on Friday, June 18 and runs from 2-6 p.m. It will feature vendors, live music, and a prayer tent among other activities.
  • Flint Citywide Juneteenth Coalition will be hosting an event called Black Wall Street at Berston Field House from 3-6 p.m on Friday, June 18. The event will highlight Black-owned businesses in the city.
  • Max Brandon Park Parade hosted by the Traditional Juneteenth Celebration will take place on Saturday, June 19. Live entertainment and vendors from 12-4:30 p.m., parade starting in Max Brandon Park at 5 p.m.
  • The Champions Parade, led by Claressa Shields, will take place June 19, starting at noon on East 7th Street next to Flint City Hall and make its way to Berston Field House. Once there, a job fair featuring employers including General Motors and Lear Corporation will take place. The event will feature live music, including a performance by Flint native Jon Connor, art, and a car show hosted by GM.
  • The Second Annual Juneteenth Festival will take place on Saturday, June 19 at Brush Park from 4-8 p.m. The event will feature live entertainment, giveaways, free food, and vendors.
  • Comma Bookstore will be hosting its Black Buckham Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 19 from 1-9 p.m. featuring local artists, DJs, music, food, and vendors.
  • The weekend will be rounded off on Sunday, June 2o with the Flint City Wide Gospel Fest also hosted by the Flint Citywide Juneteenth Coalition. The festival will include local musicians as well as guest celebrity artist Uncle Reece.